Panic In Year Zero!
The apocalypse on a shoestring
Release Date: 16 March
1962 | 15 | DVD Director: Ray Milland Cast: Ray Milland, Jean Hagen, Frankie Avalon, Mary Mitchel It’s the end of the world as Ray Milland and his family know it, as the nuclear bombs go off just after his LA- dwelling brood set off on holiday. Always annoying when that happens.
America’s on the brink of meltdown, but not everyone realises it. Hence in the early, best parts of the film, pragmatic dad Harry Baldwin ( Milland) plunders unwitting grocery and hardware stores for essential supplies; then he gets nasty when business owners don’t give him what he wants – guns, for instance. The film’s quite sharp in its depiction of how supply and demand economics underpin civilisation – brusque wheeling and dealing soon begins, and not long after descends into brutality.
It’s somewhat unfortunate, then, that an inappropriate, insistent jazz score backs the drama, although occasionally campy dialogue has a tendency to do that too: “You’re just not like yourself,” Baldwin’s wife tells her battered husband, who’s been scrapping around in a postapocalyptic wasteland, while Baldwin himself muses folksily, “Nothing like eating under an open sky – even if it is radioactive.”
The film is low budget, with chunks of obvious stock footage, but mostly gets away with it because of the post- apocalyptic scenario. The narrative fizzles out a little in the second half, unsure where to go, and it’s never especially weighty or meaningful, but overall it’s a fun little journey to world’s end.
Extras: None. Russell Lewin Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of ’ 70s rockers Steely Dan wrote the song “King Of The World” after watching the film.
After the Bomb drops, we’ll go back to being in black and white.