When a body is found in the New Orleans docks, it's pretty obvious that he died from gun shot wounds. The police surgeon notices that the man is also displaying other symptoms and Lt. Commander Clint Reed, a doctor with the U.S. Public Health Service, diagnoses a highly contagious disease, pneumonic plague. He tries to convince local officials to find everyone who may have been in contact with the dead man. The Mayor supports his efforts but many, including the police, are doubtful. Reed wants to avoid publicity so as not to panic the public. They have little information to go on - they don't know the dead man's identity - and Reed estimates they have 48 hours before disease begins to spread. With police Capt. Tom Warren going through the motions, Reed sets out to find the killers. Written by
Richard Widmark on Jack Palance: "... the toughest guy I ever met. He was the only actor I've ever been physically afraid of. " See more »
In an early scene when Dr. Reed (Richard Widmark) is shown painting with his son, he flicks excess paint off the brush, and then sits on the same spot where the paint would have landed, but when he gets up there's no paint on his pants. See more »
This is listed as a "film noir," a gangster film and I suppose it, is but it plays more like just a straight drama. It's the story of an immigrant who is infected with the pneuomic plague (but "bubonic," as listed on the back of the VHS cover) and the race to discover all the people he had come in contact with, including a criminal (Jack Palance) and his gang.
The great black-and-white cinematography helps put it in the film-noir category, I imagine, but the story still takes precedence over the stark photography here. The angular-faced Palance, listed as "Walter Jack Palance" in here, always makes for a good villain and Zero Mostel was an interesting part of his group.
Richard Widmark played an normal intense role, except this time as a good guy, and Barbara Bel Geddes was her normal wholesome character. Despite third billing, she didn't have as many lines as I would have preferred to hear. Frankly, I prefer Widmark as the crazy-type villain. He spends much of the time in this film as a frustrated doctor, yelling at the cop Paul Douglas. That gets tiresome after awhile.
It's a grim story: not a whole lot of laughs here, but it's entertaining and moves fast......and the ending chase scene is a knockout! A good addition to anyone's collection of classic films, whatever you want to label it.
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