Haha yes I’m still alive! What with all the crazy COVID-19 Coronavirus bubbling out of every orifice around the world it only seems apt to do a review about the Noir virus. I mean a virus within a Noir. Yes Smallpox gets the Film-Noir treatment and just check out that fantastically dramatic title, The Killer That Stalked New York!!!
Tagline – One woman brings terror to 8,000,000 people!!
You can’t imagine a city without any of it’s people! The richly populated New York City was poised to fight for it’s very own life. A killer stalked the streets. An invisible killer waiting to reach out it’s unforgiving hand of death! It had began one day in 1947. Death didn’t sneak into town hiding in the shadows or huddled in a boxcar under a dirty blanket. No, it arrived sat on a high-speed streamliner train. First class. Right into the heart of the City, Pennsylvania Station. It stepped out of it’s carriage onto the platform. It was something to whistle at!! This killer wore lipstick, sexy nylons and a beautifully tailored coat that sported it’s very own club singer girl, souvenir. This beauties name was Sheila Bennett. A pretty face with a frame to match.
Shelia Bennett (Evelyn Keyes) was paranoid. She carried two secret items. Both had high cost connected to them. Hidden in her clothes was 50 thousand dollars worth of diamonds. The other secret cargo was hidden deep inside her. She never even knew she had it, not yet! This unknown killer package was moved around the city. Soon to cause havoc and panic for 8 million or more people. Poor Shelia Bennett was infected with smallpox! The Killer That Stalked New York!
Doctor – “Just suppose we were in those medieval days again when plagues wiped out whole cities! Symptoms were headache, backache, fever and a rash….. What could it be? Smallpox? Oh no not here in the middle of New York City? Surely not! I’ve never even seen a case before!“
Mixed up in the drama are a collection of characters. Either caught up in the diamond smuggling ring or desperately trying to find the cause of this smallpox epidemic. Frantically trying to track down the innocent harbinger of death, poor Shelia. You got a T-Man hot the trail, Treasury Agent Johnson (Barry Kelley), Shelia’s dodgy fiance Matt Krane (Charles Korvin). Concerned Dr Ben Wood (William Bishop) who finds a weak Sheila who’s just a little under the weather! Doh! There’s her brother, the owner of the local flophouse, Sid (Whit Bissell) and her naughty sister Francie (Lola Albright). Then when the epidemic takes hold, we get introduced to scientists, doctors and the Mayor of New York (Roy Roberts) all on the case, to help stop this killer, dead in it’s tracks, before the unthinkable happens.
Mayor – “You gentlemen don’t seem to realize, we’re facing death.“
The Killer That Stalked New York works really well as a psychological thriller. The short run-time insures for a fast pace as we get both a crime story retrofitted within a fact based drama. The film, with it’s narration, is given a semi-documentary style. It wasn’t until I read about it after that I’d find that it’s actually centered around a real life smallpox outbreak. The 1947 New York City smallpox outbreak was the largest mass vaccination effort ever conducted for smallpox in America. With the unbelievable impossible task of managing to inoculate over 6,350,000 adults and children within just weeks.
Health Commissioner – “Use every means, short of a gun to get cooperation. Anyone not vaccinated is liable to get the disease. If they refuse to submit tell them what they face! A thousand ugly sores breaking through and a fever that burns it’s victims to death!“
- The Killer That Stalked New York was directed by Earl McEvoy from a screenplay by Harry Essex which was based on a Cosmopolitan Magazine article of the real event outbreak by Milton Lehman.
- Evelyn Keyes is ace. Check her in the superb 99 River Street (1953) with John Payne and The Prowler (1951) with Van Heflin.
- One of the great things about the film is the NY on-set scenes. Wandering around 50s Brooklyn, City Hall in Manhattan, the old Willard Parker Hospital (which was the scene for the real outbreak). Also the Port of New York City and the Penn Station.
- Panic In The Streets (1950) starring Richard Widmark and Paul Douglas would be released in the same year. Featuring a similar theme but this time a race to find someone infected with the pneumonic plague. I need to do a review post one day.
- If virus’s in films are your thing!? Then I got a few I’ve reviewed over the years. You could try The Satan Bug (1965) about a newly invented super death virus, Warning Sign (1985) with DNA close to Resident Evil or 28 Days Later. Then the happy times keep on giving in City Of Fear (1959) OK I know it’s not a virus but this radiation kills like one. Then there’s some British eco virus in the guise of eye patched Nigel Davenport and the literally bonkers No Blade of Grass (1970)…. Sweet dreams.
Thanks for popping in for a gander. I do hope you all staying safe and we get through these crazy times quickly. Hopefully when I’m not spending all my time trying to track down toilet paper for the family I can get back to my beloved hobby.
Anyhoooo big love………….. Mikey Wolf
PS The Killer That Stalked New York (1950) is on YouTube at time of writing.