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USA 1950
Directed by
Elia Kazan
93 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Panic In The Streets

Elia Kazan's characteristic affinity for the urban underbelly gives this medical thriller a superior touch although it is almost equally dragged down by the usual sentimentalizing hokum about decent ordinary family guys just doing their job, one of Hollywood’s most entrenched themes.

The film starts brilliantly with noirish style on a steamy New Orleans night with a card game that ends up with a murder in a railway yard and a trip to the morgue for the corpse of the man who just arrived on a boat carrying pneumonic plague. Then it cuts to aforesaid Mr Average, Dr. Clinton Reed (Richard Widmark) and the two sides of the story are established with the latter trying to track down the killers of the former before plague takes over the city.

Paul Douglas plays Police Captain Tom Warren, the standard non-too smart but dedicated cop helping Reed, with Barbara Bel Geddes Reed’s as loving wife keeping the home fires burning. Jack Palance is excellent as a psychotic two-bit hoodlum with Zero Mostel as his sweating side-kick and this side of the film is a treat. The other side one just has to sit through. Typically Kazan makes great use of locations with the New Orlean’s wharves featuring large (with jazz music playing both within ans as a background to the story) and his overall direction is dynamic with superb use of framing, the final shot of Palance’s desperate Blackie being a memorable instance  of the much-maligned director’s visual flair. Edna and Edward Anhalt won an Oscar for their original story 'Quarantine, Some Like 'Em Cold'.




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