Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Movie Recommendation For The Times We Live In

In December 2019 it was announced that a local movie theater was going to be screening a film from 1950 directed by the acclaimed Greek director Elia Kazan called Panic in the Streets. This was a Kazan film that I had never seen before, so I bought my ticket in advance for the one night only showing which was to take place on February 10th. This film was part of a monthly popular series at this theater called "Science on Screen", which I attend every month, where they invite a local specialist in a scientific field to give a scientific introduction to a film. For this film they invited a local microbiologist who is working on the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, so she was going to talk about this and the new approaches that are being developed to control bacterial infections.

In Elia Kazan's suspenseful melodrama, a bullet-ridden corpse turns up in the water off the New Orleans docks. To the police, he’s a John Doe... until a public health doctor (Richard Widmark) discovers he carries a virulent strain of pneumonic plague that attacks the lungs. Hundreds of officers are mobilized to track down the killers and all who had contact with the infectious dead man in a desperate race against the clock before the highly contagious disease spreads far beyond the port area and puts the entire country in peril.

Sound familiar? Somewhat, I'm sure.

By the time I and the rest of the audience attended this event, we had become familiar with the "Wuhan coronavirus" (as it was called then) threat in China. Not much was being done in this country, besides President Trump wisely closing the border to any potential threat, but at this point we were mainly hoping for the best. Only 1,000 people at the time were dead from the virus throughout the world, and there were only 12 confirmed cases in the United States. It was getting scary, but it was hard to predict we would be where we are today at that time.

Listening to the 45-minute presentation, it was both fascinating and timely. I took pictures of the presentation slides, but none came out good enough to republish here. There was time spent on how viruses work, however, and what is being done to defeat them. We were also warned of what would happen if a virus plague got out of control, which was quite eerie. The microbiologist who spoke confirmed that the film we were about to watch was a very good presentation of what would take place if a virus plague came to our country undetected.

The screening of the film was timely then, and more timely now, so as I was about to prepare to rewatch it again tonight, two months after I first saw it, I thought I would recommend it to everyone, since it is little known and fascinating for the times we live in. It's also a great film with great acting. To my knowledge, it’s the first Hollywood production that tackles the subject of a pending epidemic in a dramatic fashion.

Fun fact: Much of this film takes place in a New Orleans Greek diner, and through this film much of the American audience was introduced to a tasty dish called lamb kabob for the first time.