Sunday Matinee: Panic In Year Zero!

sunday-matineeRay Milland had a long acting career that started in the 1930’s and went on well into the 1980’s. His biggest success came during the 1940’s and 1950’s when he was one of Paramount’s top leading and paid men.

In the late 1950’s he started directing. He made a couple of movies and then moved to directing TV. At the start of the 1960’s he starred in three films produced American International Pictures. Two of them were directed by Roger Corman, Premature Burial and X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. The third Milland directed and starred in, 1962’s Panic in Year Zero!

Panic in Year ZeroPanic in Year Zero! is an intense thriller. Harry Baldwin (Ray Milland) and his family, wife Ann (Jean Hagen), son Rick (Frankie Avalon) and daughter Karen (Mary Mitchel) have packed for their family vacation. They have left their home in Los Angeles for a camping trip up in the mountains. Soon after they leave they notice flashes of light in the sky. It seems that nuclear war has broken out and L.A. has been nuked. All out chaos ensues.

Harry decides the best course is to get to their mountain cabin away from the nuclear fallout. As they drive hundreds of people are also fleeing the city, anarchy has taken over. They stop to get supplies and are forced to take them by force when the store owner refuses to take a cheque. On the road they are harassed by a gang of thugs, they escape them for a time. Then things get worse.

This is an excellent movie. Milland hides the low budget by only implying the destruction of L.A. and not really showing it leaving it the viewers imagination. Milland himself is also excellent as the determined father who won’t stop at anything to ensue the safety of his family, scaring his wife in the process. My old DVD isn’t bad plus it came with The Last Man on Earth as double feature but Kino is releasing this movie on Blu-ray in April and from what I’ve heard looks better than ever. Well worth a watch.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka spends most of his life watching movies and reading comic books, using his vast knowledge of genre culture for evil instead of good.