A doctor and a policeman in New Orleans have only 48 hours to locate a killer infected with pneumonic plague.A doctor and a policeman in New Orleans have only 48 hours to locate a killer infected with pneumonic plague.A doctor and a policeman in New Orleans have only 48 hours to locate a killer infected with pneumonic plague.
An effective and class, little thriller directed by Elia Kazan that blends documentary realism with a race against time pulpy heartbeat. Set and filmed in and around New Orleans, Panic In The Streets is taken from the story Quarantine, Some Like 'em Cold by Edna and Edward Anhalt who won an Oscar for original story. It also boasts a fine ensemble cast that deliver top rate performances for their director. In turn, Richard Widmark (bringing the method a year before Marlon did for Kazan in A Streetcar Named Desire), Paul Douglas, Jack Palance (as Walter Jack Palance) & the wonderfully named Zero Mostel, all get sweatily moody as the pursuers chase the pursued to halt the onset of a potential Black Death epidemic.
Where the film scores its main suspense points is with Kazan's astute ability to cut back and forth between the protagonists without altering the flow and mood of the piece. From Widmark's Public Health doctor, with hypodermic needle in hand, running around trying to locate the bad guys so he can do good - to the bad guys themselves who are bemused as to why there is such a wide scale hunt for them. The tension is stacked up to fever breaking point, to which thankfully the final thirty minutes becomes a cracking piece of cinema, with Palance excelling as a nasty villain that ironically puts one in mind of Widmark's own Tommy Udo from Kiss Of Death three years previously.
It's an imaginative and intelligently written story, one that cunningly links rats and criminals to being carriers of disease. A blight on society as it were. It's noirish elements, such as paranoia, blend nicely with its basic procedural thriller being. While some memorable scenes are suitably cloaked by the stifling atmosphere that Kazan has created. Although some of the early character psychologizing threatens to steer the film down some over talky based alleyways, this definitely is a film worth staying with to the end. Not essential film-noir in my personal book, and maybe not even essential Kazan? but certainly a highly recommended film that begs to be discovered by a new generation of film lovers and reappraised by the old guard who may have missed it back in the day. 7.5/10
- Mar 1, 2010