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Panic in Year Zero!

Entry updated 21 June 2022. Tagged: Film.

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Film (1962; vt End of the World). Alta Vista, American International Pictures. Directed by Ray Milland. Written by Jay Simms, John Morton, story by Simms, based (without credit) on the stories "Lot" (May 1953 F&SF; vt "Panic in Year Zero" in Space Movies: Classic Science Fiction Films, anth 1995, ed Peter Haining) and "Lot's Daughter" (October 1954 F&SF) by Ward Moore. Cast includes Frankie Avalon, Jean Hagen, Milland and Mary Mitchell. 92 minutes. Black and white.

This cynical, violent film – one of the earliest examples of the Survivalist ethos in cinema – shows how a typical US family have to act to survive the aftermath of an atomic Holocaust: by trusting no one and shooting first. The father quickly, and almost gleefully, reverts to being a ruthless "natural survivor" who will let nothing stand in the way of getting his family to safety after Los Angeles has been A-bombed. The escape along roads jammed with panicking traffic is strongly done, but thereafter the film subsides into clumsy adventure in the mountains; it is inferior to, and lacks the sexual reverberations of, the stories on which it was loosely based, though it retains some biblical parallels. The novelization is End of the World (1962) by Dean Owen, and this was also the title of the film's re-release. [JB/PN]


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