"Appointment with Danger" begins like a typical post-war propaganda film in the guise of a thriller. A voiceover narration sings the praises of a law enforcement agency. In this case, we learn how big and efficient the US Postal Service is thanks to the dedication of "a great army of men and women". We're introduced to "the nation's oldest police force": postal inspectors. Then we're whisked to Gary, Indiana where a postal inspector by the name of Henry Gruber has been murdered. The introduction would lead the audience to believe this is going to be a police procedural, but it's not. It sticks to narrative mode for the rest of the film. Another postal inspector, Al Goddard (Alan Ladd), has been sent to track down the nun, Sister Augustine (Phyllis Calvert), who saw Gruber's killers. Goddard is a hardened, cynical man who goes undercover to catch the murderers as they heist a mail truck carrying $1 million.
It's classified as "film noir", but "Appointment with Danger" is only superficially so. Al Goddard has lots of great, hardboiled lines. He doesn't get on well with people and trusts no one. "One way or another, everybody you meet is a pitch artist," he says. There are a couple of brutal scenes. And Goddard's ability to make the suspects think he's even more crooked than they are introduces an aspect of identity confusion. But Goddard is never confused or conflicted. "Appointment with Danger" doesn't take place in the noir universe. Nevertheless, Goddard's hard-boiled persona is a lot of fun, as is the film's conspicuous attempt to cast Ladd as a tough-guy sex symbol -love the shirtless squash game between Goddard and violent conspirator Joe Regas (Jack Webb). Regas' persistent paranoia about the nun is a disaster waiting to happen.
Sister Augustine, who thinks Goddard could be a nice man with a little practice, is too angelic in contrast to the cynical cop and cold-blooded criminals. Earl Boettiger (Paul Stewart), a hotelier who masterminds the heist seems almost too level-headed for the part. Between him, the too-precious nun, and Goddard's aloofness, the film has a flat tone that keeps it just shy of completely engaging the audience. Earl's mistress Dodie (Jan Sterling) is a counterpoint to that tone. She's not in many scenes, but she produces a terrific combination of vulnerability, resignation, and realpolitik when she confronts Goddard. "Appointment with Danger" could have been better if it had been willing to explore its character's bizarre behavior a little more, but it's still entertaining. The print on the Olive Films 2010 DVD is pretty good but no bonus features or subtitles.