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on August 7, 2005
Love him or hate him (many in Hollywood still do, hate him, that is, based on his cooperating with the HUAC - House Un-American Activities Committee back in the early 50s), Elia Kazan knew how to make damn good films, including such features as A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), On the Waterfront (1954), which won eight Academy Awards, including one for best direction and one for best actor in leading role for Marlon Brando, Splendor in the Grass (1961), and this earlier effort titled Panic in the Streets (1950), which also won an Academy Award in the best writing motion picture story category for Edward and Edna Anhalt. Starring in the film is Richard Widmark, whom I last saw in the one of the unfunniest comedies I've ever seen in National Lampoon's Movie Madness (1983), so I really relished this opportunity to put that experience in the past as I knew Widmark capable of much better things having seen Pickup on South Street (1953), which I think is one of his best films (I have yet to see them all). Also appearing is Paul Douglas (It Happens Every Spring), Barbara Bel Geddes (Vertigo), Zero Mostel (The Producers), Guy Thomajan (The Pink Panther), and Jack `Believe it...or not!' Palance (The Professionals, Torture Garden) in what appears to be his first silver screen role, credited as Walter Jack Palance.

The story, which takes place in New Orleans, or New Awlins', if you prefer, begins as a seedy poker game breaks up early due to one of the players feeling all sick like...the others are annoyed, especially Blackie (Palance), as the man was winning, and they believe he's using the old `I'm leaving early because I'm sick, not because I'm winning' ploy to get out of giving them the chance to win back their money, so they follow him because the aforementioned Blackie is an especially poor loser and wants his dough which they end up killing the man and dumping his corpse in the harbor...only thing is, the now deceased was truly sick, suffering a pulmonary form of the bubonic plague aka the black death (you know, that bug that spread across Europe and killed millions?), diagnosed by Lieutenant Commander Dr. Clinton Reed (Widmark) of the U.S. Public Health Service. He tries to impress upon the local authorities the importance of finding everyone who had contact with the relatively unknown man due to the extremely communicable nature of the pathogen, but police captain Tom Warren (Douglas), whose been assigned to work with Reed, has little faith in finding the killer as there are virtually no clues (the dead man has no ID as he recently arrived by steam shipper and entered the country illegally). Now Reed and Warren have 48 hours to crack the case, lest the disease take a foothold and spread across the country.

My favorite exchange in the film was between the characters of Reed and Warren, the two civil servants stuck with each other, Reed feeling Warren isn't taking things serious enough, while Warren thinks Reed is over-reacting.

Reed: You know, my mother always told me if you looked deep enough in anybody, you always find some good, but I don't know.

Warren: With apologies to your mother, that's the second mistake she made.

This is a really strong film, although I'm not sure if it did too well the time it was released. The most striking aspect about the movie, in my opinion, is the dark haired Palance who played the role of the lead antagonist Blackie. He's a truly scary individual, not only because of his lean, almost gaunt, towering physique, but also because quiet nature of his character, sort of a calm exterior barely containing seething cauldron of violence ready to spill over on anyone who goes against him (check out the scene where Blackie dumps the sickly Poldi, mattress and all, over the stairwell) really interesting thing, and something I think often tends to screw films up in less capable hands, is the inclusion of so many different facets of a story...the disease, the killer(s), the relationship between Reed and Warren, the relationship between Reed and his wife (played by Bel Geddes), the withholding of information from the public, risking the possibility of full blown outbreak vs. the fear of causing a panic that drives the killer, who may be infected, out of town, etc. Yes, there was a whole lot going on (perhaps too much), but it handled well, and with little or no confusion. One aspect that I really liked was the perception by Blackie that police were putting so much heat out there because he thought they thought the man had smuggled something valuable into the country, something he would be interested it me, or did Zero Mostel play the role of flounder lap dog to Blackie just a little too well? I mean yeah, I wouldn't want to get on Blackie's bad side being the man's a gorilla that trusts no one, but Mostel seemed a little too comfortable in the role. All in all I enjoyed this film, and I thought it provided a somewhat different and unique spin on a well-established I've always been a fan of Richard Widmark and would strongly recommend two of his other films from the same period in Night and the City (1950), directed by Jules Dassin, and the one I mentioned earlier Pickup on South Street (1953), directed by Samuel Fuller.

The picture on this DVD is presented in original full frame aspect ratio (1.33:1), and looks very sharp and clean. The audio is available in both Dolby Digital stereo and mono, and comes across very well. In terms of special features, there's a commentary track by authors and film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver, along with a theatrical trailer and liner notes for the film. There are also trailer for other 20th Century Fox noir films like Call Northside 777 (1948), House of Bamboo (1955), Laura (1944), and The Street with No Name (1948).


If I learned anything from this film its not to play cards with Jack Palance...he doesn't like to lose...
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Dr. Clint Reed (Richard Widmark) and New Orleans Police Captain Tom Warren (Paul Douglas) frantically search for a pair of criminals involved with the murder of a card player who may have been infected with plague by the victim. Reed and Warren have 48 hours to find the criminals before they become infectious and spread plague through the population like a wildfire. Although it doesn't compare to the gorefests that pass for suspense thrillers today. Kazan's eighth film as a director is filled with long takes influenced by Welles (although far more naturalistic looking without the unusual angles that Gregg Toland used on Welles' masterpiece "Citizen Kane") creating as much suspense by letting the action play out as the quick cutting style of Hitchcock and other directors working at the time. Featuring the lovely and underrated Barbara Bel Geddes as Widmark's wife, "Panic in the Streets" continues to astound with its suspenseful direction and brutal violence. A young Jack Palance steals the film with his role as "Blackie" one of the infected criminals and Zero Mostel appears as the other criminal a year or two before Kazan ratted him out to the House of Un-American Acitivies. A believable, powerful drama that still resonates today because of Kazan's on location shooting and powerful down-to-earth performances. Writer Murphy and Kazan would frequently allow the actors to improvise some of their scenes changing dialogue around to bring a sense of spontaneity. Kazan's film, unlike many of the time, shows interdepartmental conflicts slowing down the hunt for the infected men.

"Panic in the Streets" looks good in its first presentation on DVD. There's a predictable amount of grain and dirt but, on the whole, there's nothing to panic about. The sound is presented in the original mono mix and an augmented artifical stereo mix as well. The former sounds the best of the two. The sound occasionally comes across as harsh but there's little hiss or other analog problems. Image qualtiy is exceptionally good for the movie and this is a must have for fans of film noir featuring one of Palance's best early performances.

Unfortunately, we don't have any featurettes or documentaries on any of the stars from the film. I seem to recall A&E Biographies on both Jack Palance and Richard Widmark and am a bit puzzled as to why they weren't licensed for this project. Perhaps it's because this is a lower profile classic film that doesn't have the built in audience of, say, "Laura" or "Letter to Three Wives". We do get the theatrical trailer for the film as well as four trailers for four other Fox Noir Classics available on DVD.

A great, involving commentary track authors and film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver is a highlight of this release. The authors point out Kazan's more straight forward style relying much more on lighting the actors to maintain the mood of the film. There's also scenes here that are echoed in later Kazan films such as "On the Waterfront" and "A Streetcar Named Desire".

A sharp, vivid looking transfer for this classic noir is a highlight of "Panic in the Streets". It's a pity that there's no background on the production of the movie provided in the form of a featurette or documentary. As it is, though, we get plenty of information from the two film historians and authors on the commentary tracks and their efforts aren't as dry as some commentators. We also get the original theatrical trailer as well as four original trailers for other Fox Noir DVDs.
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on March 20, 2005
I remember catching this movie on TV about 15 years ago, and I immediately fell in love with it, despite the fact that I wasn't particularly crazy about any of the stars, or even 'film noir'.

This amazing gritty documentary-style film just jells perfectly; the setup of the plague, Richard Widmark and Paul Douglas' dilemma, the sleazy New Orleans waterfront dives and characters.

Director Elia Kazan used real locations and often real local people; some of the cops were New Orleans cops, etc.

I'm so glad that this has finally been released....and hopefully most of you will discover one of the most distinctive films of the late 1940's...right up with there with "White Heat". top it off, the opening theme music by Alfred Newman is, in my mind, one of the amazingly spirited and exiting themes in the history of motion pictures.....
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on January 23, 2006
New Orleans locales are the setting for this exciting film noir classic that deals with a member of a small time gang that is murdered by his fellow gang members. The police uncover the body and discover he was also sick with pneumonic plague. Richard Widmark shines as the U.S. Health Inspector physician that gives his all to find the men that may also be carrying the plague. Paul Douglas does a great job as the tough-talking Chief of Police who joins Widmark in the manhunt. Barbara Bel Geddes plays Widmark's wife with her usual sweet charm. I especially enjoyed watching them with their young son, there is a genuine family feel to their scenes together. Jack Palance, with his sharp facial features, plays tough gang leader, Blackie. Unaware that the dead man was carrying the plague, Blackie hears he carried something into the country and goes after the man's friends, thinking he's hid a stash of cash somewhere. The dvd transfer, as well as the audio, is very clean and sharp. Dvd includes movie book insert, featuring info on the movie and it's stars. A nice image of Jack Palance's character, Blackie, is imprinted on the disc surface. Dramatic, exciting, and very entertaining, I recommend "Panic in the Streets," the third entry in the "Fox Film Noir" series, to all film noir and classic cinema buffs. This one keeps your attention throughout.
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VINE VOICEon March 29, 2014
This is a very good (not classic) film noir. Others have gone into much detail about the movie so let me review the item in question the Blu Ray version.

First, the print is wonderful , exactly what us noir fans love, rich blacks and a crisp image with good contrast.
secondly , the bonus features are extensive and push this 3plus star movie up to the 5. The commentary by Noir experts Ursini and Silver is as all theirs are, truly informative and interesting. Secondly however Fox has bolstered this release by adding the theatrical trailer ...and the biography documentary on Jack Palance "From Grit to Grace" which is a terrific program. As Blu Rays can hold more information they've also added one of my favorite biography programs "Richard Widmark Strength of Characters" to the disc! Both of the biographies are about 45 minutes (must have been 1 hour programs on TV) and are like the feature 1:33 aspect ratio.

This kind of loading up of extra content should be rewarded and I hope this BR does well so Fox continues to issue classic Noirs on BR and adds the bonus features that make them worth owning.
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VINE VOICEon April 6, 2006
OK, good movie, nice script, excellent directing and outstanding acting. What more could you want? Well, in the case of "Panic in the Streets", a little more respect for the audience. Let's see, the point is to find everyone who came into contact with a man with the plague who just died. A vast manhunt goes out etc. etc. etc. All well done and you'll enjoy the developing suspense. However, remember how an epidemic spreads. Was it really enough just to locate the several men in question? What about Blackie's girlfriend, Zero's wife, Poldi's cousin, etc, etc, etc. Once again, I deminish a good movie by taking it too seriously. Oh well, if you don't make the same mistake, "Panic in the Streets" will be more enjoyable.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 7, 2016
Richard Widmark and Jack Palance star in this 1950 gritty thriller directed by Elia Kazan. It offers a bit of a different twist on similar film-noir for the fact that its villain is the Bubonic plague.

The acting performances are top-notch, particularly from newcomer JackPalance, who plays a gangster named "Blackie." Adding to the film's emotional level is the beautiful B&W photography lensed on location in New Orleans.

The highlight of this film for me, was the harbor chase scene at the end of the film. It's quite a way to end such a remarkable movie.

This 1080p B&W transfer is immaculate and well defined, it not a touch soft. Looks fantastic blown up on a large 110" screen.

Highly recommend this as a blind purchase
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on August 10, 2002
When a man is found dead from a bullet wound in the steets of New Orleans, an autopsy reveals that he had bubonic plague. Now it's a race against time for the police and health officials to find the killers before they become contagious and spread the plague across the entire city.
The idea of an epidemic threatening populations seems increasingly likely in this modern time. The spread of AIDS, Ebola, and the recent West Nile virus seem to flood our television screens every day. However, this film is probably just a disguised red scare allegory. The danger of the spread of disease, the way the police hound and interrogate people for information, all this reminds me of the Cold War paranoia sweeping America at the time of the film's release (1950) and the subsequent witch hunts. Appropriately, the director Elia Kazan would name names of suspected Communists before HUAC two years later. Zero Mostel, who played one of the gangsters and plague carriers, would be blacklisted by the Hollywood studios.
Fortunately, one doesn't have to read deeply into this film as it is first and foremost an exciting and entertaining suspense thriller. It was shot entirely on location in New Orleans in black and white giving it a documentary feel. One can almost feel the sounds, tastes, and smells of New Orleans of the 1950s. Kazan considered it to be his first "real" film. One can easily believe it. Before PITS, Kazan had made well acted but stagy dramas. This film truly turned him into a real director, not just a stage director as were his roots. By the time he made "On the Waterfront", Kazan had fully mastered the cinematic techniques while still managing to get great performances from his entire cast.
Highly reccomended for any fan of action films, gangster dramas, and film noir.
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on July 13, 2015
Bubonic plague in New Orleans -- and as if that isn't enough, Jack Palance is out to get what's owed him. Richard Widmark plays an Army Medical Officer who has to deal with both of these problems. This is a fine movie. The plot is plausible. Palance -- IN HIS FIRST MOVIE ROLE -- is wonderfully threatening.

And New Orleans should have won Best Supporting Actor for this movie. And this is gritty, sweaty, back-streets New Orleans in 1950 -- perfectly filmed in B&W. If you are at all interested in New Orleans, you should see this movie. There's a scene in which Widmark meets a woman in a café, to question her. It's a small place, no more than 8-feet wide, with a long counter. At one point the camera pans down the length of the counter, showing us one tired, unwashed patron after another -- all obviously locals -- staring at nothing. This scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Nice interplay between Widmark and his wife (Barbara Bel Geddes). And Zero Mostel plays a bad guy!

Fine, fine movie.
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on May 11, 2016
Richard Widmak & Jack Palance are great in this movie It has been a long time the last I seen this movie lots of suspense right up to the end I not going to give the plot away Widmark is looking for something deadly and dangerous they also have two.documentaries one on Richard Widmak and the other on Jack Palance if you are there fans this is a most have
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