A relatively obscure British crime thriller, John Harlow’s noirish Appointment with Crime (1947) nabs a few style points early on before settling in as a dull programmer that doesn’t so much twist and turn as it does lazily bend around a couple of easily navigable corners.
William Hartnell, best known as the first incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, stars as Leo Martin, a professional thief who gets caught when a jewelry smash-and-grab goes wrong, his wrists shattered by a security grate that comes abruptly crashing down. Despite assurances from boss Gus Loman (Raymond Lovell) that he won’t abandon Leo, he disappears as quickly as the police arrive, leaving Leo on the hook alone.
Using nested flashbacks and a frenetic, almost surreal collage of imagery, Harlow quickly and elegantly establishes this backstory and Leo’s vengeful state of mind within the first six minutes, but it’s not much of a harbinger of things to come.
With a plot that feels both too cluttered and overly simplistic, Appointment with Crime begins plodding almost immediately after its opening sequence, as Leo seeks to enact his revenge on Loman by framing him for a murder and using one of the dancers at Loman’s club (Joyce Howard’s preternaturally naïve Carol Dane) as his own alibi.
Lovell’s oafish Loman isn’t exactly intimidating enough to act as a real threat, so Harlow rigs a little nonsense about a stolen gun to make Herbert Lom’s urbane mob boss Gregory Lang the real villain. He pulls the strings behind the scenes along with his chief henchman, Noel (Alan Wheatley), who spends more time flirting with Gregory than doing anything sinister.
Also present is Robert Beatty’s Canadian detective, whose big discovery has to do with some sold-out orangeade, just to give you an idea of the high-stakes action on display here.
Also a problem: Hartnell’s performance is so consumed by tough-guy posturing, there’s little room for any other notes. Leo is clearly a character with a massive chip on his shoulder, but Hartnell’s perma-defensiveness comes to feel like the product of a one-note automaton instead of a man who thinks he’s been gravely mistreated.
Olive Films’ Blu-ray release presents Appointment with Crime in a workmanlike 1080p, 1.37:1 transfer. The packaging includes a disclaimer that the film is presented using the best available elements, but things aren’t as rough as that warning might indicate. Although the image is kind of flat and lacking in fine detail, it’s mostly quite clean, with only minor speckling present. Its major issue is image instability, which varies from reel to reel, the worst showing a noticeable judder or drop of the entire frame. Audio is a clean but low-volume 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mono track. Optional English subtitles are included. There are no extras.