Monday, June 1, 2020

Bava's Cool, Stylish "Danger: Diabolik"

Mario Bava is probably best known as the director of horror films like Black Sunday and giallo thrillers like Blood and Black Lace, but he also made sword and sandal movies, science-fiction tales and even a Western. Bava was a master at creating stylish and atmospheric films, which ended up looking much more impressive and expensive than their often modest budgets. He directed one of the best comic book adaptations ever made. Danger: Diabolik (1968) is a colorful, action-filled adventure based on the Italian comic book, or fumetti, created by siblings Angela and Lucianna Giussani. The series follows the adventures of a master thief, Diabolik, and his accomplice, Eva Kant. Diabolik began publication in 1962, and became one of the most successful comics ever published in Europe, selling more than 150 million copies.

The initial cinematic adaptation of Diabolik was begun by producer Tonino Cervi and director Seth Holt. The cast featured Jean Sorel as Diabolik, Elsa Martinelli as Eva Kant and George Raft as Diabolik's enemy, Richness. After Raft dropped out due to health problems, and was replaced by Gilbert Roland, production on the film started up again. Dino De Laurentiis, who was distributing the movie, scrapped the project after being disappointed with the footage completed by Holt. De Laurentiis began again with a new script, cast and crew, and hired Bava to direct the film. John Phillip Law, who was set to co-star in De Laurentiis' upcoming production of Barbarella, was cast as Diabolik, while Marisa Mell took over the role of Eva Kant. Celebrated composer Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad & The Ugly) was brought on board to write the score for the film, and editor Romana Fortini, cinematographer Antonio Rinaldi, and set designer Carlo Rambaldi also joined the project.

The film begins with Diabolik's heist of ten million dollars from a convoy overseen by police Inspector Ginko. Despite Ginko's careful preparations, including the use of a decoy convoy containing paper instead of money, the master thief and his lover/accomplice, the beautiful Eva Kant, steal the loot and escape capture. Thus begins a cat and mouse game between Diabolik and Ginko that runs throughout the film. The inspector even makes a deal with the notorious gangster Valmont to aid him in his pursuit and capture of Diabolik. Over the course of the story the clever Diabolik evades capture (using a variety of gadgets and very fast cars) and pulls off some increasingly spectacular thefts. When Eva is kidnapped by the evil Valmont, will Diabolik's luck run out? Can our resourceful (and death-defying) anti-hero rescue his one true love Eva, and pull off the biggest gold heist of all time?

John Phillip Law & Marisa Mell
Danger: Diabolik is filled with kinetic action sequences, eye-popping set pieces and marvelous work from the cast. The athletic Law (best known to genre fans in the US for playing Sinbad in the Ray Harryhausen production The Golden Voyage of Sinbad) is excellent as Diabolik, and Marisa Mell is lithe, sensual and seductive as Eva Kant. The two actors (who reportedly dated offscreen) have great onscreen chemistry; you can definitely feel their passion for one another. Michel Piccoli is solid as Diabolik's nemesis Inspector Ginko, the indispensable Terry-Thomas is wonderful as a government official, and Adolfo Celi (who portrayed James Bond's nemesis Emilio Largo in Thunderball) is appropriately slimy as the villainous Valmont. Even though Diabolik is a thief and a terrorist (he blows up all of Italy's tax offices in the film!), we end up rooting for him, because's he's a charming rogue with his own code of conduct. He's the kind of guy who seems to specifically target corrupt governments and remorseless bad guys with no sense of honor.

Bava does a fantastic job with the film. The movie looks far more expensive than its limited budget, thanks to some spectacular matte paintings, skillful use of miniatures, an inspired color palette, and some inventive camera tricks by Bava and his crew. Ennio Morricone's terrific music effortlessly matches the tone of the film, effectively using instruments like electric guitar and sitar, as well as some talented vocalists, to underscore the action and not overwhelm it. The movie has an off the wall sense of humor, but never becomes quite as deliriously campy as the Batman television series, the James Coburn "Flint" films or Dean Martin's "Matt Helm" movies. Danger: Diabolik has a style all its own. I think it's one of Mario Bava's best films, and it's most certainly one of the most well-done (and affectionate) comic book adaptations ever made.

If you like the spy films and television series of the 1960s and 1970s, (or are a Mario Bava fan) I think you'll really enjoy Danger: Diabolik. The move has influenced a variety of comic book artists and filmmakers including Stephen Bissette, Edgar Wright and Roman Coppola, and the Beastie Boys famously integrated clips from the movie into their video for their 1998 song "Body Movin." The film has recently been released in an outstanding special edition from Shout! Factory, which includes a featurette on the history of the original comic strip and the film's production, and a pair of audio commentaries, including one by Bava scholar and Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas with star John Phillip Law. Here's a look at the trailer, even though it really doesn't do justice the this unique film:

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Terror in the Sky: Horror at 37,000 Feet

The 1970s was a prolific period for made for television movies, and a large number of the films produced during the era placed their feet squarely in the horror genre. Movies like The Night StalkerDon't Be Afraid of the DarkGargoyles, and Trilogy of Terror were all made during that faraway decade. One of the most entertaining of these vintage television fright films is The Horror at 37,000 Feet, originally broadcast by CBS in 1973. The story concerns a group of passengers on a Boeing 747 traveling from London to New York who are threatened by otherworldly forces. Architect Alan O'Neill and his wife Sheila have brought an ancient Druid altar on board, and apparently the ancient spirits within that artifact aren't too thrilled to be flying economy class in the cargo hold. This flight just might be a one-way ticket to supernatural terror and death!

The passengers discuss The Horror at 37,000 Feet
Weird things happen after the flight takes off. The plane doesn't seem to be making any progress. The jet appears to be just flying in circles, despite the best efforts of the pilot. There's wind, cold air (and an eerie sort of green mud) inside the aircraft, as well as strange voices and other odd occurrences, like Sheila passing out and speaking Latin. It becomes apparent that there is some sort of demonic presence onboard, and it's centered on the ancient artifact in the cargo hold. Can an alcoholic former priest who's lost his faith help the passengers and crew defeat the terrifying and evil forces plaguing them?

The cast of The Horror at 37,000 Feet features a virtual who's who of 1960s and 1970s TV stars, including Roy Thinnes, Chuck Connors, Buddy Ebsen, Russell Johnson, Tammy Grimes, Lynn Loring and Paul Winfield, who sports a British accent playing a doctor. There are also appearances by other familiar faces, including Jane Merrow, H.M. Wynant, France Nuyen, Darleen Carr and TV Western star Will Hutchins, playing (what else?) a Western star! But the one who really gets to act up a storm in the film is none other than William Shatner, who portrays Paul Kovalik, the former priest having a crisis of faith. It's up to him to lead the battle against the dark forces that threaten them all, if he can just pull himself together. Shatner dials things up to 11 on the over the top scale. His acerbic, cynical character interacts well with the rest of the cast, all of whom are effective in their roles, though it's tough to beat Shatner at his most...Shatner-ian! Tammy Grimes does give Shatner a run for his money as a woman who feels that the Thinnes character has doomed them all by bringing the altar on board.

The movie is sort of a cross between all-star disaster films like Airport and supernatural thrillers like The Exorcist. No one's going to place The Horror at 37,000 Feet on the list of the best made for TV chillers of all time, but it's certainly one of the most enjoyable. It's a fun ride, and at 73 minutes in length, it doesn't drag on too long. The movie was directed by David Lowell Rich, who helmed a lot of feature films and television episodes from the 1950s right on through to the 1980s. In 1973, the same year he directed The Horror at 37,000 Feet, he was also behind the camera for the classic TV terror tale Satan's School For Girls, which co-starred Roy Thinnes and Kate Jackson. He also returned to "panic in the sky" mode for the made for TV movie SST: Death Flight (1977) and on the big-screen for The Concorde: Airport '79The Horror at 37,000 Feet is available on DVD, and if you do some looking around on YouTube, you might find it there as well. Watch out for evil Druid spirits and those 1970s fashions!

Monday, May 11, 2020

Bosch: The Best Show You Haven't Seen

When people ask me for suggestions regarding a TV series to watch in these days of multiple viewing choices and numerous streaming options, there are certain shows I consider my "go to" recommendations. Series like Ozark, Better Call SaulPenny Dreadful and Sense8 are personal favorites, but some of those selections may not be everyone's cup of tea. One show I can recommend to everyone without hesitation is Bosch, the Amazon-produced series based on the novels of bestselling author Michael Connelly. If you're not watching this show, you're missing out on one of the best series currently running on any platform. Bosch is a crime drama which tells the story of veteran Los Angeles detective Harry Bosch, whose deep sense of justice and relentless pursuit of murderers is fueled by his personal demons and his tragic past.

Titus Welliver as Bosch
Bosch's mother was killed when he was a child, and her killer was never found. He's obsessed with finding out the true circumstances behind her murder, and that search plays out as background to the first few seasons of the show. The writers incorporate multiple storylines from Connelly's novels into each season of the series. If you haven't read the books, you can watch and enjoy the series on its own terms. However, if you have read the novels, you'll have an even deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry the writers have cleverly laid out across each ten episode arc of the show. The major storylines are usually resolved by the end of a season, but there are ongoing plot points that run throughout the series. The stories are superbly crafted tales of murder, police corruption, and fractured relationships, which often travel in surprising, but dramatically satisfying, directions.

The cast is terrific, and it's criminal (no pun intended) that they haven't been recognized by the Emmys or SAG Awards for their sterling work on the series. Bosch is portrayed by the indispensable Titus Welliver, who you may remember from his roles on the TV series Sons of Anarchy and Lost, and in films such as The Town and Argo. Welliver's multi-layered, richly textured portrayal of Bosch is the glue that holds the show together. He's aided and abetted by a talented ensemble that includes Jamie Hector as his partner Jerry Edgar, Amy Aquino as their boss, Lieutenant Grace Billets, and Madison Lintz as Bosch's daughter Maddie. Other top-notch actors featured throughout the series are Sarah Clarke, Steven Culp and Mimi Rogers. Lance Reddick (of Lost and Fringe) is perfect as Police Chief Irving. No one heaves a sigh quite as effectively as Reddick. Top notch supporting players Gregory Scott Cummins and Troy Evans, are wonderful as Detectives Crate and Barrel, and they absolutely deserve a spinoff series!

The behind the scenes talent is strong as well. Directors like Ernest Dickerson and Tim Hunter have helmed episodes of the show, and the talented writers for the series include Tom Bernardo and Katie Pyne. There's never been a better time to get into this excellent show. The stories are more intimate and emotionally driven than most police dramas, and while they travel down some dark roads, there is always a sense of light and redemption as well. The sharply drawn performances and well-crafted stories give you a real sense of empathy for, and understanding of, these full fleshed out characters. There are currently six seasons of Bosch available for streaming on Amazon Prime. It was recently announced that the series will return for a seventh and final go-round next year. This is the best show you (probably) haven't seen, and it should definitely be on your must watch list. Give Bosch a chance; you wont be disappointed. Here's a link to the trailer for the first season of this awesome series:

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Retro Post-Apocalypse: The Omega Man

Charlton Heston is The Omega Man
The Omega Man (1971) is the second film adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic post-apocalyptic novel, I Am Legend. The book tells the story of Robert Morgan, who survives a plague that has killed much of the world’s population, and turned the rest into vampire-like creatures. The story follows Morgan’s efforts to survive while battling the vampires, as he seeks to discover what caused the plague in the first place. The book was first filmed in 1964 as The Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price. The Omega Man is a different take on the novel’s premise. Charlton Heston stars as Robert Neville, here reimagined as an army scientist who has survived a plague caused by the use of biological weapons in a war between China and Russia. The disease resulting from this deadly conflict has decimated most of the world’s population. Neville survives by injecting himself with an experimental serum. Living in a fortified apartment in Los Angeles, Neville regularly battles a group called The Family, humans who survived the plague, and have been transformed into albino mutants. The Family is led by a former TV newsman named Matthias, who feels science and technology was the downfall of mankind and wants to return the world to a simpler, pre-industrial time.

Neville drives around the deserted city and hunts down the mutants, attempting to eliminate them all. While scrounging for supplies one day, he runs into a woman in a department store. She runs away when he spots her. He later learns that her name is Lisa, and she's part of a small group of human survivors that include her brother Richie, a former medical student named Dutch, and several young children. Richie is suffering from the early stages of the disease, and Neville uses his own blood to cure him via a transfusion, which in effect makes Richie immune to the virus as well. Neville and the group prepare to leave the city and live in peace in the country. But Matthias and The Family have other plans for our heroes. Can this small group of humans survive against the cult-like zeal of Matthias and The Family?  Will Neville and Lisa’s burgeoning romance have a happy ending? How many of the mutants will the gun-toting Neville mow down with his automatic weapons before the movie is over? You’ll have to watch to find out!

The Omega Man has very little to do with Richard Matheson’s book. I’m a big fan of the novel, and Matheson’s work in general, but I've always enjoyed the movie. The Omega Man used to turn up regularly on TV when I was a kid, and I watched it many times. You’ve got Charlton Heston in another sci-fi film, portraying the same kind of world-weary, cynical character he played in Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green. What's not to like? Heston is quite good in the early part of the film, having (one-sided) conversations with a bust of Caesar in his apartment, and driving around the deserted city in some effectively eerie sequences. And you haven't lived until you've seen Heston sit in a movie theater and run the film Woodstock, while talking along with the film’s dialogue! He also gets to utter some prototypical action hero one-liners throughout the movie. The Omega Man moves along at a brisk pace, thanks to director Boris Sagal, and it's well lensed by noted cinematographer Russell Metty. The screenplay for the movie was written by the husband and wife team of John William and Joyce H. Carrington, who also wrote Battle for the Planet of the Apes. The moody score is by Ron Grainer, who also composed the theme music for the Patrick McGoohan television series The Prisoner, as well as Dr. Who.

The supporting cast is excellent. Rosalind Cash plays Lisa, and she's very cool as a pre-cursor to the tough African American heroines of the mid 1970s that were played by the likes of Pam Grier and Tamara Dobson. She even gets an inter-racial love scene with Heston. The film also features Paul Koslo and Eric Lanueville, who will no doubt be familiar to fans of 1970s movies and television series. But the actor who walks away with the movie is veteran character actor Anthony Zerbe, who plays Matthias. His menacing vocal delivery and commanding presence dominate every scene he's in, and he's a perfect foil for Heston's laconic hero. Heston and Zerbe previously appeared together in the western Will Penny. Matheson’s novel was later adapted as the big-budget Will Smith film I Am Legend and a low budget copycat movie called I Am Omega, but neither of those films are as much fun as The Omega Man, which is a big favorite of director Tim Burton and comedian Dana Gould, among others. If you're in the right frame of mind, The Omega Man is a perfect choice to feature as part of your "end of the world" movie marathon. Follow this link to take a look at the trailer for the film:

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Price, Poe and The Pit and the Pendulum

Vincent Price was a talented, versatile actor who worked in movies, television and on stage throughout his long career. He appeared in numerous movies, including film noirs, comedies, romantic dramas, and westerns. Beloved by his legion of fans, he’s probably best remembered for his contributions to the horror genre. Price starred in seven of the films in Roger Corman’s “Poe” cycle, the celebrated producer-director’s cinematic adaptations of the work of Edgar Allan Poe. The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) is the second film in the series, following House of Usher (1960). The story is set in Spain, where Francis Bernard (played by John Kerr) visits the castle of Nicholas Medina (portrayed by Price), who was married to his sister Elizabeth. It turns out Elizabeth died under mysterious circumstances, and Francis wants to learn the truth regarding her death. Nicholas and his sister Catherine initially tell him that his sister died of a rare blood disease. Later, the family physician, Dr. Leon, offers a different explanation for Elizabeth’s passing. Francis vows to stay at the castle until he discovers the truth. Dr. Leon warns him that Nicholas is in a frail mental state, and prodding him about the nature of Elizabeth’s death might send him over the edge. The doctor tells Francis about some traumatic events from Nicholas’ childhood, which have haunted him ever since.

Anthony Carbone & Vincent Price
Strange things and eerie events occur; Elizabeth's room is trashed. Eerie voices and loud noises are heard by Nicholas. He becomes convinced that Elizabeth has returned from the grave to haunt him. As the climax of the story nears, it becomes apparent that nothing is as it seems. There will be madness, murder, betrayal and death as the story builds to a crescendo of terror. The cast is excellent, with Price taking top honors, expertly walking a tightrope between calm, manic and completely off the rails throughout the film. Price was often accused of hamminess and over-acting, but I believe that he knew exactly what he was doing, perfectly pitching his performances to match the material. Price is at the peak of his powers here, and I think it's some of his best work in the Poe cycle, along with his performances in the later Masque of the Red Death and Tomb of Ligeia.

The rest of the cast, including Corman regulars Luana Anders (as Catherine) and Anthony Carbone (as Dr. Leon) are quite good, but it's Barbara Steele (in her first role since her iconic turn in Mario Bava's Black Sunday) who makes a truly lasting impression. She is excellent as Elizabeth, who turns out to have some very deadly secrets. Despite the fact that her dialogue was dubbed, Steele's physical performance is terrific. Shes’s ethereal, frightening, and alluring all at once. Her calm, cool and controlled Elizabeth is a perfect counterpoint to Price's emotional, rattled Nicholas. At least, that is, until the film's eerie finale, where the truth is finally revealed, and things take a twist toward the macabre. Richard Matheson's excellent screenplay combines a dash of Poe (the original story is only used in the last section of the film), with tales of ghosts and hauntings, and also tosses in a noir-esque murder plot for good measure. Price made suggestions regarding changes to Nicholas' dialogue, which he felt improved it's tone, and Corman and Matheson incorporated some of his ideas.

The film is florid, haunting and dazzling. The combination of Corman’s assured direction with the excellent camera work by Floyd Crosby, art direction by Daniel Haller and the music of Lex Baxter create an atmosphere of dread that permeates every frame. Corman and his crew were like kids in a candy store while working on these films, making all kinds of interesting stylistic choices, such as the use of odd colors and off-kilter images in the flashback sequences. It's no surprise that the film is often cited as an influence on the Italian giallo genre of horror films, or that it's a favorite of Stephen King, Tim Burton and Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas. What Horror of Dracula is to the Hammer films oeuvre, The Pit and the Pendulum is to the horror output of American International Pictures. The movie set the tone for a large percentage of their genre offerings for years to come.

The movie draws you in, and bears up well on repeat viewings. This is in no small part to the stellar contributions of Vincent Price, who anchors the film with his assured performance. As a long-time fan, it's hard for me to pick a favorite Price role; his stellar work as Mark Cardigan in His Kind of Woman is a favorite of mine, but there are so many others to choose from. This is definitely one of his most memorable roles in the horror genre. If you're going to pick one movie to watch that defines what the Poe series is all about, this is the one to check out. The Pit and the Pendulum is available on DVD and Blu-ray, and is often screened on various cable movie networks. Here's a link to the film's trailer: This post is part of The Vincent Price Blogathon, hosted by my fellow bloggers over at Reelweegiemidget Reviews & Cinematic Catharsis. I'd like to thank them for letting me participate! Please follow this link to check out the rest of the entries:

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Dan Curtis: The Master of Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows, the supernaturally-themed daytime series that ran from 1966-71 on ABC, was a true phenomenon. The show's combination of traditional soap opera elements with horror and (later) science-fiction themed storylines caught the attention of young viewers and the series became a major hit. The show was brainchild of writer-producer-director Dan Curtis, who was also involved in the production of several classic made for television horror films, including the The Night StalkerThe Night StranglerTrilogy of Terror, as well as the big-screen terror tale, Burnt Offerings, which featured Oliver Reed and Bette Davis. Curtis later went on to produce and direct the mini-series The Winds of War, as well as its sequel, War and Remembrance.

Master of Dark Shadows (2019), an absorbing documentary, traces the life and career of Dan Curtis through in-depth interviews with the cast and crew of Dark Shadows, as well as Curtis himself. Dark Shadows (which was based in part on a dream that Curtis had) started out as more of a Gothic romance, with storylines inspired by classic novels like Jane Eyre. When the low-rated series was in danger of cancellation, Curtis and his writers introduced more overt supernatural elements into the show, including the character of a vampire, Barnabas Collins, portrayed by Jonathan Frid. Ratings went up, and the series became a substantial hit. The series ran in a late afternoon time slot, so it was the perfect time for kids who were just getting home from school to tune in and watch the show. They turned out to be some of the series biggest fans.

Dark Shadows spawned books, board games, and soundtrack albums. Barnabas, the reluctant vampire, became a fan favorite, and the central character featured in the series ongoing storylines. The actors, including Frid, David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott, were treated like rock stars by their fans. The series spawned two spinoff theatrical films, House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows, both directed by Curtis. The series ended its run in 1971, and Curtis thought that would be the end of it. But Dark Shadows proved to have an enduring legacy, especially in the age of home video, when the series was released on VHS and DVD, and re-run on television. Fans discovered the show all over again. To this day, Dark Shadows retains a devoted fan base, who attend conventions featuring the cast and crew of the show.

The interviews with Curtis and cast members including David Selby, John Karlen and Lara Parker are fascinating and engrossing. You get a real sense of what it was like to work on a show that was filmed as quickly and efficiently as possible in those long ago days of television in the 1960s and 1970s. There's also vintage interview footage with Frid (who passed away in 2012) and new comments by Dark Shadows superfan Whoopi Goldberg. The film briefly covers Curtis' work on The Night Stalker, and his adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, which starred Jack Palance, as well as some of his other tales of television terror. The last portion of the movie covers Curtis' work on the epic mini-series The Winds of War, and its sequel, War and Remembrance. These productions were a massive undertaking, and Curtis was particularly proud of their success, as they afforded him the opportunity to work outside of the horror genre for a change.

The movie briefly covers the short-lived 1991 prime-time version of Dark Shadows, which featured Ben Cross as Barnabas, Barbara Steele, Roy Thinnes, and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Both Cross and co-star Barbara Steele are interviewed in the film. It's particularly fun to see horror icon Steele discuss her time working with Curtis, both as an actor on the Dark Shadows revival and a co-producer on The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. Master of Dark Shadows (2019) is a captivating documentary that paints a three-dimensional portrait of Dan Curtis, a talented man who was truly passionate about his work. Sadly, Curtis passed away in 2006, but this compelling film is a fitting tribute to him. If you're a fan of Dark Shadows or any of his other projects, this is a must watch. Master of Dark Shadows (2019) is available for viewing on Amazon Prime, and is also available on DVD and Blu-ray from MPI Home Video. Here's a link to the trailer for the film:

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Retro Apocalypse: Panic In Year Zero!

The Baldwin family faces a Panic In Year Zero!
The Baldwin family is heading out for a vacation when they see some flashes of bright light in the distant sky, followed by a mushroom cloud rising over Los Angeles. It seems there has been a nuclear attack, and World War III has finally arrived! Harry Baldwin, the father, decides the group should head into the mountains, where they had been planning to go camping. He wants the group to settle in while they figure out what to do next. That’s just the beginning of 1962’s Panic in Year Zero!, an “end of the world” thriller, which stars (and is directed by) veteran actor Ray Milland. The film was released by well-known genre specialists American International Pictures, who specialized in horror, science-fiction and teen-oriented films, including the “Beach Party” series which featured one of this movie’s co-stars, Frankie Avalon. As the story continues, we follow the family’s journey into darkness as society begins to break down in the aftermath of the devastating nuclear exchange with “the enemy.” 

On the way to their destination, the family interacts with panic-stricken people, armed survivalists, and a not very helpful storeowner. Sporadic radio broadcasts hint at the state of the world, but don’t provide many details. Harry is determined to keep his family safe, and isn’t afraid to use force to do so, especially when they’re threatened by three young men who are clearly looking for trouble. The trio of hoodlums not only attack Harry’s daughter Karen, but Harry and his son Rick later discover the men are holding another young woman captive. They manage to rescue the girl, and bring her back to their settlement. Harry and his family must figure out how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone’s looking out for himself or herself first.

Panic in Year Zero! is a powerful tale that avoids the over the top, flamboyant tone of many other apocalyptic thrillers. The film is moody and intense, illustrating the downward spiral of society after a nuclear attack. Harry finds himself doing things he never thought he would in these dangerous circumstances, committing brutal acts of violence in order to protect his family. The movie doesn’t shy away from showing the dark side of a society in freefall. There are solid performances from Milland in the lead role of Harry, as well as the supporting cast, which includes Jean Hagen as his wife Ann, Mary Mitchell as his daughter Karen, and pop star Avalon as his son Rick. Also appearing are genre veterans O.Z. Whitehead, Byron Morrow, Joan Freeman and Richard Bakalyan as the leader of the villainous young men.

Milland had helmed several other movies at this point in his career, and he keeps the story moving at a brisk pace. The excellent score is by AIP veteran Les Baxter. The screenplay for the film, by John Morton and Jay Simms, provides no easy conclusions or pat answers. There’s no trace of the hopeful tone expressed in some post-apocalyptic stories. There is an indication that society will move on, albeit in a more stringently controlled, militaristic style. Panic in Year Zero! is a taut, stark movie that will appeal to genre fans, especially if you’re looking for a different type of “end of the world” tale. The film is available on Blu-ray, and for digital streaming on various sites. The movie is also frequently screened on various cable movie channels. Here’s a link to the (somewhat hyperbolic) trailer for the movie: