Well done British drama about a smallpox outbreak in Bath,England, population 80,000.There’s some soap mixed in but it’s done well enough that it doesn’t distract from the main storyline. One good thing..no hysterics with actors screaming and climbing the walls.
The movie starts at a New Year’s Eve party attended by the town’s doctors. One person missing is Dr.Clifford Preston. He’s devoted to his job and neglects his wife Ruth (Yolande Donlan). She compensates by being an exhibitionist and drinking as much brandy as she can and fooling around with the other doctors including the married ones.
Julie Monks (Claire Bloom) takes a drunken Ruth home. She and husband Dr.Steve Monks (Richard Johnson) are supposed to leave on holiday. He ducks into the hospital to get his camera. Before he leaves Preston asks him to look at a patient. She’s Mrs.Davis and Steve suspects smallpox. Her son was a steward on a ship and may have brought it in with him.
Turns out Steve’s right. So much for a holiday. Julie used to be a nurse and volunteers to help out. The search is on for every place the son went and then vaccinate everyone else who was there. More people are coming down with smallpox and a mass vaccination program is launched.
Steve and Julie’s marriage is on the rocks. He goes to a newspaper office to help with vaccinating everyone and telling them they’ll probably have to shut down for a while. He gets a phone call. Julie is now a patient. Nothing like an infectious disease to help heal a marriage. Later outside the cafeteria he’s confronted by Preston. He asks point blank if he ever had an affair with Ruth. He admits it.
In the decontamination room Steve has a discussion with Father Maguire (Cyril Cusack) about adultery and his feelings for Julie now that she’s on the mend. The soap segment ends as a report comes in about another carrier. Whoever it is can be found at a remote hotel. Steve and a health inspector hit the road and drive through a thick fog.
Two miles away a car is speeding straight at them. At the last second it swerves and bounces of their side. The speeding car turns over in a ditch. When they investigate the driver is gone. Steve walks to the hotel and sees the patient,a Mr.Bradley. His wife is the one who stole the hotel car and sped off. Steve looks around the room and gets a shock.
The soap and smallpox continue but the movie never drags. There’s some excellent acting and that makes this one worth seeing.