Panic in Year Zero/The Last Man on Earth: Double Feature (1962)

70042610.jpg    Panic in Year Zero/The Last Man on Earth  35.png

NETFLIX SYNOPSIS:  This double dose of horror capitalizes on our fears of apocalyptic destruction. In Panic in Year Zero (1962), a tight-knit Los Angeles family flees their home just before the city is hit by a hydrogen bomb. In The Last Man on Earth (1964) — a film that’s said to have inspired George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead — Vincent Price is the only human left alive after a deadly global plague turns its victims into vampires.

REVIEW:  PANIC IN YEAR ZERO is pure cold-war, nuclear-holocaust exploitation fun, with a young Frankie Avalon and his family (Ray Milland, a poor man’s John Wayne, plays dad and directs) escaping Los Angeles when a nuclear missile hits.  The family heads for the hills, living in survivalist mode, fighting off crazed neighbors, including some hipster thugs that look like the inspiration for the motorcycle gang in Avalon’s later Beach Party movies.  Parts of the story are hilariously preposterous and the technical aspects of the film are typical for B-Movies of the era.

The real meat of this double-sided, double-feature disc is THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, which is the original and most faithful film version of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (Matheson co-wrote the screenplay under the pseudonym Logan Swanson).  Vincent Price plays the sole surviving human after a plague turns the rest of the world’s human population into vampires. The vampires act more like zombies, and in fact the film is often credited as the first modern zombie film, an obvious inspiration for George Romero’s genre-defining Night of the Living Dead.  Last Man is still B-Movie fare, with Rome filling in not-so-capably for Los Angeles, and plenty of goofy dialogue (Price’s voice-over is particularly irritating and often unnecessary) and poor editing. There’s an interesting brief (6-minute) interview with Matheson in the special features section, but watch the film first since the interview does contain spoilers.

3.5 stars
HAWK

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Posted on February 9, 2008, in 3.5 stars, Classics, Horror and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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