Panic in the Streets (March 18/05)
Panic in the Streets marked the beginning of Jack Palance's (then credited as Walter Jack Palance) cinematic career, and not surprisingly, the actor delivers an effectively sinister performance despite receiving a relatively small amount of screen time. The film kicks off with a poker game being held by the villainous Blackie (Palance), who doesn't take kindly to players taking off before the match is finished. After one such participant does exactly that, Blackie hunts him down and shoots him; unfortunately for Blackie, the dead man just happened to be infected with the plague. Now it's up to health official Clinton Reed (Richard Widmark) and a squadron of cops to capture Blackie before he's able to pass the plague on to anyone else. Panic in the Streets has been directed by Elia Kazan, who does an effective job of keeping the pace brisk - until around the midway point, when the film's focus shifts away from Reed's investigation. Instead, screenwriter Richard Murphy places the emphasis on Reed's coping mechanisms in dealing with the stresses of his job (it's here that the film comes to a dead stop as Reed engages in a long, needless conversation with his wife that serves only to kill the story's momentum). Having said that, the movie does pick up towards the end as Reed and his men begin to close in on Blackie - leading up to an action-packed finale that's surprisingly tense. Both Widmark and Palance deliver effectively compelling performances, with the latter particularly good as the first evil character of his career.