Panic in the Streets (1950)

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Released 24-May-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Forty Guns, Broken Arrow, Pickup On South Street
Trailer-Anna Karenina
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1950
Running Time 92:12
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:41) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Elia Kazan

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Richard Widmark
Paul Douglas
Barbara Bel Geddes
Jack Palance
Zero Mostel
Dan Riss
Tommy Cook
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Billie Holiday
Alfred Newman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    A man smuggled into the port city of New Orleans carries a contagious disease: pneumonic plague. He is killed by some criminals after a card game. When the local authorities discover the man's body and realise that he was suffering from the deadly disease, a race against time begins to track down the men who killed him and to avoid the outbreak of an epidemic that may kill tens of thousands.

    Not to be confused with bubonic plague (the so-called "Black Death") which is typically transmitted by the bite of a flea, the pneumonic plague is transferred by airborne bacilli and is a deadlier form of the plague. I'm not sure why this would have been a hot topic in 1950, but it attracted a director of the calibre of Elia Kazan and a top-quality production from 20th Century Fox. Perhaps it was intended as a metaphor: a plague of foreigners or even a plague of Commie subversives. In any case, it stands no chance against the mighty American way of life, represented here by public health official Dr Clinton Reed (Richard Widmark) and Police Captain Warren (Paul Douglas). The bad guys are of, well, non-American appearance: Blackie (Walter Jack Palance, before he dropped the Walter) and Fitch (Zero Mostel).

    Despite the dubious subtext that I am rightly or wrongly reading into it, this is actually an exceptional noir thriller. It is all played with deadly seriousness, is well constructed and believable and never outstays its welcome. The location photography is excellent, the performances are top-notch and it all builds to a satisfying if predictable conclusion. The presence of Barbara Bel Geddes as Reed's clucky wife seems a bit superfluous, as if it was felt necessary to give the doctor a grounding in a typical suburban existence. But apart from this minor cavil, it is one of the better films of the era. It is also notable as Palance's screen debut, with his face looking like it was carved from granite.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, close to the original 1.37:1.

    This is an excellent video transfer. It is very sharp and detailed. Contrast is excellent and the blacks and whites are strikingly clean and rich. It perhaps could have been slightly brighter, but this effort is as good as you would see from a major studio release. Shadow detail is good, with none of the action being unclear while still retaining that dark, noir feel.

    The only film to video artefact is occasional mild aliasing. Film artefacts are limited to some white flecks, more noticeable in the night sequences.

    No subtitles are provided. The disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer break positioned during a scene change at 61:41.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    The audio is just as good as the video. Dialogue is clear and distinct, and is relatively free from distortion. There is no audible hiss and audio sync is exemplary.

    The music score by Alfred Newman gets a bit dramatic at times, but it is generally effective. The theme music under the credits is impressive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

    The menu features some of Newman's theme music.

Gallery-Photo (0:33)

    Production stills including some behind the scenes shots.

Theatrical Trailer (2:10)

    A florid trailer which does not really convey the tone of the film.

Trailer-Forty Guns, Broken Arrow, Pickup On South Street Trailer-Anna Karenina (10:12)

    Umbrella propaganda.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 seems to be the same as the UK Region 2.

    The US Region 1 release appears to have the following extras not available in Region 4:

    The stereo soundtrack is a recent remix no doubt, but the commentary gets the thumbs up from all reviewers. The Region 1 seems preferable to the Region 4 on this count.


    A fine film, and a notable film noir, it is no classic but it is very entertaining and exciting.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    Little in the way of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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