Monday, September 25, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Appointment With a Shadow (1957) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

APPOINTMENT WITH A SHADOW (1957) is one of three films in the Kino Lorber Dark Side of Cinema XIV Collection.

The set also includes ONE WAY STREET (1950), starring James Mason and Marta Toren, and the previously reviewed UNDERCOVER GIRL (1950) starring Scott Brady and Alexis Smith. To my knowledge this set is the first time any of these films has been available for home viewing in the United States.

I first saw APPOINTMENT WITH A SHADOW in 2013 at the Noir City Hollywood Film Festival. At the time I thought it was pretty good and admired the way director Richard Carlson and actor George Nader tackled the subject of alcoholism.

That impression stood as I took a fresh look at the movie over a decade later. It's admittedly sometimes more difficult to watch than entertaining, especially early on as the reporter played by Nader struggles not to drink, but all in all it's a solid film.

Penny (Joanna Moore), the reporter girlfriend of Paul (Nader), attempts to give him one last chance at career success by tipping him off to a major story. Her hope is that he'll be so driven to investigate the story that he can stay off the bottle for the day, and that that day might lead to Paul remaining sober in the future.

It's a tall order, but Paul overcomes temptation and stakes out the arrest of a major mob figure, only to realize that the police have killed the wrong man. The problem is no one will believe the word of a drunk.

It's a tough little film, but the short 72-minute running time and the interesting crime story helps the viewer stick with it.

The plot, involving a mobster (Frank DeKova), who's supposedly had plastic surgery, is intriguing, with Virginia Field giving a lively performance as the mobster's moll. At times Field seems to be channeling Audrey Totter, but that's not a bad thing!

Brian Keith gives a warm, likeable performance as Penny's police lieutenant brother, who thinks she's wasting her time trying to help Paul but is nonetheless willing to help her out.

Moore is a bit pallid as Paul's hopeful girlfriend, but she's the only weak link in the lead cast. It doesn't help that screenwriters Norman Jolley and Alec Coppel give Penny some unrealistic expectations about a single good job turning Paul's life around.

That said, the actual depiction of Paul's battle, including his typing up notes for how to stay busy for the entire day and avoid drinking, underscore what a significant long-term challenge he's facing. Nader, who has many wordless scenes of struggle, is quite good.

While not a favorite film, it's nonetheless worth seeing, and I'm glad it's finally readily available thanks to this Dark Side of Cinema set.

This is one of a handful of films directed by actor Richard Carlson. It was filmed in widescreen black and white by William E. Snyder.

Disc extras consist of the trailer; two additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by David Del Valle and David DeCouteau.

Look for a review of ONE WAY STREET here at a future date.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray collection.


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