Panic in the Streets appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Sporadic problems occurred, but much of the film looked great.
The main issue connected to edge enhancement. Moderate haloes popped up during parts of the movie, and they made the image less distinctive than Iíd like. Usually sharpness appeared nicely tight and distinctive, but the edge enhancement led to slightly weaker definition in some wide shots. No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred.
Despite the filmís advanced age, source flaws were quite minor. Periodic examples of specks and marks showed up, but they werenít frequent intrusions. Contrast was terrific, as the movie consistently maintained a nicely silver tone. Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows were smooth and well-defined. Much of Panic looked good enough to reach ďAĒ level, but between the smattering of print defects and the annoying edge enhancement, this one fell to a still-positive ďBĒ.
The folks at Fox love to saddle their classic movies with stereo remixes, many of which arenít very good. The stereo track for Panic in the Streets wasnít one of the crummiest of these presentations, but it showed some of the problems typical of their redone audio.
Though they called it stereo, Panic really stayed monaural. The movie demonstrated a broad form of reverberation that spread the material slightly to the sides, but there was no distinctive delineation anywhere other than in the center. The mix showed vague blending to the sides and that was it, as the mix didnít give us real stereo imaging.
As usual, the remix added an echo to the speech that altered intelligibility. Actually, this was where the track didnít suffer as bad as many Fox stereo remixes. Despite the unnecessary reverberation, the lines remained intelligible; they just werenít natural or concise much of the time. Music seemed acceptably bright and lively, though some of the reverb created a tinny tone there as well.
Finally, effects were decent but without much dimensionality. They came across as a bit flat and lifeless. This was a mediocre remix that lacked the force and definition Iíd expect. While not one of the most problematic stereo tracks Iíve heard, Iíd recommend that you stick with the original monaural version instead; itís significantly clearer and more natural.
As for extras, we get an audio commentary from authors/historians Alain Silver and James Ursini. Both men sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They cover the filmís place in director Elia Kazanís career, its visual style and how it fits within the noir genre, casting and the actors, improvisation, locations and casting, and various facets of the production. Ursini and Silver go over a number of good topics, especially since they often refer to the film within its historical perspective.
Thatís a positive and a negative. While we get a nice feel for how Panic fits in Kazanís career and other connected elements, we donít learn a ton about its making. I guess Iím used to thorough Rudy Behlmer-style tracks that cover everything under the sun, while this one lacks that level of preparation. It comes across as more impromptu than Iíd like; I think commentaries from historians require a higher level of detail than what we find here. Itís definitely informative and worth a listen, but it doesnít stand out as particularly terrific.
In addition, we get some trailers. The disc presents an ad for Panic itself as well as four others under the ďFox NoirĒ banner. That area includes promos for Laura, House of Bamboo, Call Northside 777 and The Street with No Name.
A film noir with a theme that remains timely, Panic in the Streets eschews the usual ďhunt for a killerĒ topic. Sure, it does look for a baddie, but with a clever backdrop that makes matters more compelling. This adds up to a tight little drama. The DVD features pretty good picture with mediocre audio and an erratic but generally useful commentary. Especially with a low list price of less than $15, Panic deserves a look.