Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Panic in the Streets


It's movie review time.  Directed by anti-commie Elia Kazan.  Starring Richard Widmark (who I always confuse with TV's Riddler from the Batman Series) and Jack Palance.

It's relevant to this blog because of the potential zombie angle.

A mystery 'furrener' is sick, and get's mugged and kilt by some underworld hood in New Orleans.  Thing is, he has pneumonic plague.  Like black death, but spread with respiratory droplets instead of flea bites.  Palance plays the murderous hood, and Widmark is the Lt Cmdr in the Health Service, so you know he's a good guy.  (He's from the Federal Gov't, so you can trust him. )

He convinces the big wig officials in the city to search out everyone the dead guy came in contact with for quarantine.  He doesn't want to alert the press because the good people of the Big Easy will panic and quickly commandeer school buses and such and beat feet out of town as they invariably do, carrying death wherever they go.  And they only have 48 hours to find and quarantine everyone Patient Zero breathed on, and everyone THEY breathed on.  (So that's only about 10,000 people or so...)

The Health Service guy thinks that maybe he should call Washington and warn them about this after about 36 hours, but he never gets around to it.  (I guess he didn't want to spoil the surprise.) 

Most of the cops are gruff beat types with New York accents, but beneath the rough jaded exterior they are good guys, diligent, and good at their job.  (Just like New Orleans cops have always been.)

With some good police work and wearing out a lot of shoe leather they end up chasing the disease carriers all around a major transportation hub's restaurants, hotels, and busy warehouses, breathing on everybody, all in a shady seamy criminal underworld where no authority is trusted or cooperated with, especially when the reason they are being questioned is a secret to avoid stampeding a city to the four winds.  There is an exciting foot chase in the end.  Jack Palance's character shoots 8 bullets out of a Model 10 revolver, only managing to hit a security guard friend of his and his criminal partner, then he's caught.  They've been forcefully inoculating people as they go throughout the whole movie.  (They must keep a bajillion doses in a back store room of the Health Department downtown.)  And alls well that ends well, crisis averted.  And Washington none the wiser thanks to one lonely Health Service 0-4 and a Police Captain's dogged determination.  The two went from adversary to friends in the course of the flicker show, too.  Awww.

The narrative stretches the imagination.  Now plug in the zombie parameters.  Zombie infections are more deadly, but easier to tell who has been infected by the bite mark.   Pneumonic plague is harder to catch carriers because they act normal and you can't tell who has been breathed on.  Of course treatment doses for Plague is more difficult.  Antibiotics of a certain type that you can run out of.  People are resistant to getting the treatment too.  Not as resistant as folks infected with a Zombie Virus, but at least the treatment is cheaper and plentiful: high velocity projectile applied internally to the head area.  Panic if word got out would be the same.  And the near impossibility to contain, especially without a fast and total mobilization of containment forces.  Even then...

When the Zombacalypse comes, the authorities won't be ready now, just like they weren't ready then.


JohnW said...

"Most of the cops are gruff beat types with New York accents..." The New Orleans accent IS a Brooklyn accent, and for the same reasons. Kinda threw me at first.

Boat Guy said...

The Riddler? You mean Frank Gorshin?
Minor point; if Widmark;s character is a LCDR he'd be paygrade O-4 vice O-5 which is the pay grade for a Commander.
Your Model 10 won't shoot 8-rounds?

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Oops, good catch on the LtCmdr, will update.

And no, I've not seen or heard of a Model 10 with a cylinder bigger than 6.

Boat Guy said...

ya never know, maybe S&W will "reissue" a "Model 10 Plus"...

Murphy's Law said...

How could you ever confuse Richard Widmark, one of Hollywood's Greats, with Frank Gorshin?

And "good people of New Orleans"? I lived there. There were very few of those. "City of the Damned", we used to call it. And "The City That Care Forgot."

And since NOLA has plenty of vampires, what would happen if a zombie bit a vampire?