|6:30 p.m.||Panic in the Streets|
Elia Kazan (U.S., 1950)
Derived from several stories published in Dime Detective, Panic in the Streets announces a social crisis: the bubonic plague has arrived on our shores and it threatens to lay low the citizenry. Public health officer Dr. Clinton Reed (Richard Widmark) scours the city of New Orleans for the carrier, an infested hoodlum played by Jack Palance, accompanied by his rodent-like accomplice (Zero Mostel). Enlisting the help of a local cop (Paul Douglas), Reed initiates a massive manhunt for his infected fugitive, even threatening martial law, yet through much of the unfolding story only he admits the body (politic) is rotting. Two years before he would stand before HUAC and name names, director Kazan issued this gripping but alarmist tale of a plague traveling from abroad to our complacent shores (the original title was Port of Entry). As J. Edgar Hoover had said just a few years earlier, Communism “is a way of life—an evil and malignant way of life. It reveals a condition akin to disease that spreads like an epidemic; a quarantine is necessary to keep it from infecting the nation.” Guardian of public welfare, Hoover could have written the script.
• Written by Richard Murphy, adapted by Daniel Fuchs from stories by Edna and Edward Anhalt. Photographed by Joe MacDonald. With Richard Widmark, Barbara Bel Geddes, Walter (Jack) Palance, Zero Mostel. (96 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Criterion)