Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

Panic In Year Zero! (1962)

by  |  March 15th, 2011  |  Sci Fi

For a traditionalist like me there is not much better then to watch a truly classic movie in black and white.  I know that may seem weird, but honestly, watching a truly original black and white movie that was made in the era when black and white was still the medium in which people watched movies, can be like getting a little glimpse in to what it must have been like to be going to one of those old Saturday matinee’s at the theater with your friends… Or maybe, sitting next to your favorite girl watching (or in some cases not really watching) the latest monster movie at the drive in theater back in the 60’s…

What do I mean by that? A movie that is unequivocally in my personal top 10 movies that I have ever seen is, Psycho (1960) with Anthony Perkins (Edge Of Sanity) and Vera Miles (The Searchers).  I have had this movie in both the VHS and DVD formats.  When I picked it up on DVD, and watched it from beginning to end.  I could almost feel what it must have been like to be sitting in the Theater watching it with people from the 1960’s. I mean movies from then were such a cinematic experience that you almost can’t help but like the nuanced differences that are not quite different between the first decade of the new millennium and the 1960s…Such as the clothing that they wore way back then, with the men wearing suits and the woman for the most part either wearing pants and button down shirts or dresses.  Well Men these days don’t always wear suits anymore, and woman dress more in pants and t-shirts, but you can still see hints of it, in the way people dress today.  There are several more examples that I could give but I don’t wanna make this recommendation to long.

With that said though, I also wanted to point out the contrast when watching these movies.  I mean for example, in the 1960’s it was more greasers and burgers for the kids, where as in the present it is more gangstas and a slight desire towards more healthy food for kids these days.  For adult men in the 1960’s it was smoking a lot and more meat and potato’s life style.  Where as in this day and age smoking is bad, and only having a steak and potato’s for a meal has been proven to be pretty unhealthy…

You can see all of that in these old movies!  The similarities and the difference between now and then, and Panic In The Year Zero! is no different!

Written by: Jay Simms (The Killer Shrews), John Morton and Directed by: Ray Milland (The Safecracker) and also starring Ray Milland, Jean Hagen (Alexander: The Otherside of Dawn) and Frankie Avalon (Beach Blanket Bingo), Mary Mitchel (Bram Stokers: Dracula)

Panic In The Year Zero! tells the story of a world gone topsy turvey and one family that is trying to cope with that impossible situation…

Harry Baldwin (Ray Milland) his wife Ann (Jean Hagen) and their 2 kids Rick (Frankie Avalon) and Karen (Mary Mitchel) in Panic in Year Zero!

What I mean by this, is that in the story, there is a nuclear attack on the United States and countries all over Europe. Most of the major cities are either completely destroyed or have come close to it!

Now right before this attack, the Baldwin family, a happy middle class family with Harry (Milland) his wife Ann (Hagen) and their children Rick (Avalon) and Karen (Mitchel) are all heading out for a family fishing trip when the family hears a couple of blasts which sound like thunder rolling down…

While on the road, Ann turns on the radio so that they can listen to whats on while they drive.  Not finding any decent working stations except for the emergency broadcasting system which is broadcasting about a disaster in Los Angeles, and after checking the windows on the trailer they were hauling.  They eventually find out that an atomic weapon had been used against the country and try to find out what is going on.

Their first stop they make is to a roadside telephone where they find out that the phone lines to Los Angeles are unavailable, and that there is a major mushroom cloud over where the city is.  They eventually make it to a diner.

Bladwin family watches the mushroom cloud from their vantage point.

When they get to the dinner, it is swamped by people that are just trying to get a bite to eat on their way in the opposite direction.

After awhile Harry decides that the best thing for the family is to camp out in the mountains until law and order can be put back in.  So they head off to get provisions, and in to their slow decent from a happy middle class family in to a group of survivalists with the mentality of kill or be killed!

What I mean by this is that when they make their first stop at a local grocery store in a real small town.  Harry uses his huge wad of cash to pay for food, and even tries to do so with the hardware store owner…

When Harry and Rick are in the hardware store they buy several supplies and weaponry.  Now the problem is, is that Ed Johnson (Played by: Richard Garland) ad heres to the gun laws of the day and tries to keep the weaponry for the standard day and a half.  This  doesn’t sit to well with Harry, who gets in to a fight with the store owner the eventually escalates in to Rick holding a gun on Ed.

After that they decide to make it up to the lake that they were planning on fishing at anyway.  On their way they are stopped by three bad guys, who are trying to rob Harry of what ever he’s got.  And this is where it really starts to get intense… Because to get away from them, Rick shoots one of them in the arm (of course that is not the last time that these character’s will show up again.)

The three bad guys.

After they leave the scene, and make it up to the lake, Harry and Rick take down the Bridge across the river so that no one can follow them, and head up to a cave that Rick had mentioned, and where Harry decided the family should live till after the civilization righted itself again.

Now with their camp set up, this family must protect themselves, from the world at large before the bad guys decide to get to them first!

What I also like about this movie and why I also think that this is a truly awesome b movies is a couple of things.

1. First off as mentioned above, this movie is in black and white, and I still gotta say that, watching a black and white movie is a cinematic experience that everyone should try at one point.

2. I also think that the story in this movie is utterly brilliant! What I mean by this is that, the one thing I always like about these disaster movies is the powerful message that it gives about the importance of family and how it can sometimes take something like a nuclear strike for people to realize this!

3. Lastly, this is the first movie that I have ever seen of Frankie Avalon, and I gotta say that I am really impressed with the performance that he gave in this!

If your looking for a truly classic awesome b movie, then try this, I think that you will find that it is really quite good!

Nathan Strack


Nathan Strack is a Writer/Director/Filmmaker & Owner/Founder of: Hell In Space, Strack Web Design Service & Strack Store.

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