© 1950 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Panic in the Streets (1950)

It is hard to know what to make of this film. Director Elia Kazan had already directed the very good Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), and was about to go on the make the masterpiece A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), but this film is perhaps best described as uneven. Aiming for a gritty realism, Kazan shot the entire film on location in New Orleans. Some of the outdoor nighttime scene and infused with masterful noir lighting, while some of the indoor daytime scene are dragged down by slow pacing and poor lighting and camera movement. Jack Palance is great in his film debut as the leader of a band of criminal being hunted by a public health inspector (Richard Whitmark), who believes they may be carrying a strain of dangerous plague. Barbara Bell Geddes, who later went on to a small but memorable role in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, almost fails to register in her portrayal of the inspector’s wife. On the other hand, an appearance by Zero Mostel as one of the thugs adds some nice moments.

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