The University of Iowa

Double feature at Feb. 3 “Film After Noir” screening

January 28th, 2011

The “Film After Noir,” series (the Spring 2011 Proseminar in Cinema and Culture) continues this Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011, with screenings of Panic in the Streets (1950, Elia Kazan, 96 min.) & Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, Don Siegel, 80 min.), starting at 7 p.m. in 101 BCSB.

Panic in the Streets (1950, 96 min.) is the story of two men who race against time to control an breakout of the pneumonic plague in New Orleans.  When U.S. Public Health Administration officer Dr. Clint Reed (Richard Widmark) is called to inspect an unidentified body, he finds that the man has the pneumonic plague.  He immediately demands that the dead man’s identity be discovered and that everyone who had contact with him be inoculated.  Meanwhile, Reed has the task of convincing city officials, as well as police chief Tom Warren (Paul Douglas) and keeping the news out of the press to avoid mass panic.  With Panic in the Streets, director Elia Kazan chose to shoot on location in New Orleans, before it was popular or lucrative to do so.  Set before his adaptations of Tennessee Williams and John Steinbeck, Panic in the Streets appeared two years before Kazan’s run-in with the House Un-American Activities Committee, an incident that tarnished his career forever.  More than a film noir in a proto-documentary mode of police or investigative procedural, Panic in the Streets is a tribute to the city in which it takes place.  In 1951, Panic in the Streets won an Oscar for Best Writing.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, 80 min.) uses voice-over and flashback to tell of strange happenings in the town of Santa Mira, CA, whose residents tell town doctor Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) of relatives and friends who seem no longer to be  themselves.  Don Siegel (who later directed Dirty Harry, Coogan’s Bluff, and Charley Varrick) worked with writer Daniel Mainwaring to adapt a story by Jack Finney that first appeared in serialized form in Collier’s Magazine.  The doctor discovers nothing less than a conspiracy on the part of aliens “from outer space” who use giant pods to replace human beings with passive duplicates.  The film, a prime example of Cold War paranoia, built on collective fears of contagion by Communism, conformity, and atomic destruction.  Watch for future director Sam Peckinpaugh, in the role of a local gasman!

This film series focuses on films produced between 1950 and 2000 that display or revise elements of classic noir. All screenings are free and open to the public.

Steven Ungar, UI professor of French and Comparative Literature, will lead post-screening discussions.

The series is sponsored by UI International Programs, the Institute for Cinema and Culture and the Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For more information, contact Ungar at or 319-335-0330.