Part I: The Defiant has arrived at Earth and Cmdr. Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), Dr. Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig) and Lt. Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) are beamed to the surface, where they will address the Starfleet Symposium in San Fran on the situation on the other side of the wormhole (the Gamma Quadrant). But they never arrive! Chief Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) has no clue what happened; it was a transporter accident (very common in the ST universe). Meanwhile, the three find themselves in San Fran, but the time is 2024. Bashir and Sisko are arrested and put the Sanctuary District (a ghetto where homeless, jobless, and mentally ill people live). Sisko notices this is a few days before a major riot breaks out (a pivotal moment in history). Lee (Tina Lifford), a woman working at the processing center, gives them ration cards (for food) and explains how things work. Dax is assisted by Chris Brynner, a wealthy businessman, who helps her get an ID and hotel room (assuming she was mugged).
Part II: Sisko has taken the place of the revolutionary Gabriel Bell to ensure the hostages at the processing center stay safe. He needs to keep the trigger-happy B.C. (Frank Military) and security guard Vin (Dick Miller) calm and away from each other. Bashir fears for the captain’s life, as the original Bell died in the riots. When their new friend, Webb (Bill Smitrovich), manages to reach the processing center, Sisko asks him to find some stable men to guard the hostages. Dax decides to take action, frustrated w/ just watching the news on the riots. On the Defiant, Major Kira (Nana Visitor) and Chief O’Brien decide that their only option is to go back into the past, though Odo (Rene Auberjonois) looks a bit worried. (This ep as directed by Jonathan Frakes, who played Riker on TNG.)
Sisko: By the early 2020s, there was a place like this in every major city in the United States.
Bashir: Why are these people in here? Are they criminals?
Sisko: No, people with criminal records weren’t allowed in the Sanctuary Districts.
Bashir: Then what did they do to deserve this?
Sisko: Nothing. Just people, without jobs or places to live.
Bashir: Ah, so they get put in here?
Sisko: Welcome to the 21st century, Doctor.
Bashir [after a day at Sanctuary]:Causing people to suffer because you hate them… is terrible. But causing people to suffer because you have forgotten how to care… that’s really hard to understand.
This is the first Star Trek production to feature scenes set in the 21st Century. Ira Steven Behr’s inspiration to create the Bell Riots was the 1971 riot in New York’s Attica Prison (where inmates demanded better living conditions). While this ep was being shot in LA, the city was deciding whether they should set up a separate area for the homeless. This is the kind of story that Roddenberry would’ve approved of, as it tackles current social problems under the guise of sci-fi. If you (or a friend) are new to Trek, these might be up your alley.
Chris: Don’t worry, your friends are fine. That’s the whole point of the Sanctuary, to give people in trouble food and a place to stay.
Dax: If that’s all it’s for, then why is there a wall around it?
On the Women at Warp podcast (May 8, 2016), they discussed these eps in depth. Sisko and Bashir (both men of color) are quickly taken away and arrested; Dax (who landed in a different area) and is a beautiful white woman was the one who got rescued. Though Dax is not human (she is a Trill w/ hundreds of years of knowledge), she easily explains that her markings are tattoos. Later on, we see her at a party w/ Chris’ upper class friends; one couple is annoyed that protests in Europe led them to cancel their vacation. Dax knows just how to charm Chris and uses her privilege to help her friends. Sisko decides that Webb (an even-tempered white man w/ a family) should be the public face of the riot; this is a clever move. While police surround the area, Webb gets on the call w/ Det. Preston (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) and states the demands of the Sanctuary residents. Bashir, young and coming from a sheltered background, learns much from Sisko and experiencing hardship. Kira and O’Brien provide a sprinkling of humor in the dark story by hopping through time periods.
Chekov: There was persecution on Earth once. I remember reading about it in my history class.
Sulu: Yes, but it happened way back in the twentieth century. There’s no such primitive thinking today.
This is one of those eps that I’m sure many non-Trekkers (or Trekkies) have read of/heard about. On the way to a mission, The Enterprise comes across a shuttlecraft stolen from Starbase 4 by Lokai (Lou Antonio- part of the chain gang in Cool Hand Luke), a humanoid who is half black and half white. Soon his pursuer, Commissioner Bele (Frank Gorshin- best known as The Riddler on the ’60s Batman series), arrives onboard (from an invisible ship- one of the biggest budget cuts in TOS). Bele demands that Lokai be turned over for transport to Cheron (their home planet) where Lokai has been convicted as a terrorist.
Spock: [referring to Bele and Lokai] Fascinating. Two irrevocably hostile humanoids.
Scotty: Disgusting is what I call ’em.
Mr. Spock: That description is not scientifically accurate.
Scotty: Mr. Spock, the word “disgusting” describes exactly what I feel about those two.
Kirk: That’s enough for today. Those two are beginning to affect you.
Bele regards Lokai as of an inferior race and claims that Lokai’s people were destroying their civilization. Lokai contends that Bele’s people enslaved his people, but then we learn that Lokai’s people engaged in mass destruction. Bele believes he is right (pursuing justice). Their hate for each other puts our heroes in danger; Kirk tries to convince them to stop fighting. Both men have superpowers and this pursuit has lasted 50,000 years!
Spock:Change is the essential process of all existence
The screenplay was based on a story by Lee Cronin (the pseudonym of Gene L. Coon). He had left Paramount and was under contract with Universal, so he was not supposed to be working for Paramount. The original story didn’t depict the aliens w/ bi-colored skin; one was a devil w/ a tail and the other was an angel. Director Jud Taylor came up w/ the idea of bi-colored skin shortly before filming. The plot was a (obvious/heavy-handed to critics and modern viewers) indictment of the discrimination/prejudice in the late ’60s. MLK, Jr. had been assassinated less than a year earlier. This was a few years after the Watts Riots (LA) and the events dramatized in popular movies: Ghosts of Mississippi, Malcolm X, and Mississippi Burning.
 This episode does have the marvelous self-destruct sequence initiated by Kirk, in which Spock & Scotty join in to voice the self-destruct codes. This sequence manages to squeeze out every bit of suspense possible for such a televised few minutes…
 There are a few good lines such as the scene where Spock tells Bele that his planet was once a violent world which the Vulcans eventually resolved through logic and cool reasoning.
 All theories are suggested by Spock, incl. nature vs. nurture. Their hated has outlasted the population of their planet. The only writing flaw is their hatred spans thousands of years. Nobody lives than long, except the “Q” maybe! The stock footage used for the burning of the planet looks suspiciously like the burning of Atlanta from GWTW, don’t you think?
The Enterprise visits a planet that had previously been visited by the U.S.S. Horizon 100 years earlier, before the issuance of the Prime Directive. The Enterprise received an old radio-style message before that starship was lost, which reported an intelligent, developing alien species prone to imitation. The Horizon left behind a book about gangs of 1920s Chicago which became the Iotians’ bible. They are divided into a series of criminal gangs, two of which are headed by Bela Oxmyx (Anthony Caruso) and Jojo Kracko (Vic Tayback). After beaming down, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy find themselves in the middle of a turf battle. Both sides take turns holding our heroes hostage and demanding “heaters” (guns) from the Federation in order to take control of the planet. Kirk must do his best to fix the wrongs of the Horizon w/o interfering too much with the development of the planet’s evolution.
This ep has one of several “parallel Earth” plots in TOS, contrived in part to save money, by avoiding “alien” sets, costumes, and makeup. Kirk and Spock get to wear flashy pin-stripe suits, hats, carry machine guns, and speak in gangster accents. Even the women wear guns on their garters (which you probably wouldn’t see in reality)! It’s esp. funny to see Spock try to fit the situation. Kirk makes up the rules of the card game “fizz bin” as he goes along. Shatner ad libbed the rules, so his pauses to think and the other actors’ confusion are genuine. The scene when Kirk puts his feet up on Krako’s table and declares that now the Federation is “taking over the whole ball of wax” is reminiscent of a scene in the gangster film Little Caesar (1931).
After filming wrapped, the studio received a letter from Caruso. “Oxmyx” thanked the crew of the Enterprise for creating the “syndicate” and noting that things were proceeding nicely on Sigma Iotia II. As he goes on in the letter, it is now the 1950s and he is sporting a crew-cut. He also mentioned wanting to visit Las Vegas which “seems like my kind of town.” LOL- what a creative guy!
 If you’re a fan of “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas,” then you’ll love this amusing episode… which plays like an eerily prescient parody of the original “Godfather.”
 There are great scenes as Kirk, and even more ridiculously, Spock try to mimic the dialect and nomenclature of the time. There is the priceless scene the two attempting to drive. Kirk jerks along, not quite getting the hang of the clutch, and Spock tells him he is a great captain, but a horrible, dangerous driver.
 I couldn’t stop laughing every time poor Scotty tries to decipher the gangster speak, with Kirk having to go from the mob language to Federation speech across the communicator to help him out.
This was the first episode of the original Star Trek to air on TV. We get to see the developing chemistry between the main crew members, an alien creature, and interesting planetary scenery. Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), and a young redshirt (Michael Zaslow, who later became a soap opera star) beam down to a planet to provide medical supplies to Dr. Crater and his wife, Nancy, a former girlfriend of McCoy’s. Oddly, each man sees Nancy as a different woman from his past. Redshirt is a term used by fans of Star Trek to the characters who wear red Starfleet uniforms and/or characters who are expendable, and often killed.
The joking banter between Kirk and McCoy shows that the captain is not just an authority figure, and the doctor has a lot of charm. We learn re: Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and his logical Vulcan personality. There is a flirty early scene between him and Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols); this (no doubt) inspired the romance between the characters in J.J. Abrams recent reboot movies. Uhura tried and succeeded in making Spock hot under the collar (notice the little move Nimoy does at end of the clip).
Episode 4: Where No Man Has Gone Before
The episode title was the closing phrase of the opening credits (voiced by Shatner) and has gone on to shape sci-fi and pop culture! After investigating what happened to the Valiant, the Enterprise encounters a magnetic space storm that gives Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) dangerous/godlike powers and ESP. When Mitchell, a friend of Kirk’s from Starfleet Academy, unleashes his powers on the crew, Spock suggests that he should be killed. Kirk disagrees and takes him to a remote planet, but there is more to the story.
There is action and fine acting by Lockwood and Sally Kellerman (psychiatrist Dr. Elizabeth Dehner). Lockwood (a former football player and stuntman) was the star of Roddenberry’s first TV show- The Lieutenant (1963). In 1968, he was cast as the co-lead in Stanley Kubrick’s iconic sci-fi film- 2001: A Space Odyssey. You get a glimpse into humanity’s struggle for power and the corruption it breeds. Kirk knows that Mitchell didn’t ask for what happened to him; thus begins a tradition of complicated/sympathetic villains in the world of Star Trek.
Episode 5: The Naked Time
Spock and a redshirt- Tormolen- beam down to a planet (wearing funky/orange environmental suits) to investigate. They discover a frozen lab w/ 6 dead scientists. They also get exposed to a substance that strips people of their inhibitions. After beaming back aboard, Tormolen ends up killing himself (riddled w/ self-doubt). You get to see the chemistry between Bones (Kirk’s nickname for McCoy) and the captain; they’ve known each other a long time.
Riley, another young crewman, begins acting goofy (going on about being Irish and singing songs). Most famously, Sulu (George Takei), begins to parade around w/ a sword (like a musketeer). Riley ends up taking over the engineering room, and basically, the ship becomes chaos! Spock stops Sulu by applying the Vulcan nerve pinch (which Nimoy came up w/ himself, as an alternative to a violent strike). As you see in S1 E6, it was Shatner’s over the top reaction that sold this move to producers. Nurse Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) and Spock have a nice scene, and he gets infected (after she holds his hand). There is a lot of comedy, but fans also love it for Nimoy’s terrific performance. Capt. Kirk is even infected, so we hear his regret at not having a personal life.
Episode 6: The Enemy Within
Star Trek takes on Jekyll and Hydew/ an ep focused on Kirk (and Shatner’s unique style of acting). During a survey of a new planet, a technician is exposed to a substance that alters the Enterprise’s transporter. When Kirk beams aboard the ship, he is split into two: one good, one evil. After the lustful/violent Kirk attempts to assault Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney), Spock deduces that there is an imposter aboard. The good Kirk is lacking confidence and indecisive (looking to Spock for his trusted guidance). The episode looks into the duality of human nature; the two halves need to coexist together inside one body. There is also an alien animal which is (obviously) a small dog in a furry costume w/ a horn on its head- LOL! This ep was directed by Leo Penn (father of actor Sean Penn); he went over-schedule, so was sadly not asked back to work.
Episode 11: The Corbomite Maneuver
While developing star maps of a distant region of space, the Enterprise is confronted by a box-shaped alien ship commanded by a powerful being- Balok. When he threatens to destroy the ship, Kirk comes up with a cunning bluff to convince the alien that the Enterprise is carrying a deadly substance (corbomite) which could destroying both ships. This is the first ep to show Kirk’s daring in a face-off w/ another ship in space. Kirk bends the rules for the greater good and turns a potentially fatal situation into a victory. By using his imagination instead of violence, a better outcome is achieved.
Episodes 12 &13: The Menagerie (Parts I & II)
The only 2-part episode of ST: TOS which calls back to former star dates when the Enterprise was comprised of a different crew (aside from Spock). Before Shatner was cast as Kirk, Star Trek shot a pilot (The Cage) starring Jeffrey Hunter as Capt. Christopher Pike and Number One (Majel Barrett)- his female first officer. The network rejected that pilot, considering it too cerebral and thinking it too unrealistic to have a woman as senior officer. Barrett would play Nurse Chapel on the show (w/ a blonde wig) and the voice of the computer system. She married the show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, in 1969.
This is a clip-show w/ Starfleet’s version of a courtroom drama. Spock abducts his former commander, the recently disabled Capt. Pike, and heads for Talos IV, where The Cage took place. The punishment for traveling to this planet is death, according to Starfleet. Spock turns himself in and presents an elaborate story in defense of his actions. We meet a beautiful/mysterious human woman (played by Susan Oliver) and the Talosians (a large-headed alien race who communicate w/ their thoughts and have the power to create illusions which look like reality).
Episode 15: Balance of Terror
At the 50th anniversary Star Trek convention in Las Vegas in August 2016, fans voted this the 8th best episode of the entire franchise! The Enterprise battles a Romulan ship suspected of destroying outposts in the Neutral Zone in this tense, intelligent, and though-provoking ep. The Romulan Bird-of-Prey has a cloaking device. Since two-way visual communications didn’t exist during the Earth-Romulan War about a 100 yrs ago, Romulans and humans have never seen one another. The Enterprise has to confront a brilliant enemy leader and also its own bigotry, as the unnamed Romulan commander (Marc Lenard, who later played Spock’s father- Sarek) resembles a Vulcan! Budget and time constraints prevented the make-up and costuming departments from dressing up each of the Romulans in Vulcan ears. They decided to give the lesser Romulans helmets, which were redressed Roman helmets from the studio’s Biblical epics of the ’50s.
Network restrictions at the time forbade the tackling of any controversial subjects (EX: Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, and the rise of feminism). ST: TOS, under the form of sci-fi, boldly flouted these rules! This story openly deals with the subject of racism, as reflected through Lt. Stiles’ (Paul Comi) opposition to Spock. Lenard (who worked mainly in theater until his early 40s) said: “The Romulan Commander was one of the best roles I ever had on TV. In many ways, I did enjoy that role [Sarek], but I think the more demanding role and the better acting role was the Romulan Commander.” When Nimoy held out for a better contract (after the first season), Lenard was one of the leading candidates to replace him as Spock. Nimoy (who received more fan mail than Shatner and an Emmy nom) eventually got a raise from $1,250 to $2,500 per episode.
Episode 17: The Galileo Seven
This ep features a shuttlecraft (for the first time). Spock leads a research team aboard the Galileo on a mission that begins as an investigation of a mysterious quasar-like formation. Forced to make an emergency landing on Taurus II, a fog-shrouded planet, Spock and crew face off w/ large/ape-like creatures armed w/ huge spears. These creatures pose immediate threats to the crew, but Spock also goes up against hisgreatest enemy– his own logic- when faced w/ decisions of command. Nimoy comes center stage (for the first time and proves that Spock can serve as the driving force of an ep). Spock’s logic is thwarted by several events. In a desperate attempt to escape the planet, Spock makes an illogical gamble!
Episode 23: Space Seed
This very famous ep introduced Star Trek‘s most popular villain: the genetically enhanced superman from the 20th century, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán). Following positive feedback from producers and the network, this was the first episode to feature a prominent role for Scotty (James Doohan). The Enterprise comes across a long-lost Earth vessel, the Botany Bay, containing a cryogenically frozen Khan and his crew. After manipulating historian Lt. Marla McGivers (Madlyn Rhue) w/ his strong will/magnetism, Khan and his superhuman soldiers take command of the Enterprise. Carey Wilber (the scriptwriter) used the 18th c. British custom of shipping out the undesirables as a parallel for his concept of “seed ships,” used to take unwanted criminals out to space from the overpopulated Earth.
Khan is the perfect villain for Kirk to take on, as he is a mentally/physically superior being who threatens his command and crew. Montalban was always the first choice for Khan; he had been suggested by casting director Joseph D’Agosta, who was not looking to cast an actor of a particular ethnic background due to Roddenberry’s vision (of race neutrality) for the series. Montalban (born in Mexico to Spanish parents) came up in the theater, like several actors in the Star Trek franchise, and does a terrific job. The actor thought his role was “wonderful,” saying “it was well-written, it had an interesting concept and I was delighted it was offered to me.” This episode inspired two films: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), in which Montalban once again played the role, and Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) w/ Benedict Cumberbatch.
Episode 25: This Side of Paradise
Was humanity meant to live in an Eden? This memorable ep explores that question when the Enterprise investigates a colony destroyed by deadly ray beams on a planet. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, and some redshirts beam down to the planet’s surface to discover that Elias Sandoval (Frank Overton) and his colonists are still alive and in perfect health, enjoying a pastoral existence off the grid. The colony’s botanist, Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland) knew Spock 6 yrs ago and has deep feelings for him still. She leads him a flowering plant whose spores cause euphoria and loss of inhibitions. Spock declares that he loves Leila and agrees to live in the commune! As you will see in the clip below, Nimoy plays this scene totally straight (revealing that he does love Leila, but was unable to express it before).
This ep has mutiny, temptation, and comedy. Kirk struggles to maintain control over the crew members who have been exposed to the spores. McCoy starts talking more Southern (w/ a slow drawl) and looking for ingredients of a mint julep- LOL! Writer D.C. Fontana (who started as a script editor) thwarts audience expectations by putting Kirk in the intellectual lead, while Spock’s half-human side is further developed. Nimoy was initially taken aback when he was told that they were working on a love story for Spock, but said it turned out “very lovely.” Here is a (funny) clip; we also get to see Nimoy’s smile.
Episode 26: The Devil in the Dark
The Enterprise travels to the planet Janus 6 to assist a mining colony. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy beam down to the planet where Chief Engineer Vanderberg tells of a creature loose in the mine tunnels killing his men. It seems to appear out nowhere, then disappears just as quickly. Finding that the creature, a Horta, lives in a newly-opened part of the underground mining complex, Spock uses the Vulcan mind meld to determine why it is killing the miners. Nimoy said the closing banter between Spock and Kirk was one of his faves, as “it was a wonderful moment which defined the relationship and defined the whole Spock character’s existence and his attitude about himself.”
Roddenberry considered this one of the best eps, saying: “The Horta suddenly became understandable… It wasn’t just a monster- it was someone. And the audience could put themselves in the place of the Horta… identify… feel! That’s what drama is all about. And that’s it’s importance, too… if you can learn to feel for a Horta, you may also be learning to understand and feel for other humans of different colors, ways, and beliefs.” Shatner identified this as his fave ep, b/c his father died during filming and Nimoy’s delivery of the mind meld lines made him laugh. He thought it was “exciting, thought-provoking and intelligent, it contained all of the ingredients that made up our very best Star Treks.”
Episode 29: The City on the Edge of Forever
This ep (loved by TV critics and fans) by Harlan Ellison shows us a sympathetic tale mixed w/ elements from the best of sci-fi. This was the most expensive episode produced during the first season, and also the most expensive episode of the entire series, except the two pilots. The average cost of each S1 ep was around $190,000. Production went over schedule, resulting in 8 shooting days (not 6, as usual). Ellison won a Hugo Award and a Writer’s Guild award for best teleplay. Joseph Pevney was chosen to direct on this episode because of his experience in directing 20+ films.
After an accidental overdose which makes him temporarily insane, McCoy beams down to an alien planet. A gateway, The Guardian of Forever, sends him back to Earth during the Great Depression. He somehow alters the course of time, erasing the Federation from history! Trapped in the limbo, Kirk and Spock travel back in time to 1930 (a week before McCoy) in an attempt to correct the course of history. They meet Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), a social worker who runs a mission and has dedicated her life to the needy. Spock works on building a computer to access material on his tricorder. Kirk and Edith have a romance; there is great chemistry between Shatner and Collins. The shocking truth is revealed- in order to fix the time alteration, Edith must die! When asked whether this ep was consciously commenting on the anti-Vietnam War movement, associate producer Robert H. Justman answered (in 1992), “Of course we did.”
Ellison’s original story outline and first draft script featured a crewman named Beckwith (not McCoy), who was dealing drugs. Beckwith murdered a fellow crewman, LeBeque, who was on the verge of turning him in, escaped to the planet the ship was orbiting, and went through time and changed history. The Enterprise was gone, and a savage pirate ship was in its place, full of renegade humans. Kirk and Spock follow Beckwith through the time portal to 1930 in NYC. Kirk still falls in love w/ the young social worker. Finally, w/ the help of a disabled WWI vet- Trooper (who dies in the action)- Kirk and Spock find Beckwith. In the end, Kirk does not stop him saving Edith, but freezes and Spock prevents her rescue. In the epilogue, Spock tries to console Kirk by saying: “No other woman was offered the universe for love.” This script was unusable for different reasons, so was rewritten several times. Roddenberry objected to the idea that drugs would still be a problem in the 23rd century, and even present among starship crews. Also, the production staff was strongly against Kirk’s final inactivity. It seemed that being unable to decide and act, viewers could never be able to accept him as the strong leader in later eps. Some elements were simply impossible to create on the series’ (low) budget.
Panic in the Streets (1950) starring Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas, Barbara Bel Geddes, Jack Palance & Zero Mostel
This is a lesser-known movie from director Elia Kazan; it was made before his masterpieces: A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, and East of Eden. In New Orleans, an illegal immigrant feels sick and leaves a poker game while defeating the small time criminal Blackie (a young Jack Palance). He is chased by Raymond Fitch (Zero Mostel- best known for Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway) and Poldi (Guy Thomajan), then shot by Blackie. His body is dumped in the sea and recovered the next morning by some beat cops.
A police surgeon notices something unusual when he cuts into the body. Lt. Cmdr. Clint Reed (Richard Widmark), a family man and doctor w/ the U.S. Public Health Service, is called in to examine the body. He diagnoses a highly contagious disease- pneumonic plague- and declares that everyone who may have had contact w/ the dead man be found ASAP. The mayor supports his efforts, though some other civic leaders are doubtful. Reed estimates there are 48 hours before the disease begins to spread. He joins a gruff policeman- Capt. Tom Warren (Paul Douglas)- to find the killers.
In the scene where Palance hits Widmark on the head w/ a gun, the actors rehearsed it with a rubber gun, but when the cameras rolled, Palance substituted a real gun. Widmark, who wasn’t expecting it, was out for 20 mins! Widmark commeted: “Why did he switch? Who knows?” In an interview, Widmark recalled how Palance got into the mood of his character by beating on Zero Mostel (off-screen). Mostel had to go to the hospital after his first week on the movie!
…a simple story, but it is still effective and with a great villain. The engaging plot has not become dated… Jack Palance performs a despicable scum in his debut, and the camera work while he tries to escape with Zero Mostel is still very impressive.
You can feel, see and smell the New Orleans of 1950, thanks to Kazan, his cast and script.
The great thing about this movie is the Oscar winning script. The dialog in this movie is also absolutely magnificent and gives the movie a feel of reality and credibility.
Kazan’s work offers a contrast between the confusion, sickness and immorality of the streets with the modest, calm home life of the Reeds. Despite all the danger, ultimately he returns back to the bosom of his family justified and satisfied. The implication being that social balance has been restored, at least for the moment by his professionalism and curative skills.
-Excerpts from IMDB reviews
The Killer Who Stalked New York (1950) starring Evelyn Keyes, Charles Korvin, William Bishop, & Dorothy Malone
Columbia Pictures paid director/producer Allen H. Miner $40,000 for the rights to this story (based on a smallpox outbreak in NYC in 1947). Millions of New Yorkers were vaccinated against the disease. Robert Osborne (TCM) said that Columbia had to sit on the movie for about 6 months in order to let the similarly-plotted Panic in the Streets to leave the theaters. Sheila Bennet (Evelyn Keyes) returns to NYC from Cuba carrying $40,000 worth of smuggled diamonds – and smallpox, which could start a devastating epidemic. A treasury agent loses her, but keeps on the trail, while Public Health doctor Dr. Ben Wood searches for the unknown person spreading the deadly disease. Sheila is concerned only with her husband Matt, who plans to run off w/ the diamonds… and maybe also Shelia’s younger sister!
Keyes (a prolific actress best known as Scarlett’s younger sister- Suellen- in Gone with the Wind) thought that studio head (Harry Cohn) cast her in this (un-glamorous) role as payback for rejecting his advances. She sued Cohn and the studio, settled out of court, and was released from her contract. Keyes’ hair was bleached blond and she had on unflattering makeup (making her look older than her 34 yrs.)
With the country presently in the mist of a viral outbreak that has the entire state under quarantine and the country on full alert, The Killer that Stalked New York is as pertinent today as it was when it was released in 1950.
What we have then is a gritty, somewhat newsreel sounding (and looking) film whose narrator walks us through all the ironies of modern urban epidemiology.
The anthrax attacks of 2001, the fears of weaponized smallpox being used by terrorists, the concerns about vaccinations and the amount and safety of vaccines, the inability of governmental agencies to work together and share information effectively all come to mind when one watches this film.
The biggest problem is the direction, which is also all over the place. With a story like this you’d expect some sort of tension or suspense but none never happens. Keyes is pretty good in her role but the screenplay really doesn’t do her any justice as our feelings for her character are never really made clear.