Film Noir Friday – Panic in the Streets

Yes. Jill and I did this last night.

What’s that you ask?

We watched the film noir(ish) about an impending pandemic, and the race against time to contain it.

The film directed by (the eventually black-listed) Elia Kazan features oneof my favorite actors, Richard Widmark, in an atypical role, and the film debut of Jack Palance, the man with the mug born to play a film noir villain.

It’s a fun thriller with some gorgeous noir visuals set in New Orleans. Outside of the visuals and Jack Palance’s face there isn’t really much that identifies it as a film noir (other than that’s how Fox markets the DVD now that noir is a selling point), but whether a film is noir or not really has nothing to do with its quality.  And Panic in the Streets is a fine, entertaining film that I’ve watched half a dozen times, and while I’m not sure the repeat viewings provide any new discoveries, they’ve never failed to entertain. It’s sort of film’s answer to comfort food.

A foreign smuggler arrives in the port of New Orleans infected with pneumonic plague. Immediately gets down big in a poker game with some local thugs, and ends up floating in the Mississippi (or Gulf). Richard Widmark plays a good guy (I know, I know…I said atypical), Doctor for the Dept. of Public Health, who discovers the floater not only is riddled with bullet holes but was infected with a fast spreading contagion.  The race is on to find the killer and anyone who came in contact with the body to contain the plague…also to keep it all under wraps from the press to lessen the “Panic in the Streets.”

Yes, timely.

Widmark is fantastic as usual. As is Palance.  No real femme fatale to speak of.

Panic in the Streets, I believe is in the Public Domain. It’s part of the Fox Film Noir series (Spine #2 or 3 I believe). I’ve owned a copy for years, but if it is in the Public Domain, it should be found easy enough for free streaming at Archive or You Tube.

— TD