Panic in Year Zero!

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Panic in Year Zero!
Panic in year zero 1962 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ray Milland
Produced by Arnold Houghland
Lou Rusoff
Screenplay by John Morton
Jay Simms
Story by Ward Moore
Starring Ray Milland
Jean Hagen
Frankie Avalon
Joan Freeman
Music by Les Baxter
Cinematography Gilbert Warrenton
Edited by William Austin
Distributed by American International Pictures
Release date(s)
  • July 5, 1962 (1962-07-05) (United States)
Running time 93 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Panic in Year Zero!, sometimes known as End of the World, is a 1962 science fiction film directed by and starring Ray Milland. The original music score was composed by Les Baxter. It was written by John Morton and Jay Simms. Although the similarities to Ward Moore's stories Lot (1953) and Lot's Daughter (1954) are obvious, Moore received no credit for the film. In the 1962 novelization of the film by Dean Owen, which was published under the title End of the World by Alta Vista Productions with Ray Milland's photo on the cover, the introduction page asserted: "The screenplay was by John Morton and Jay Simms, from an original story by Jay Simms."[1]

Plot[edit]

Soon after Harry Baldwin (Ray Milland), his wife Ann (Jean Hagen), their son Rick (Frankie Avalon), and daughter Karen (Mary Mitchell) leave suburban Los Angeles on a camping trip, the Baldwins note unusually bright light flashes coming from a great distance. Sporadic news reports on CONELRAD broadcasts hint at the start of a thermonuclear war, which is confirmed as the Baldwins see a large mushroom cloud over what was Los Angeles.

The family initially attempts to return to rescue Ann's mother near Los Angeles, but soon abandons these plans as panicked refugees climb over one another to escape the fallout from the multiple nuclear explosions. Witnessing the threads of society being torn apart, Harry decides that the family must find refuge at their secluded vacation spot.

Along the way, they stop to buy supplies, or, in the case of hardware store owner Ed Johnson (Richard Garland), take them by force when he won't accept a check. They also encounter three threatening young hoodlums, Carl (Richard Bakalyan), Mickey (Rex Holman), and Andy (Neil Nephew), on the road, but manage to drive them off.

After a harrowing journey, the Baldwins reach their destination, finding shelter in a cave while they wait for order to be restored. They find that Johnson and his wife are their neighbors - but not for long. The three thugs appear and shoot them. A farming couple suffers the same fate and their teenage daughter, Marilyn (Joan Freeman) is kept as a sex slave. Karen is also raped when Mickey and Andy happen upon her. With guns in hand, the Baldwin men fight back, killing the two murderers and freeing Marilyn. When Carl returns, he is killed as well, but Rick is seriously wounded.

With Marilyn's help, they get the young man to Doctor Strong (Willis Bouchey). The doctor does what he can, but the boy needs to get to an army hospital over a hundred miles (160 km) away for a blood transfusion or he will die. On their drive there, they encounter a military patrol, scouting for the army that is reestablishing order. After a tense meeting, they are allowed to continue. Watching them depart, the soldiers note that they're among the "good ones" who escaped radiation sickness due to being in the mountains when the bombs went off. As the family drives on, a closing title card states: "There must be no end – only a new beginning".

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was originally known as Survival.[2] Samuel Arkoff of AIP said Avalon and Milland were teamed together because "they both have particular types of followers and the combination adds up to an attraction."[3]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Michael Atkinson, the film critic for The Village Voice, liked the film and wrote in 2005, "This forgotten, saber-toothed 1962 AIP cheapie might be the most expressive on-the-ground nightmare of the Cold War era, providing a template not only for countless social-breakdown genre flicks (most particularly, Michael Haneke's Time of the Wolf) but also for authentic crisis—shades of New Orleans haunt its DVD margins...the movie is nevertheless an anxious, detail-rich essay on moral collapse."[4]

Glenn Erickson writes, in his DVD Savant review, "Panic In Year Zero! scrupulously avoids any scenes requiring more than minimalist production values yet still delivers on its promise, allowing audience imagination to expand upon the narrow scope of what's actually on the screen. It sure seemed shocking in 1962, and easily trumped other more pacifistic efforts. The Day the Earth Caught Fire was for budding flower people; Panic In Year Zero! could have been made as a sales booster for the gun industry."[5]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz discussed the film's theme and philosophy, "This was the first film Ray Milland directed. A modern audience would have no trouble identifying with its pessimistic treatment of humanity and the frightening possibility of what a nuclear attack could do. We live in a time of terrorists and the scenario presented onscreen is not that far fetched from the realm of possibilities. The only thing that was hard to fully approve of in Panic in Year Zero!, was Milland's selfish philosophy for survival—it was simply not a very human one. It was a narrow philosophy that did not give him the high moral ground over the looters, who also recognized it was a dog-eat-dog world and they must also look out only for Number One. But if everyone behaved like that, the world would indeed be a place of anarchy and hell. Otherwise this rather grim tale acted in a satisfying but desultory manner, in pointing out what realistically might happen in such a catastrophe. Its theme as stated by Milland is: 'I’ll return when civilization becomes civilized again.'"[6] Schwartz's first line is incorrect; Milland first directed 1955's A Man Alone followed by two other feature films later in the 1950s, Lisbon and The Safecracker.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Panic in Year Zero! at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  2. ^ Filmland Events: Avalon Joins Milland in A-I'S 'Survival' Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 28 Dec 1961: 20.
  3. ^ Who Needs High Salaried Stars? Horrors! Film Makers Find Audiences Prefer Action Alpert, Don. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 15 July 1962: A8.
  4. ^ Atkinson, Michael. The Village Voice, film review, September 20, 2005. Last accessed: December 2, 2009.
  5. ^ Erickson, Glenn. DVD Savant, film review, April 8, 2005. Last accessed: December 2, 2009.
  6. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, June 1, 2002. Last accessed: December 2, 2009.

External links[edit]