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September 01, 2006

Panic in the Streets - 7

Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront, A Street Car Named Desire) and Richard Widmark team up again for this quasi-noir film. Earlier in 1950 they made Night and the City. The film is less dark than traditional noir film and anticipates all of Michael Crichton's work. A mobster is dragged out of the water in New Orleans and the autopsy reveals that he had bubonic plague. The search is on for those in contact with him so that an epidemic can be avoided. But no one wants to be associated with a dead body with a bullet in it. And the medical officer, Clint fights to keep the news of disease from the public to avoid hysteria. At one point the police actually lock up the news reporter who is on to the story. Small clues continue to lead them on and the mobsters who did the hit soon learn that their own lives are in danger because of the disease. The theme of the film is really fear and how those in power control its uses. A very difficult task that can result in grave disaster or could help save lives. It is fine line to walk, and a harder path to take responsibility for. A great film that is still relevant today.
On a complete side note: this is the first time I have seen an old film that has relatively normal and calm domestic scenes of the family- husband, wife, and child. This is interesting because it is not setting up some sub-plot but showing the reality of the characters lives.

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