Feeling deathly ill, an illegal immigrant leaves a poker game, only to be ambushed andmurdered by three of the other players (the most notable of whom are Zero Mostel and a youngand scary Jack Palance, here appearing as Walter Jack Palance). When his body is found the nextmorning, the victim is discovered to have been sick with pneumonic plague. Doctor RichardWidmark, in charge of public health, takes over, and is initially at loggerheads with DetectivePaul Douglas, who is …eluctant to believe that the crisis really is as serious as Widmark says it is.Before long, however, Douglas too is consumed with the search for the man’s killers, who areunwittingly plague carriers.
You can almost smell the heat, despair and filth of the New Orleans dock area as captured bythe film. And the desperation in Widmark’s eyes is equally palpable. How to find a murderer inunder 48 hours? The task seems impossible, and director Elia Kazan teases us by having ZeroMostel cross paths with Widmark and Douglas early on, though they, of course, have no ideahe’s one of the men they’re looking for. Though calling this a film noir is stretching thedefinition just a little, the atmosphere, look, and characters of the genre are present, and racesagainst time don’t get much better than this.
The sound comes in both original mono and a new stereo remix. The 2.0 version falls prey tothe usual problems associated with remixes, namely inappropriate surround effects, principallyinvolving dialogue. That said, there are also some nice surround moments in the form of somesubtle environmental effects. The volume level is rather low, however.
A very good print. Now and then, there are brief moments of slight damage (some scratchesand speckling), and there is a bit of flicker. The blacks, though, are singularly deep, and the grainis minimal. The image is razor sharp, and there is no visible edge enhancement. For a film overfifty years old, it looks terrific.
Other than the theatrical trailer (and an ad for the Fox Noir series), the only is a commentarytrack, but a fine one it is, by film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver. The emphasis here ison Elia Kazan, his methods, and the film’s context in his career. The menu is basic.
Another superb addition to the Fox Noir series. The initial releases of this line are setting thebar very high indeed.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary