Panic in Year Zero!

Panic in Year Zero! (a.k.a. End of the World) is a 1962 American black-and-white survival science fiction film from American International Pictures, produced by Arnold Houghland and Lou Rusoff, directed by Ray Milland, who also stars with Jean Hagen, Frankie Avalon, Mary Mitchel, and Joan Freeman. The original music score was composed by Les Baxter. The screenplay was written by John Morton and Jay Simms.[2] The film was released by AIP in 1962 as a double feature with Tales of Terror.

Panic in Year Zero!
Panic in year zero 1962 poster.jpg
Directed byRay Milland
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • John Morton
  • Jay Simms
Story byJay Simms
Music byLes Baxter
CinematographyGilbert Warrenton
Edited byWilliam Austin
Distributed byAmerican International Pictures
Release date
  • July 5, 1962 (1962-07-05) (United States)
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States


Harry Baldwin (Ray Milland), his wife Ann (Jean Hagen), their son Rick (Frankie Avalon), and daughter Karen (Mary Mitchell) leave suburban Los Angeles on a camping trip. The Baldwins notice unusually bright light flashes coming from a great distance behind them. Sporadic news reports broadcast on CONELRAD hint at the start of an atomic war, later confirmed when the Baldwins see a large mushroom cloud over what was Los Angeles.

The family initially attempts to return to rescue Ann's mother, but they soon abandon the plan as panicked people climb over one another to escape the fallout from multiple nuclear explosions. Witnessing society being torn apart, Harry decides that the family must find refuge at their secluded vacation spot.

The family stops to buy supplies along the way and meet hardware store owner Ed Johnson (Richard Garland). He will not let them take the handgun they just purchased because of California state law. On the road, they encounter three threatening young hoodlums, Carl (Richard Bakalyan), Mickey (Rex Holman), and Andy (Neil Nephew), but manage to drive them off.

After a harrowing journey, the Baldwins reach their destination and find shelter in a cave, while they wait for order to be restored. On their portable radio, they listen to war news and learn that what remains of the United Nations has declared this to be "Year Zero". Harry and Rick discover that Ed Johnson and his wife are their neighbors, but not for long: The Johnsons are killed by the three thugs encountered earlier.

While doing laundry, Ann drops a blouse in a stream, which draws the attention of the hoodlums. As Karen sits and reads a book, they accost her. Ann scares them off with a rifle and comforts her traumatized daughter. They return to the cave, where it is confirmed that Karen was raped. Upon hearing this, the Baldwin men search for the two rapists, find them at a farm house, and Harry shoots both dead. He and Rick hear a noise and discover a teenage girl, Marilyn (Joan Freeman), kept in a locked room as a sex slave. When questioned, she tells them she lived there with her parents, the Johnsons, before both were murdered by the thugs. Freeing her, Marilyn returns with them to the cave, where Ann cares for her.

Some time later, Rick is out with Marilyn chopping wood. Carl, the third hoodlum, sneaks up behind Marilyn, forcing her to drop the rifle she is holding. He questions her about what happened to his brothers. Rick tells him to back off and throws a piece of wood at him, while Marilyn breaks away, grabs the dropped rifle, and shoots Carl dead. In the midst of the struggle, Carl fires a shot, striking Rick in the leg.

The family begins a journey to find a doctor Marilyn knows in Paxton, California. On the drive there, they hear "the enemy" has asked for a truce and that "Year Zero" is ending. They find Doctor Strong (Willis Bouchey, billed as Willis Buchet), and he does what he can for Rick, who has lost so much blood that he now needs a blood transfusion; he must be taken to an Army hospital more than a 100 miles (160 km) away or he will die. Along the way, they encounter an Army military patrol that is reestablishing order. After a tense meeting with both soldiers, they are allowed to continue. Watching them depart, the soldiers note they are among the "good ones" who escaped radiation sickness by being in the mountains when the atomic bombs exploded. As the family drives on, a closing title card states: "There must be no end – only a new beginning".



The film was originally known as Survival.[3] Samuel Z. Arkoff of AIP said Avalon and Milland were teamed together because "they both have particular types of followers and the combination adds up to an attraction".[4]

Roger Corman later said about the film, "the subject was exciting, but the technicians who worked on the film, who were my technicians, told me that Ray had been somewhat overwhelmed. He wasn’t organized enough to act and direct at the same time. He lost time on a three-week scene and forgot his scenes".[5]


Frankie Avalon later said, "The film came out to real good reviews". American International Pictures sent the star around the country to promote it. He went on to say, "We did a tour of theaters in Los Angeles, and it made its money back just in Los Angeles alone".[1]

This success led to Avalon making a number of films with AIP.[1]


Michael Atkinson, the film critic for The Village Voice, liked the film and wrote in 2005, "This forgotten, saber-toothed 1962 AIP cheapie might be the most expressive on-the-ground nightmare of the Cold War era, providing a template not only for countless social-breakdown genre flicks (most particularly, Michael Haneke's Time of the Wolf) but also for authentic crisis—shades of New Orleans haunt its DVD margins...the movie is nevertheless an anxious, detail-rich essay on moral collapse".[6]

Glenn Erickson writes, in his DVD Savant review, "Panic In Year Zero! scrupulously avoids any scenes requiring more than minimalist production values yet still delivers on its promise, allowing audience imagination to expand upon the narrow scope of what's actually on the screen. It sure seemed shocking in 1962, and easily trumped other more pacifistic efforts. The Day the Earth Caught Fire was for budding flower people; Panic In Year Zero! could have been made as a sales booster for the gun industry".[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c King, Susan (January 7, 2003). "The reluctant Angel". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  2. ^ "Panic in Year Zero!". American Film Institute. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  3. ^ Filmland Events: Avalon Joins Milland in A-I'S 'Survival' Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 28 Dec 1961: 20.
  4. ^ Who Needs High Salaried Stars? Horrors! Film Makers Find Audiences Prefer Action Alpert, Don. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 15 July 1962: A8.
  5. ^ Nasr, Constantine. Roger Corman: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers Series). University Press of Mississippi. p. 21.
  6. ^ Atkinson, Michael. The Village Voice, film review, September 20, 2005. Last accessed: December 2, 2009.
  7. ^ Erickson, Glenn. DVD Savant, film review, April 8, 2005. Last accessed: December 2, 2009.


  • Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties (note: covers films up through 1962), 21st Century Edition. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2009, ISBN 0-89950-032-3.

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