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USA 1950
Directed by
Earl McEvoy
79 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Killer That Stalked New York, The

This B grade film that twins crime thriller with social issue movie would be largely unremarkable were it not that it draws substantially on the real 1947 New York City smallpox outbreak that occurred in March, 1947 and was declared ended on April 24, 1947 after some 6,350,000 adults and children had been vaccinated. Fast work by the authorities limited the outbreak to 12 people, 10 of whom recovered, while 2 died, a far cry from the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic in which thousands died after tardy State and Federal response.

The Killer That Stalked New York dramatizes the desperate race to eradicate the outbreak by making the importer of the virus a bottle-blonde, Sheila Bennet (Evelyn Keyes), who is smuggling diamonds into the country for her double-crossing husband (Charles Korvin) who is having an affair with her sister (Lola Albright).  Unbeknownst to her as she tries to stay one step ahead of the cops and revenge herself on her no-account spouse, she is wanted more for epidemiological than legal reasons. As a result the diamond smuggling aspect of the film is quite routinely handed with the main focus being on the efforts of a dedicated doctor (William Bishop) and his attractive nurse (Dorothy Malone) to identify her.

Making use of a “public service” style voice-over so popular in the day and some stock photography the film shows the fear-ridden city in lock-down and the behind-the-scenes scramble to stop the spread of the epidemic. Although the film is rather arbitrary in its treatment of incubation periods and Sheila spends a remarkable time on deck there is a good deal of authenticity in what we see and given that we are now so familiar with the situation it is of interest to see how little has changed in seventy years

FYI: Release of the film was delayed because of the co-incidental release of Elia Kazan's similarly-themed Panic in the Streets earlier the same year.




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