Panic in the Streets
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After getting off to a fine start with Pickup on South Street, I got turned off by Richard Widmark's ham and cheese turn as a huckster in Night and the City. He's come back onto my good side since then and with Panic in the Streets I'm now excited to see more of his work. It's a nice lead performance, commanding but relaxed. Intense but not hyper. He's matched wonderfully with Paul Douglas (who I don't believe I've ever seen before.) This noir has a great clock, a murder investigation coupled with the threat of a medical epidemic. That makes it twice as exciting, right? Sure feels that way.
Has Elia Kazan done any other noir? He's one of my favorite directors and his style suits the genre, which is rather obvious now that I think of it. Both favor the grit of street locations, moral grey areas and the mixture of exciting action and character drama. The investigation cools its heels considerably. The mystery trail is mostly a combination of dead ends and clues that stretch credibility. I feel the two stories should be on a collision course, but Kazan just bounces from one to the other until the good guys and bad guys collide in an exciting final 15 minutes. The way this started I thought it was going to be a 4-star film, but in the end it falls a bit short of greatness.
She was mesmerized by Jack Palance, one of the ugliest mugs ever to grace movies but completely in command of his craft. Loved watching him work with Zero Mostel and thought he exudes the same kind of danger Gary Oldman had in The Professional. (He kicks off the finale with an act so cold-blooded and personal, it ups Cagney's grapefruit in the face.) She generally likes Widmark and thought the scenes with his wife were really well done, considering she usually never likes these kind of character breaks. The wife thinks the threat of outbreak wasn't enough of a presence, but that's from having seen Outbreak and Contagion where it's much more of a doomsday scenario.
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