5 août 1950. Sous une chaleur accablante, notre passant cinéphile arpente Broadway en quête d’un endroit frais où se réfugier. Et quoi de mieux que de se faire une toile dans une salle de cinéma fraîche en dégustant un ice-cream et en fumant une bonne clope. D’autant que l’on y donne Panic in the Streets d’Elia Kazan avec Richard Widmark, Jack Palance et la très belle Barbara Bel Geddes, une sombre histoire de chasse à l’homme sur fond de virus. Espérons que les générations futures ne connaissent jamais cela…
Critique d’époque :
« Melodramas in which murderers and smugglers are the objects of intense manhunts are as much in evidence at Broadway movie houses just now as weeds are in suburban gardens. On Thursday Edge of Doom and A Lady Without Passport came to town and yesterday marked the arrival of Panic in the Streets and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. As the saying goes, « Youse pays yur money and takes yur cherce ».
The first choice this morning is Panic in the Streets, a Twentieth Century-Fox contribution which Elia Kazan has directed with a keen sense of appreciation for violence and suspense. Now on the Roxy’s screen, the film shapes up as a generally gripping entertainment, though there are some stretches when the story loses its tension.
A routine waterfront homicide suddenly becomes a source of frightening apprehension to city officials when a United States Public Health Service doctor discovers that the victim was infected with pneumonic plague. The problem of controlling a possible epidemic presents a seemingly insurmountable challenge to the police who have no idea about the dead man’s identity much less that of the man or men who shot him. Although the audience knows who the killer is the search is conducted with such forceful pictorial imagery that this information does not detract from the excitement.It is always dangerous to take the audience so much into confidence, but Mr. Kazan is a director who can manage to stay a step ahead of the crowd and in Panic in the Streets he keeps the action going at a pace which seldom permits interest to lag. The fact that the killer and his aides are ignorant of the murdered man’s disease and may themselves be carriers of the deadly, virulent germ gives added impetus to the story.
Good acting helps out too, and the people who carry the principal roles in Panic in the Streets – Richard Widmark as the doctor; Paul Douglas as the police captain who directs the manhunt with a cynical assurance of its futility with nothing definite to latch onto; Walter Palance as the killer and Zero Mostel as a cringing henchman – all give commendable performances. A newcomer to films, Mr. Palance is a tall, rugged man with deep-set, piercing eyes and a granite-like face that commands attention. Technically there can be no quarrel with Mr. Widmark’s performance, but his mannerisms are not precisely those one would associate with a doctor.Although it is excitingly presented, Panic in the Streets misses the mark as superior melodrama because it is not without obvious, sometimes annoying exaggeration that demands more indulgence than some spectators may be willing to contribute. However, there is an electric quality to the climax staged in a warehouse on the New Orleans waterfront that should compensate for minor annoyances which come to the surface spasmodically in Panic in the Streets« . For the New York Times.
Notre critique du jour, qui ne dit son nom, loue la qualité de l’écriture, l’efficacité d’une réalisation toujours tendue même si parfois, la tension retombe quelque peu. Il souligne la qualité du jeu des acteurs, retient la présence du nouveau venu Jack Palance mais se montre plus circonspect sur le jeu parfois outrancier de Richard Widmark qu’il a du mal à associer à un médecin. Pas un mot sur Barbara Bel Geddes. Qui que tu sois, une paire de lunettes serait la bienvenue, l’ami.
Retrouvez ma chronique confinée directement ici.