PANIC IN THE STREETS

 

THE PLOT THUS FAR

In this suspenseful melodrama, a bullet-ridden corpse turns up in the water off the New Orleans docks. To the police, he’s a John Doe…until a public health doctor (Richard Widmark) discovers he carries a virulent strain of bubonic plague. Hundreds of officers are mobilized to track down the killers and all who had contact with the dead man in a desperate race against the clock before the highly contagious disease spreads far beyond the port area and puts the entire country in peril.

WHAT WE THOUGHT

In New Orleans, an illegal alien feels sick and leaves a poker game while winning the smalltime criminal Blackie. He is chased by Blackie and his men Raymond Fitch and Poldi, killed by Blackie and his body is dumped in the sea. During the autopsy, the family man Lieutenant Commander Dr. Clinton Reed of the U.S. Public Health Service finds that the dead man had pneumonic plague caused by rats and he needs to find who had any type of contact with the man within forty-eight hours to avoid an epidemic. The City Mayor assigns the skeptical Captain Tom Warren to help Dr. Clint to find the killers that are infected with the plague and inoculate them.

Kazan handles each genre of Panic in the Streets well, but they could be connected better. The film would have benefited by staying with just one or two of its moods. The sprawl in terms of setting would have still worked. Part of the dilemma may have been caused by the fact that Panic in the Streets was an attempt to merge two stories by writers Edna and Edward Anhalt, “Quarantine” and “Some Like ‘Em Cold”. The gangster material, which ends up in firmly in thriller territory with an extended chase scene near the end of the film, is probably the highlight. Not surprisingly, Kazan has said that he believes the villains are “more colorful–I never had much affection for the good guys anyway. I don’t like puritans”. A close second is the only material that approaches the “panic” of the title–the discovery of the plague and the attempts to track down the exposed, inoculate them and contain the disease. While there is plenty of suspense during these two “moods”, much of the film is also a fairly straightforward drama, with pacing more typical of that genre.

The Blu-Ray comes with a commentary track, featurettes and trailer. Most of the material is ported over from the DVD, but it works for what it is. I just wish that the 1080p transfer didn’t play so dark at times. Oh well, at least the DTS-HD master audio track is a clean mono mix. Still, it’s quite the improvement over the DVD. In the end, I’d recommend a purchase.

RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW!

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