Screenwriter Blake Snyder promotes the theory that good scripts should have a “fun and games” section in Act two, i.e. were the script delivers on the promise of it’s premise. It’s certainly something lacking here; there’s a decent enough set up – a tough, misanthropic postal detective investigates the murder of a colleague, and the key witness is a nun – but they don’t do nearly enough with it. The nun disappears for great slaps of the story – far too often – and is replaced with more run-of-the-mill stuff about the cop going undercover with crooks. (There is a nice bit where the cop quotes something wise which sounds like scripture; the Nun asks what it is, and the cop says “Martin Luther.” “From his early years, I suppose,” says the nun.)
Alan Ladd played the role of the cop on film, but William Holden steps in here. The similarities between Ladd and Holden never struck me until I heard this, even though both actors were under contract to Paramount around the same time, and had similar tough, don’t-talk-to-me personas. Holden became a star first with Golden Boy, but stayed on the second tier level until 1950 – Ladd leapt right past him with This Gun for Hire. However, Holden’s career thrived in the 50s whereas Ladd’s stalled and went gradually downhill, even though Ladd could have played pretty much every Holden role I can think of. There were two main reasons: Holden worked with much better filmmakers (especially Billy Wilder), and appeared with co-stars who were as big a name as him, whereas Ladd usually liked to star in Ladd vehicles. Both men had big drinking problems, incidentally. The role of the nun is played by Colleen Grey.