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Saturday, June 18, 2016


If you like those lean, tough gangster pics that guys like James Cagney and George Raft used to churn out in the 30s and 40s, then APPOINTMENT WITH CRIME (1946) should be right up your dark alley.

The scrappy, bantamweight main character Leo Martin (William Hartnell, THE MOUSE THAT ROARED) even reminds me of a cross between the two actors only with a rough veneer of British street smarts. 

The plot is a foretaste of such later films as POINT BLANK and its remake PAYBACK, with its story of a wronged criminal returning to exact merciless revenge against the underworld organization that betrayed him and using a "fast" woman as his accomplice.

Here, Leo gets double-crossed by low-level crime boss Loman (Raymond Lovell) and ends up with crushed wrists and a stiff prison sentence.  Upon his release, he goes after not only Loman but the real brains behind the outfit, a smugly sophisticated art dealer played by the young Herbert Lom (later to gain fame as Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the "Pink Panther" series among other distingished roles). 

Leo's sort of an anti-protagonist here, being that he's still a mean, ruthless little bastard even though we're pulling for him to get the best of the even badder bad guys.  The film's real hero is a Canadian detective on loan to the British police, played by Robert Beatty (who would go on to roles in such high profile films as WHERE EAGLES DARE and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY).

Beatty's Detective Inspector Rogers is stalwart without being full of himself, and in fact has a wry sense of humor which makes his scenes with Leo punchy and rife with stinging dialogue.  Where some stories such as this make the main cop unlikable, here we're conflicted about who to root for since we're so invested in both his and Leo's concerns. 

Also making the most of her scenes with Hartnell is Joyce Howard as melancholy dancehall girl Carol Dane (nicknamed "Chastity Anne"), whose performance as the girl Leo uses as his alibi in murder by stringing her along with romantic promises and playing on her sympathies just gets better as the story goes along.

Two interesting things I noted while watching are (1) British films could pretty much say "damn" and "hell" to their hearts' content back in 1946, and (2) the fact that characters Gregory Lang (Herbert Lom) and his criminal associate Noel Penn (Alan Wheatley) are unabashedly gay is wonderfully obvious.

Writer-director John Harlow keeps his script zinging along with cracking dialogue and lots of hardboiled conflict between rival thugs and the short-fused Leo--who's equally tough whether slapping someone around or getting tortured for information.

Harlow's directing style brings all this to life with creative camera angles, editing, and montages which keep the film visually interesting.  The production itself has a lovely vintage appeal enhanced by a singularly British flavor and the no-nonsense economy of film noir.

The DVD from Olive Films is in the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio (full screen) with mono sound.  Subtitles are in English.  No extras.

Those who appreciate the beauty of old black-and-white cinema should find themselves easily drawn into this visually compelling film.  For modern audiences in general,  APPOINTMENT WITH CRIME offers good performances in a sharply-written crime story that never lets up until the end. 

Buy it at

Release date: June 21, 2016


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