Panic in the Year Zero: A review by Mom with a Prep
Made in 1962 during the height of the Cold War/Bomb scare, this movie is about a family having gone on vacation and missed the attack on LA – and learning to survive in a civilization gone mad (as mad as a 1962 semi-mainstream movie for white middle class folks is allowed to be).
The Baldwins leave their “Leave it to Beaver” life to head on a camping vacation. Sometime after hitting the mountains, they see that Los Angeles has been attacked by a nuclear bomb, and just refuse to believe it and head back to LA (really.) After seeing how civilization is already unraveling within the first 2 hrs of the attack, Harry Baldwin decides to continue on his destination with his family to the camping grounds where they could hide out until it was safe to return.
The irony, of course, is that Harry Baldwin also becomes less civilized in the process.
So we watch while Mr. Cleaver becomes the alpha male for his family and the women are weak , simpering fools, which you have to take with a grain of salt because of way films were made at the time (not that you have to like it, just have to recognize it). We run into several scenarios of post-society breakdown, including Frankie Avalon using a shotgun to shoot a thug (that’s got to be post-apocalyptic enough for ya, right?), and an insanely choreographed modern dance scene meant to imply rape to a roaming band of thugs (3) traumatizing the countryside.
And in the end, thank goodness that the military saved us. (folks, you’re going to be put in an internment camp for the foreseeable future, and the military is who started it all in the first place! )
I don’t know why I’m being so hard on the film because I actually was impressed by aspects of it – good forethought of stuff to grab at the last minute, getting family to safety, choice of where to hide out, etc.) For being a sci-fi b-movie from the early 60’s that didn’t involve men in big monkey suits, it’s wasn’t bad!