Panic in Year Zero!
Directed by Ray Milland
Jay Simms and John Morton from stories by Ward Moore
Roger Corman Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant
This movie says more about the Alpha-male’s obsession with his gun than it does about nuclear apocalypse.
Harry Baldwin (Ray Milland) is a man’s man and the unquestioned head of his household. This is made up of wife Ann (Jean Hagen and teenagers Rick (Frankie Avalon) and Karen. The story begins with Harry barking out orders as the family readies itself for an early morning departure to Harry’s favorite fishing spot in their camper. The family is well out of town when it spots a mushroom cloud in the distance. Ann convinces Harry to turn back out of concern for her mother but before long Harry has formulated his master plan. It is basically every man for himself until the return of civilization.
Harry was carrying hunting rifles with him for the vacation and swiftly picks up handguns and ammo. He descends on an out-of-the way town which has not heard the news and buys a huge stockpile of food and provisions. When his money runs out, he simply appropriates the necessaries at gun point. Rick soon follows in the footsteps of dear old dad
Ann pleads to deaf ears for some return to humanity. Finally, the family sets up housekeeping in a cave near the fishing spot. All encounters with other survivors are met with hostility. Finally, an appropriate object for violence presents itself in the form of some JD punks who have their eye on daughter Karen.
If I had had a father or husband like Ray Milland’s character, my only prayer would be for immediate disintegration by the bomb. The type was, of course, more common in 1962 and perhaps this is a kind of critique of survivalist gun nuts. On the other hand, the little family does survive. Any way, it is a well-made movie and worth seeing if you are interested in the topic or genre.