Appointment with a Shadow (1957)

Appointment with a Shadow (1957) is an alcoholic journalist switcheroo murder pursuit battle with the booze film noir from the far end of the noir style.

As well as a searing enough tale of conflict between man and bottle, Appointment with a Shadow (1957) tells a strange criminal face-lift noir, back from when face changes as plot device were as firm a fantasy as film could enjoy, and so in this instance it seems credible that a criminal mastermind has only to put it about that he has had his face changed, and confusion reigns.

There is a twist in that this is of course a fib, and he has not changed his face and merely put on a long suspicious coat and some dark glasses and the world at large and this includes the law enforcement, are to confused to bits, unable to believe the corpse they have is in fact that of a stranger they believe to be a man they once knew with a remarkable facelift.

Drinking life in Appointment with a Shadow (1957)

Appointment with a Shadow (1957) is a silver service noir, not outré enough to be as truly suggestive of the last fighting months of noir before the style was enveloped in new media and morals, and not mundane enough to be a repeat.

The plot sounds outré and yet it is not because the entire focus of the film is on the battle with alcohol, which is scene by scene portrayed, even unto comic effect with the ever-presence of the giant bottle of whiskey that watches down on the movie. See the title card above for its first appearance.

There is in fact a much harder coincidental happening by far, than that. Just so as the protagonist smells of whisky, he is standing next to the wall of an apartment stair when a bottle of whisky is thrown out of a door and cracks on the wall beside him - - showering him with the stuff.

That is why he smells of scotch, get it. He smells of booze because someone threw a whole bottle of Scotch out of a door and it hit a wall nearby.

And such a good cast too, being forced through this, and on expensive sound stages too.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Hollywood began to explore the theme of alcoholism with increasing depth and complexity, reflecting societal concerns about addiction and its impact on individuals and families. 

The Lost Weekend (1945) directed by the legendary Billy Wilder and starring Ray Milland in a career-defining role, "The Lost Weekend" is perhaps one of the most iconic films about alcoholism. The story follows Don Birnam, a struggling writer who descends into a harrowing binge of alcohol abuse over the course of a weekend. Through flashback sequences and starkly realistic portrayals of addiction, the film vividly depicts the physical and psychological toll of alcoholism. Milland's performance earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor, while Wilder's direction and the film's uncompromising exploration of addiction garnered critical acclaim and multiple Oscars, including Best Picture.

Richard Carlson, known predominantly for his acting prowess, steps into the director's chair for Appointment with a Shadow with a steady hand, albeit hampered by a lackluster screenplay penned by Alec Coppell and Norman Jolley. The narrative fixates excessively on the alcohol-fueled escapades of protagonist Paul Baxter, portrayed with sporadic conviction by George Nader, whose portrayal often veers uncomfortably close to the nadir of believability.

Fortunately, the presence of Joanna Moore, impeccably organized and exquisitely beautiful, injects a glimmer of hope into the proceedings. As Baxter's steadfast girlfriend, Moore persuades her cop brother, Brian Keith, to offer Baxter a shot at redemption by allowing him to witness the apprehension of notorious criminal Dutch Hayden. Whether such leniency would be condoned by police authorities in 1957 remains a matter of speculation.

Frank deKova's portrayal of Hayden lends credence to the character's nefarious reputation, despite rumors of the actor's cosmetic alterations. Baxter's only guide amidst the urban labyrinth is a fleeting glimpse of Hayden, immortalized in the solitary photograph adorning wanted posters.

To secure the coveted scoop and salvage his tarnished reputation, Baxter must adhere to a meticulously crafted timetable devised by his meticulous sister, whose unwavering faith in his ability to abstain from the bottle borders on naivety.

See the giant bottle of alcohol, it's in the credit sequence of Appointment with a Shadow (1957)

"B" actor Richard Carlson takes the director's chair in this gritty police drama, where journalist George Nader grapples with his demons while embroiled in the pursuit of a mob boss.

Nader's girl, played by Joanna Moore, and her brother, a no-nonsense police lieutenant portrayed by Brian Keith, start losing faith in him, perhaps prematurely.

Despite some visually striking cinematography that channels a noir atmosphere, the narrative feels formulaic and lacks depth.

There's a peculiar twist as Nader battles his alcoholism head-on, shedding light on the daunting journey of recovery from severe addiction.

With a mere 72-minute runtime, neither storyline manages to build much suspense, leaving the film feeling somewhat flat and lacking urgency.

While the performances are solid, certain moments drag on with excessive dialogue, and Brian Keith appears disinterested, leaving Nader to shoulder the film.

Despite occasional artistic touches, the movie, shot in CinemaScope, falls short of greatness but still merits a viewing for those interested in the genre.

Despite Baxter's initial faltering and the allure of Lawson's whiskey, illuminated in neon hues that punctuate his struggles, a glimmer of hope emerges as he gradually gains mastery over his demons. With each passing hour, Baxter's resolve strengthens, instilling a newfound sense of self-assurance that ultimately fulfils Moore's expectations.
In the shadowy realm of noir, where darkness threatens to engulf even the most steadfast souls, Baxter's journey towards redemption serves as a testament to the enduring power of human resilience. Though beset by trials and temptations, his eventual triumph over adversity stands as a beacon of hope, illuminating the path towards a brighter tomorrow.

Richard Carlson, a luminary often obscured by the shadows of Hollywood's brighter stars, traversed a path of cinematic artistry that often eluded the acclaim it merited. Modest in his ascendancy, Carlson's performances in the 1940s unveiled glimpses of brilliance, laying the groundwork for a career that would venture beyond the limelight. Gradually, he embarked on the directorial stage, where his prowess shone with an undimmed brilliance.

Brian Keith in Appointment with a Shadow (1957)

In the chronicles of celluloid, Carlson's directorial opus stands as a testament to his acumen, a journey into the depths of human frailty and resilience reminiscent of Billy Wilder's "The Lost Weekend." Like a solitary figure navigating the labyrinthine alleys of noir, Carlson's protagonist, George Nader, embarks on a harrowing Via Crucis, grappling with the specter of alcoholism amidst a landscape fraught with peril.

The tapestry of Nader's odyssey, woven with threads of desperation and redemption, unfolds with an intensity that eclipses the darkest noir dramas of the era. Through Carlson's lens, every nuance of Nader's struggle is etched with a rawness that cuts to the core, mirroring the stark realism of his plight.

Men on all sides of a dancing woman in Appointment with a Shadow (1957)

Amidst the chiaroscuro of Nader's world, a glimmer of hope emerges—a chance encounter with fate propels him into the heart of a sensational murder investigation, where the line between witness and participant blurs with treacherous ambiguity. As Nader grapples with the consequences of his entanglement, the shadows lengthen, casting doubt upon his very existence. Wrapped in this noir thriller is a devastating look at a man in the grip of alcoholism.

In this crucible of survival, where every moment teeters on the precipice of life and death, viewers are drawn into a vortex of suspense, their nerves stretched taut with anticipation. Yet, amidst the tumult, there lies a thread of solace—the brevity of the film's duration offers respite from the relentless tension, a fleeting reprieve from the darkness that envelops Nader's world.

As the credits roll, and Nader emerges from the crucible of his ordeal, a sense of redemption lingers in the air—a glimmer of light amidst the shadows. Yet, beneath the surface, echoes of his one-day odyssey resonate, a testament to the indelible imprint of his infernal passage — a journey that transcends the confines of time, offering lessons that endure beyond the screen.

Appointment with a Shadow (1957)

Crime | Drama | Noir | Thriller | USA | B&W | 72min | Director: Richard Carlson | At Wikipedia

Cast: George Nader, Joanna Moore, Brian Keith, Virginia Field, Frank DeKova, Stephen Chase

Paul Baxter (George Nader) is a reporter whose alcoholism has destroyed his career. A chance at redemption presents itself when Baxter is a bystander at the arrest of a well-known criminal.

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