Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Panic in the Streets


This is a reasonably intelligent and very well-made thriller concerning the threat of pneumonic plague. Unlike its Black Death cousin, which needs rats and fleas to propagate, the pneumonic variety can be spread through the air. It’s surprising to me that we don’t get more of it. Here, it’s brought into New Orleans, where most of the movie was filmed on location. The complication is that the low-life who carried it is anonymous, and soon murdered, so the people who killed him and are now carrying it have a damn good reason not to be found. These include a quite young Jack Palance, who had one of the most menacing faces of any man, ever, and Zero Mostel, who seems to me to have been born middle-aged. Richard Widmark plays a good guy for a change, but he’s just as intense as ever. It was directed by Elia Kazan. An excellent example of noir cinema.