Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Panic In The Streets 1950

This is a tough tight, tangy exciting norish thriller about the possibility of a plague hitting the city of New Orleans. The reason that this is possible is because an illegal immigrant named Kochak brought it in via a freighter and before he can actually die from it, he is shot down by some criminal cronies of his who wants the money that he won in a card game. The opening scene beautifully sets the action up and introduces us to the low lives led by Walter Jack Palance in his movie debut as Blackie and his stooge played by a bleating and sweating Zero Mostel. The two mensches of the film are a police officer  and a U.S. Public Health official played by Paul Douglas and Richard Widmark ,who were two of Hollywood’s finest post war actors.  At first they are at each other’s throats over what to do about this crisis, but they slowly come around to each other. They are both wrecks because they have only 48 hours to find the trail and the infected parties who threated the city, the country and the world with this Pneumonic plague. Directed with beautiful style and assurance by Elia Kazan who had already won an Oscar in 1947 for Gentleman’s Agreement, and filmed mostly on location at night in a dark and fetid New Orleans , this is not the city of and for tourists.  Everything looks wet, dirty and diseased.  Blackie who has a rundown Laundromat as a legitimate front (he should put his black soul in one of the machines for a good cleaning) has it in his head that Kochak’s cousin Poldi who is now also dying from the plague has something of value that Kochak passed on to him, yeah it’s the plague moron, and pushes and pulls at him in order to find out what the valuable merchandise might be. There is a shocking scene in the film when Blackie who is trying to get the dying Poldi out of his house so he can do terrible things to him to find out what he is hiding throws him down a flight of stairs when he is confronted by Widmark.  Kazan contrasts these dark scenes with ones of light and softness between Widmark and his wife played by the wonderful Barbara Bel Geddes and his young son played by Tommy Rettig. Also of note is the final chase where the rat like Blackie tries to escape his destiny and the beautiful inky black and white cinematography by Joseph MacDonald and the pounding music score by Alfred Newman. Winner of best original motion picture story Oscar . One of the ten best films of the year.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter