Monday, May 2, 2011

Panic In Year Zero! (1962)

Director: Ray Milland

Starring: Ray Milland, Jean Hagen, Frankie Avalon, Mary Mitchel, Joan Freeman

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Where Science Fiction Ends And Fact Begins!!

Plot: A family of four leaves Los Angeles for a camping trip just before a nuclear bomb destroys the city. As lawlessness prevails, the father must fight to keep his family alive.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yup.


This one's been on my radar for many, many years and I finally got around to it. Ray Milland can officially do no wrong. The guy wins an Oscar in '45 for THE LOST WEEKEND and he spends the rest of his career doing every type of genre imaginable and regardless of how low the budget or how small the check, he puts everything into it like his next Oscar rides on it. Balls, baby. Balls. Gotta love that level of respect for the field.

Milland not only stars in PANIC but he directs it and does a damn fine job. He gets good performances out of the entire cast (who knew Frankie Avalon could act?), has several scenes oozing with tension and he's able to deliver a sometimes frightening look at the aftermath of a nuclear attack. The first few minutes when they see that flash behind them is pretty damn tense and chilling. Milland (as Harry) makes some quick and bold decisions that ultimately keep them alive. They may not be the ones you'd make (I certainly didn't agree with all of them) but he does the best he can under the extreme circumstances to protect his family - his only duty.

Les Baxter's jazzy score is fun. It might seem out of place today but it fits for the period. I expect that a well-written dramatic score (by Bernard Herrmann, perhaps) would have been so effective that it would have scared audiences shitless. This isn't some throwaway nuclear holocaust flick. It touches on a lot of thought-provoking issues that were just as real 50 years ago as they are today...AND IT'S FROM 1962! Very good flick. Netflix has it on an MGM widescreen double bill with THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) which, together, make one hell of a post apocalyptic night at the movies!

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