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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Panic in the Streets, some cheering in the aisles, 20 Dec. 2006
This review is from: Panic In The Streets [DVD] (DVD)
Panic In The Streets opens in high noir style, a view along a dark street followed by a camera tilt upwards to a window, behind which is playing out a sleazy card game - an opening flourish which, along with some of the location shooting, anticipates some of the atmosphere Welles brought a decade later in Touch Of Evil. One of the players throws open the window; it's an appropriate action, serving as an introduction to the events within as well as literally opening up our first view of the underworld.

Shot in high contrast black and white, Panic In The Streets benefits immensely from a strong cast as well as some fine location shooting in New Orleans. Scenes set in such places as the mortuary, the crowded shipping office or amidst the peeling paint of 'Frank's Place' offer a unique, and sometimes claustrophobic atmosphere, impossible to recreate in the studio. With these elements, Kazan's film shows the influence of Dassin's groundbreaking Naked City of two years earlier, which established the gritty, almost documentary style within the noir cycle. In fact, Widmark's previous role had been in Dassin's even finer Night And The City, a film in which a sense of rising panic was even more prevalent. Joe MacDonald, a favourite with the director, photographed Panic In The Streets' detailed environment. MacDonald also worked on Kazan's Pinky and Viva Zapata!, and went on to shoot Widmark again three years later in Fuller's masterpiece Pick Up On South Street.

As others have noticed, in a manner typical of some noir films, Kazan's work offers a contrast between the confusion, sickness and immorality of the streets with the modest, calm home life of the Reeds. But whereas (for instance) in Lang's The Big Heat (1953) the home life of the hero is destroyed by elements of vice surrounding the embattled central character - ultimately sending him back to work with an increased vigilance and sense of vengeance - Panic In The Streets places Reed's rising anxiousness within the confines of what amounts to just another working 'day'. Despite all the danger, ultimately he returns back to the bosom of his family justified and satisfied. The implication being that social balance has been restored, at least for the moment by his professionalism and curative skills.

That imbalance of course, has been created by crime and disease. The two are closely associated in this film. It reminds one of the tagline from the much cruder Cobra (1986) - where "Crime is the disease. Meet the cure," a neat analogy in context, if one which rings too uncomfortably of social reductionism. At its climax, as Blackie attempts to flee aboard ship, the visuals specifically allude to rats as being similar to criminals, both posing a menace to society's health. As (the presumably infected) Blackie prowls round the cheap rooms and the docks with his cronies, in search of something he suspects everyone is after, if without knowing exactly what it is, 'plague' and 'Blackie' resonate together in the audiences mind, adding further to connected associations. Ironically Blackie's hunch about Poldi's unfortunate cousin, that "he brought something in" of note is correct - even if, finally, its nothing he can sell or steal. Blackie's logical assumption that the police would not normally bother with the murder of some anonymous illegal immigrant has a ring of truth about it, and his so confusion is understandable.

Dr Reed, although home-loving, and on the side of society, is a true noir hero. Familiar to the genre is the chief protagonist as a man who walks alone, forced to travel beyond the limits of the law. In his way, Reed is forced to take morality into his own hands for the sake of society at large - a dimension of the film that is particularly apposite, given director Kazan's controversial personal history. The director testified before the infamous HUAC, naming suspected communists and fellow travellers. His film depicts suspects being hauled in for questioning, and the manhandling of the press, on the grounds that the overriding public good justified the means. These actions perhaps echo the director's sentiments at the time, presumably accepting the McCarthyite witch hunt and the suppression of civil rights it entailed in the light of presumed communist infiltration of the entertainment industry. In these times of terrorist threats and state response, such issues as they appear in the film are strikingly modern.

Standout scenes in the film include a notable scene where Blackie interrogates the dying Poldi as to the precise nature of his cousin's presumed contraband. Cat like, Blackie stalks his victim across the room, eventually preying over the doomed man's sick bed, holding Poldi's feverish head in his hands - a striking, evil cradling. It's a gesture emphasising the intimate nature of corruption, whether moral or physical. Apparently, the actors did many or all of their own stunts, which leads to some other, very dramatic scenes at the end, as the police and health authorities close in on the villains under the wharfs. Half crawling, half scrambling over the slippery timbers at the edge of the dock pool must have been an experience very uncomfortable for Palance, but it is sequence that adds immensely to the immediacy of it all.

Occasionally less convincing elements distract the viewer. Apparently Dr Reed is left to fight a potential national emergency little government backup. Perhaps just as astonishingly, he never inoculates himself - inviting a dramatic turn which never materialises. At the end of the film, too, the potential epidemic has been halted, all contactees located, a little too neatly. But these weaknesses are more than outweighed by the other satisfactions of a film that still makes for compulsive and relevant viewing today.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Human borne plague brought in by immigrant, 26 Mar. 2010
By 
Peter Wade (Colchester England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Human borne plague brought in by immigrant

I like film noir as it has great atmospherics .

This story is very dramatic and although made in 1950 is a very modern story. An illegal immigrant brings n a virus and the race is o to track it down before it kills everyone.

He becomes the victim of a senseless murder after he leaves after winning a poker game.

The authorities don't believe the doctor played by Richard Widmark. He wants the facts kept secret but the authorities want it broadcast. He is worried once the baddies who killed him and who he now thinks are infected know they are being hunted they will leave the city and infect everyone else.It is very reminiscent of a lot of films like Jaws when a local community is faced with a problem and the authorities are torn as to what to do.

The story is very tense and dramatic with a great ending. Jack Palance as the baddie is well cast as he looks tough and menacing throughout Zero Mostel is his fat an dischevelled side kick.Palance is without compassion and only looks after himself. He didn't bring the plague in but acts like a rat in the denouement and the rat barrier on a ship gives him grief

Definitely worth watching a few times. The drama of Richard Widmark's public life as the public health doctor is sharply contrasts with his cosy domestic arrangements with his wife discussing ether they should have another child.

A great film and I am surprised it has not been plundered for a remake as cinema loves chases and plague dramas.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweaty clock ticker from Elia Kazan., 23 Mar. 2011
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Panic In The Streets [DVD] (DVD)
A doctor and a policeman in New Orleans have only 48 hours to locate a killer infected with pneumonic plague.

An effective, and classy, 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 prior.

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 alleyway, this definitely is a film worth staying with to the end. Not essential film-noir, 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
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4.0 out of 5 stars More Paranoia, US-Style, 21 Sept. 2012
By 
Keith M - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Panic In The Streets [DVD] (DVD)
This 1950 film directed by Elia Kazan is another in the long line of 'paranoia films' made in the US during the 1950s (and, indeed, through time immemorial). Of course, the main source of this paranoia during this period was the perceived threat that Communism posed to the US (and western) system of democracy. This threat was repeatedly depicted in film, whether this be directly in films such as Advise and Consent, or in allegorical terms, such as an alien invasion threat (The Invasion of the Bodysnatchers) or, as in the case of Panic in the Streets, the threat posed by the outbreak of a pandemic illness (pneumonic plague, in this instance). Whilst Panic in the Streets is an enjoyable and (particularly during the second half) gripping thriller, I must admit I was rather surprised by the level of critical adulation that it received (including winning the Oscar for (the now retired category of) Best Story).

With definite hints of Film Noir, Kazin's film opens impressively with a shootout in the New Orleans dockland - a setting that is, of course, reminiscent of Kazan's later masterpiece On The Waterfront - as local gangster Blackie (brilliantly played by Jack Palance, in the film's outstanding acting performance) settles a gambling debt by shooting dead an apparently ill immigrant (Kochak). Unbeknownst to Blackie, his victim is in fact infected with pneumonic plague, a fact discovered at the later autopsy and thereafter pursued by Federal Health Service doctor, Clint Reed (played with solid assurance by Richard Widmark). After an initial period of scepticism, Police Captain Tom Warren (an impressive Paul Douglas) eventually starts to believe Reed, and the two then attempt to track down anyone who may have had contact with Kochak, whilst trying to maintain discretion and not causing 'panic in the streets'.

For me, Kazin's film is relatively pedestrian during its first half, albeit Widmark's character is nicely built up as the family man, father to a street-smart young boy, who is struggling, both economically and in terms of his career direction. It is not until the increasingly stressed out Reed and Warren begin to close in on Blackie and his sidekick Fitch (played with nice bumbling touches by the always reliable Zero Mostel) that the film begins to grip, culminating in a brilliant chase sequence through a coffee warehouse on the New Orleans waterfront.

In addition to the film's message around the affects of paranoia on the US population, it is clearly also suggesting that the government is not averse to withholding important information from the public.

Overall, therefore, not one of Kazin's best (On The Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden, etc), but certainly worth seeing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Panic in the Streets - the movie, 23 Sept. 2012
By 
Dr. H. A. Jones "Howard Jones" (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Panic in the Streets [DVD] (DVD)
This is quite a gripping black-and-white movie about efforts to contain an infection of pneumonic plague. A sailor, Kojak, wins money in a card game but leaves feeling ill before his fellow players get a chance to get their money back. The chief villain, Blackie (Jack Palance) takes his money back by force with the aid of two confederates, but Kojak get killed in the process. Once his body shows up in the morgue, the hunt is on for his killer and anyone else with whom he might have come into contact. The naval doctor working for the U.S. Public Health Department overseeing the operation is Richard Widmark and Barbara Bel Geddes plays his wife. Unsurprisingly, he meets with reluctance to act from public officials but eventually persuades them of the urgency of the situation. Paul Douglas plays the reluctant police Captain Warren. This was an intriguing 90 min film, produced by Sol Seigel and directed by Elia Kazan; Alfred Newman wrote the music.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Panic in the Streets, 7 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Panic in the Streets [DVD] (DVD)
A gritty fast moving thriller. Shot on location in New Orleans Circa 1950. With a cracking cast and superb Director. It is a stark black and white film and Jack Palance is great in this and I recommend it highly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 6 April 2014
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This review is from: Panic In The Streets [DVD] (DVD)
Watched this on TV not so long ago and was delighted to see it on Amazon. Richard Widmark is a favourite of mine and this is a film I intend to watch several times.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!!!, 13 Mar. 2014
This review is from: Panic In The Streets [DVD] (DVD)
I absolutely loved this film! The acting was good all round, but I think the highlight of this film was Jack Palance in his debut role. Really recommend!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 6 Oct. 2014
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This review is from: Panic In The Streets [DVD] (DVD)
Nice item good price well packaged and delivered quickly with thanks
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 22 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Panic In The Streets [DVD] (DVD)
Great movie
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