Brandy Kirby and crooked Lawyer Vincent Mailer plan to rob William and Maida McIntyre by producing a convincing double for their long-lost son. Brandy charms gambler Lefty Farrell into ... See full summary »
Sheila Bennett returns to New York from Cuba, carrying $40,000 worth of smuggled diamonds...and smallpox, which could start a devastating epidemic in the unprotected city. Treasury agent Johnson loses her but keeps doggedly on the trail; while Public Health doctor Wood searches in vain for the unknown person spreading the deadly disease far and wide. Meanwhile, the increasingly ill Sheila is only concerned with her faithless husband Matt, who plans to abscond with the diamonds... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"You gentlemen don't seem to realise, we're facing death"
In April 1947, New York City faced an epidemic crisis. Eugene LaBar, a rug importer arriving from Mexico, had arrived in the city, bringing with him the deadly smallpox virus. He stumbled off a bus, complaining of fever and a headache, and soon died in a Midtown Hospital, but not before he had infected a dozen passers-by. The damage was already done; for the first time in decades, smallpox stalked the streets of New York. The city's health authorities acted quickly to isolate sufferers and contain the virus, enacting a free vaccination campaign that saw over six million New Yorkers immunised against smallpox. Thanks to their swift response, the virus was contained with minimal casualties. The outbreak, nevertheless, must have left an indelible mark, for several years later it was followed by two similarly-themed film noir thrillers in which doctors must track down a single contagious carrier in a city of millions: Elia Kazan's 'Panic in the Streets (1950)' and Earl McEvoy's lower-budget 'The Killer That Stalked New York (1950).'
McEvoy's film unfolds in an unglamorous docu-drama style. Reed Hadley's narration sounds as though it was plucked straight from a newsreel, reciting facts as if reading off the official police transcript. This technique does feel a little cheap at times, but fortunately the narration is largely restricted to the film's bookends, as well as providing some explanatory filler during breaks in the plot. The "killer" stalking New York, in this story, is not a rug importer from Mexico, but beautiful diamond smuggler Sheila Bennet (Evelyn Keyes), who has just arrived from Cuba. Within days, Sheila has two parties independently pursuing her: a treasury agent (Barry Kelley) looking to arrest her for smuggling crimes, and a team of doctors (led by William Bishop) who have identified her as the source of the smallpox outbreak. As in 'Panic in the Streets,' an otherwise routine manhunt is given a heightened sense of urgency, particularly when those in pursuit initially have no idea as to the identity or appearance of their suspect.
'The Killer That Stalked New York,' for the most part, manages to sidestep its low production budget. Aside from a select few lines of dialogue ("we have to stop it!" exclaims Dr. Wood at one point, as though coming to a difficult decision), the filmmakers and cast members allow the story to unfold in a realistic, engrossing fashion. Indeed, in this regard, the low budget quite possibly aids the film's intentions, necessitating a documentary style that adds to the immediacy of the outbreak scenario. Evelyn Keyes is excellent in the leading role, showing obstinate resilience in the face of unimaginable torment; by the film's end, she appears so brutally incapacitated by her illness that it's almost painful to look at her face. Aside from the virus, Charles Korvin is the main villain of the piece, as Sheila's greedy and adulterous husband who, rest assured, gets everything that's coming to him. And if all nurses looked like Dorothy Malone, perhaps catching smallpox wouldn't seem like such a bad break, after all.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?