Panic in the Streets

Starring: Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas, Barbara Bel Geddes and Jack Palance
inDVD and Fremantle Home Entertainment
RRP: 12.99
Certificate: PG
Available 21 March 2005

When the victim of a gangland killing is found to be riddled with a pneumonic plague, New Orleans medical officer Dr. Clinton Reed is pitched into a race against time to stop the deadly epidemic from desecrating the city. To do so, Reed must form an initially unlikely alliance with police chief Tom Warren to hunt down and exterminate the infected murderers...

Panic in the Streets from 1950, is a master class in how to produce a timeless film noir. The movie is basically a gritty manhunt to track down everyone that has come into contact with a murdered man who is riddled with a plague.

The tension builds well as Dr. Reed scours the streets looking for anyone who came into contact with the dead man. He must balance casting the net as wide as possible when asking the public, without alerting the press to his motives. The last thing he wants is for there to be panic on the streets.

The end chase sequence, where Dr. Reed and police chief Warren are hot on the heels of Blackie and Raymond, is an incredibly long and drawn-out affair. It could have been half as long, and still as effective. I also found it amusing that the unfit Raymond always seemed to be a few steps ahead of the more energetic Blackie.

While Richard Widmark is believable as Dr. Reed, it's Paul Douglas's performance as police chief Warren that really stands out. Both Barbara Bel Geddes (Vertigo, Dallas) and Jack Palance (Shane, Sudden Fear, Batman) turn in fantastic supporting roles.

Extras are very thin on the ground. All we get are the original movie posters and some stills (there aren't even any subtitles for the hard of hearing).

Panic in the Streets is an entertaining film. And while it delivers few surprises, it's still a fine example of Hollywood's film noir era.

Nick Smithson

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