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
In the scene where Palance hits Widmark on the head with a gun, the actors rehearsed it with a rubber gun, but when the cameras rolled, Palance substituted a real gun. Widmark, who wasn't expecting it was out for twenty minutes. According to Widmark "Why did he switch? Who knows?" In a 1986 interview Widmark also recalled how Palance got into the mood of his character by beating on flunky Zero Mostel off-screen. A black and blue Mostel had to go to the hospital after his first week on the movie. "They had to soak him in epsom pads." 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 film is actually pertinent even today given the threat of bio-terrorism, and the threats of superbugs, West Nile Virus, and SARS. As a thriller, the tension is fairly intense. Richard Widmark and Paul Douglas are more than serviceable in their roles. The domestic scenes between Widmark and his wife provide a nice interlude to the main plot. The actor in this film who most left his mark is Jack Palance. His sharply defined features and seemingly easygoing exterior always wither way to reveal the avaricious and cruel man beneath the surface. The chase scene through the packing plant is impressive even today. Recommended, 7/10.
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