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Panic in Year Zero
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Rating: 4.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Panic in Year Zero

Starring Ray Milland and teenage heart-throb Frankie Avalon. A cult-classic that I absolutely love. Story begins with a family of four leaving Los Angelos at 4 in the morning for an extended vacation in the Sierra mountains. The year is 1963, just after the Cuban missile crisis. As their car is climbing the hills east of LA they look back and see atomic mushroom clouds rising over the city. The movie is the story of their survival in the wilderness in the face of deprivation, attack by hoodlums, family feuding, and paranoid fear of anyone who might pose a threat, which meant everyone for some time. Filmed in black & white, there is an eerie quality that seems to kick in just after they sight the first mushroom cloud and realize that everything they know just changed forever and that they cannot go back to their former life. For the rest of the film they appear more ghost-like than alive, moving jerkily, speaking irrationally, repeating the same mantras as if normal life will eventually return. In the end they encounter US soldiers looking for survivors and they drive into the dawn together but without any welcoming scene, a long and dangerous journey still ahead of them. Ghosts to the end..

The movie is controversial because of the father’s early decision to jettison the rules of civilization in order to ensure the survival of his family. For instance when he runs out of money to buy supplies he uses the guns he cannot afford to rob the store owner of both the guns and the goods that he can afford. Later he tosses gasoline across a jammed freeway to create a stop-sign so his family can drive across. When he arrives at his chosen isolated spot in the mountains, he destroys the bridge so no one else can find it. Finally, he hunts down and murders the local hoods for molesting his daughter, with hardly a second thought. On the other hand, he eventually agrees to take in the very store owner he had earlier robbed, to protect him and his wife from the same hoods (unsuccessfully). In one of the most interesting scenes, when a doctor is treating his son, Milland makes a positive comment on the outcome of the nuclear exchange, when the doctor replies “Well, ding-ding for us”, sarcastically referring to folly of conducting war with nuclear weapons, and implying that the sane person in such a situation would do just what Milland had done—abandon society and its rules and revert to the most primitive of instincts: protect oneself and one’s own. Plainly the writer and producer wished to state their view of the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction through the characters of Milland and the Doctor.

One of the best end-of-the-world movies ever made, replete with hot-rods, classic 50’s juvenile delinquents, destruction and mayhem on a grand scale, and a great one for wondering What would I do if ever forced to undergo the same thing? —SiriusReviews.com

 

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Panic in Year Zero, 4.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
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