“For the next few weeks, survival is going to have to be on an individual basis.”
In the aftermath of a nuclear explosion, a Los Angeles father (Ray Milland) places the survival of his wife (Jean Hagen) and children (Frankie Avalon and Mary Mitchel) above all else.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Jean Hagen Films
- Nuclear Holocaust
- Ray Milland Films
- Science Fiction
Ray Milland starred in and directed this earnest yet disappointing low-budget AIP flick about a family struggling to survive after a nuclear bomb hits Los Angeles. Post-apocalyptic dramas have the potential to explore a rich array of societal and psychological issues, including racism, loneliness, and despair — see Arch Oboler’s Five (1951), for instance, or The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (1959) — but Panic in Year Zero remains squarely in the realm of exploitation films, with a gang of marauding young hoodlums (led by Richard Bakalyan) representing the primary force of evil, and “every man for himself” serving as its rather uninspired theme. Milland isn’t great at directing his cast (not even spirited Jean Hagen or teen heartthrob Frankie Avalon emerge with much personality):
… and the film’s ultra-low budget inevitably hurts its veracity as well — most egregiously in the use of high-speed freeway footage to represent local two-lane roads (!). Despite its historical relevance as one of the first “atom scare” films to be released in America, Panic in Year Zero isn’t must-see viewing.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- A compelling premise
No; feel free to skip this dated flick.