The Killer That Stalked New York (1950)

77 or 79 mins | Drama | December 1950

Director:

Earl McEvoy

Writer:

Harry Essex

Producer:

Robert Cohn

Cinematographer:

Joseph Biroc

Editor:

Jerome Thoms

Production Designer:

Walter Holscher

Production Company:

Columbia Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

The film ends with the following written statement: "To the men and women of public health--the first line of defense between mankind and disease. We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the departments of health and hospitals of New York and Los Angeles." The film was reviewed by HR and DV as Frightened City . It was inspired by a 1946 smallpox scare, in which millions of New Yorkers were given free vaccinations without causing a panic. According to a 30 Jul 1948 LAEx news item, producer Allen Miner bought Milton Lehman's story intending to star Lew Ayres in the role of the doctor. In 1948, Miner sold the rights to the story to Columbia for $40,000, according to a 5 Jul 1949 LAT news item. The Var review reports that Columbia postponed the release of this film for over six months until the end of the run of Fox's similarly themed picture, Panic in the Streets (see ... More Less

The film ends with the following written statement: "To the men and women of public health--the first line of defense between mankind and disease. We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of the departments of health and hospitals of New York and Los Angeles." The film was reviewed by HR and DV as Frightened City . It was inspired by a 1946 smallpox scare, in which millions of New Yorkers were given free vaccinations without causing a panic. According to a 30 Jul 1948 LAEx news item, producer Allen Miner bought Milton Lehman's story intending to star Lew Ayres in the role of the doctor. In 1948, Miner sold the rights to the story to Columbia for $40,000, according to a 5 Jul 1949 LAT news item. The Var review reports that Columbia postponed the release of this film for over six months until the end of the run of Fox's similarly themed picture, Panic in the Streets (see below). More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
20 Jul 1950.
---
Daily Variety
25 May 50
p. 3.
Film Daily
1 Dec 50
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 50
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
30 Jul 1948.
---
Los Angeles Times
5 Jul 1949.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
2 Dec 50
p. 598.
New York Times
5 Jan 51
p. 17.
Variety
6 Dec 50
p. 15.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
Wrt for the scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
COSTUMES
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus score
Mus dir
SOUND
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the article "Smallpox, the Killer That Stalks New York" by Milton Lehman in Hearst's Intenational-Cosmopolitan Magazine (Apr 1948).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Frightened City
Release Date:
December 1950
Production Date:
29 November--24 December 1949
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
6 September 1950
Copyright Number:
LP322
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
77 or 79
Length(in feet):
6,810
Country:
United States
PCA No:
14252
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In November, 1947, a dizzy, sweating Sheila Bennet returns to New York City from Cuba. She checks into a cheap hotel and phones her husband, Matt Krane, who warns her to stay away from their apartment in case it is under surveillance by treasury agents. Unknown to Sheila, Matt is having an affair with her sister Francie and does not want her to discover them together. Feeling increasingly ill, Sheila goes in search of a doctor and, when she collapses on the street, a policeman takes her to a health center. While waiting for a doctor, she talks to Walda Kowalski, a young girl who is there for a checkup. Dr. Ben Wood finds nothing seriously wrong with Sheila, who has given him a false name, and sends her away with some cold medicine. When Sheila then pays Matt a surprise visit, Francie pretends that she is just visiting and, after she leaves, Matt questions Sheila carefully about the stolen diamonds that she sent from Cuba. While he waits anxiously for the package, Sheila continues to grow sicker. At the hospital, Ben is puzzled by Walda's new symptoms, and eventually, identifies her disease as smallpox, a diagnosis that is confirmed when he learns that Walda was never vaccinated against it. Quickly, Ben vaccinates the rest of the hospital staff, and health officers from the New York Department of Health start to vaccinate everyone who might have had contact with the girl. Despite their efforts, one out of three of those who contract the disease die, Walda among them. Now, Ben and his colleagues try to determine how Walda contracted ... +


In November, 1947, a dizzy, sweating Sheila Bennet returns to New York City from Cuba. She checks into a cheap hotel and phones her husband, Matt Krane, who warns her to stay away from their apartment in case it is under surveillance by treasury agents. Unknown to Sheila, Matt is having an affair with her sister Francie and does not want her to discover them together. Feeling increasingly ill, Sheila goes in search of a doctor and, when she collapses on the street, a policeman takes her to a health center. While waiting for a doctor, she talks to Walda Kowalski, a young girl who is there for a checkup. Dr. Ben Wood finds nothing seriously wrong with Sheila, who has given him a false name, and sends her away with some cold medicine. When Sheila then pays Matt a surprise visit, Francie pretends that she is just visiting and, after she leaves, Matt questions Sheila carefully about the stolen diamonds that she sent from Cuba. While he waits anxiously for the package, Sheila continues to grow sicker. At the hospital, Ben is puzzled by Walda's new symptoms, and eventually, identifies her disease as smallpox, a diagnosis that is confirmed when he learns that Walda was never vaccinated against it. Quickly, Ben vaccinates the rest of the hospital staff, and health officers from the New York Department of Health start to vaccinate everyone who might have had contact with the girl. Despite their efforts, one out of three of those who contract the disease die, Walda among them. Now, Ben and his colleagues try to determine how Walda contracted the disease in the first place. Meanwhile, Matt receives the package of diamonds and, leaving Sheila behind, tries to fence the jewels, but is told that he must wait until the hunt for the diamonds dies down. When Sheila figures out Matt's double-cross, she searches for him and continues to spread the disease she is carrying. Sheila learns about Matt's affair with Francie and hurries to her sister's apartment, where she discovers that Francie has killed herself. She then goes to a flophouse that is managed by her brother Sid, stopping at a public drinking fountain on the way. As more and more cases of smallpox develop, the Health Department decides the only solution is to vaccinate the entire city. Meanwhile, treasury agents are pursuing Sheila, whom they believe will lead them to the stolen diamonds. Eventually, the Health Department doctors and the treasury agents realize that they are looking for the same woman. They trace her to Sid's, but he spots the police and helps Sheila escape. When the city runs out of vaccine, the mayor exhorts drug manufacturers to produce more immediately. Then, one night, Sheila appears at the clinic. When Ben tries to get her to stay, she shoots him. He manages to call the police, but Sheila flees to a convent, determined to stay alive until she finds Matt. When Matt returns and murders the fence, he finds Sheila waiting with a gun. She telephones the police, intending to turn him in for the murder of the fence, but collapses before they arrive. Matt tries to escape and falls to his death. Before Sheila dies, Ben questions her about her illness and, using this new information, is able to control the epidemic. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.