After handling the social dramas "Gentleman's Agreement" and "Pinky," director Elia Kazan returned to the docu-style of "Boomerang," this time relishing the tension of a city manhunt for a handful of possibly infected plague carriers. Kazan's use of genuine locations is superb, capturing the grime of poverty-row housing, ethnic ghettos, and the gleaming city buildings and streets which house nervous state officials looking for a quick fix for a messy problem.
Based on a pair of stories co-written by veteran scribe Edward Anhalt (who later penned the superior virus film "The Satan Bug," in 1965) "Panic" also exploits a very modern fear: if the carrier hops onto a plane, the whole mess could spread in a new continent in a matter of hours, hence the need to catch the carrier pronto. The production is also boosted by a superior cast, which includes future Hollywood Blacklistees Zero Mostel and an incredibly young Barbara Bel Geddes; Richard Widmark effectively moving away from his usual mad gangster roles, and an understated Jack Palance as a local thug with brains and tinsel class.
Commentators James Ursini and Alain Silver offer some good bio sketches and production minutia, but like their contribution for "Call Northside 777," the duo's commentary track is more of an ongoing discussion, infrequently attaining sufficient depth to keep listeners engaged for the film's full length. It's still a pleasing track, but the conversational style might disappoint those who prefer a more formal presentation.
20th Century Fox's transfer is first-rate, made from a very nice print, with sharp detail and a good balance of greys and deep blacks. The original mono mix is straightforward, and in keeping with Kazan's naturalistic style, contains very little underscore. The DVD contains English and Spanish subtitles, and while the sleeve notes cite a Spanish Mono track, it's not present on final disc.
© 2005 Mark R. Hasan
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