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This is a tense, offbeat, and fairly absorbing drama which has to do with modern New Orleans and an ancient medical scourge, the pneumonic plague. Police find a murdered man on a
New Orleans dock and physician Widmark is called in to identify the strange disease infecting the body. He fearfully diagnoses the plague. Douglas is told by Widmark that news of the plague victim must be quashed until the killer and victim are identified and all those having to do with both
persons are quarantined. Douglas is skeptical but goes along with Widmark's plan, giving him a deadline to settle the matter but pooh-poohing the possibility of the plague. Widmark conducts his own investigation, finding a rat-infested foreign vessel which has had a plague victim on board at one
time. He traces the victim's movements to a dockside Armenian cafe where the terrified proprietor denies ever knowing the victim. But the owner's wife dies the next day of plague and the owner talks, giving information to Widmark that leads him to petty gangster Palance and his fat, sweaty toady
Mostel, the men responsible for killing the man found on the dock. In the end, just as news of the plague is about to break in the press, Widmark manages to corner Palance. The hoodlum, attempting to escape, tries to climb on board a ship at dockside, shinnying up the rope hawser only to be
stopped by a shield used to keep rats from boarding the ship. Palance, squirming and desperate, finally falls into the water and is captured, ending Widmark's quest. Widmark is outstanding as the dedicated and fearless physician, and Bel Geddes is very good as his patient wife. Douglas plays his
usual gruff, authoritarian role, and Palance is exceptional as a conscienceless hoodlum oozing evil. Kazan directs with meticulous care, placing everywhere his special stamp of moodiness, shadow-life, and sinister atmosphere. Winner of the Best Motion Picture Story Oscar in 1950.