Elia Kazan may have shot 1951s A Streetcar Named Desire mostly on studio sets, but for this nifty, underrated thriller made a year earlier he shot right on the streets of New Orleans. The result is a grimy and unusually persuasive noir, with dogged health investigator Richard Widmark and cop Paul Douglas pursuing the Patient Zero who could turn the Big Easy into a plague zone. Noir suited Kazans all-caps emotional pitch and exaggerated visuals down to a doomed mans looming shadow on a railroad-jungle wall: Truth be told, Id rather watch this again than On the Waterfront, but thats just a Widmark fanatics prejudice. Watch for Jack Palance (as skeletal and stylized as a Dick Tracy villain) in his film debut and Zero Mostel. The movie screens as part of The Belcourts monthlong Kazan retrospective.
Nov. 14-16, 2009