• A Review Page For Those Movies You Watch At Home!

    Couch Potato Movie Reviews is, obviously, a blog that exclusively reviews movies. What makes this blog different is the fact that all of the films we are reviewing are all movies that are available on home movie rental companies such as Redbox, Netflix, Blockbuster, and your quickly disappearing neighborhood rental store. This blog is designed to take a more detailed look at those movies that either were sent straight to DVD, received a very limited release in the theaters, or were distributed through the art house or film festival circuit. We will also review those big Hollywood films, but only after they are available for home viewing.

    All the reviews are written by fans of the great art of film making rather than some newspaper reviewer or stuffy film student. We don’t know everything about film but we do know what we like, and we are more than happy to share our opinions with you. What you do with those opinions are totally up to you, although comments are welcome and encouraged.

    Each film review has a one to five star rating at the end of the critique. Here is what those star ratings mean for you couch potatoes:

    * * * * * : Five stars: go and buy this one, don’t just rent it!

    * * * * : Four stars: put this at the top of your rental list.

    * * * : Three stars: average, not bad just not great either.

    * * : Two stars: only rent if you have to see everything.

    * : One star: don’t waste your time with this.

Panic In Year Zero!

TITLE: Panic In Year Zero!

YEAR: 1962

GENRE: Science Fiction

Science fiction may be a view of the future, but more often than not it is a reflection of current society and issues. This was never true than the 1950’s and early 60’s when the Cold War influenced a slew of pictures around nuclear technology and the threat of nuclear annihilation which permeated every aspect of culture in that era. End of the world films—mostly from threats from out of this world—were abundant but most of them were from poverty row studios and have been swept away into the annals of Cold War history. Panic In Year Zero! is an apocalyptic film that has stayed relevant and is a quality view for fans of earlier science fiction.

Harry Baldwin (played by Ray Milland) and his wife Ann (Jean Hagan) take their children Rick (Frankie Avalon) and Karen (Mary Mitchel) on a fishing trip to escape the big city of Los Angeles. After leaving the city limits for their idyllic weekend a nuclear holocaust happens that leaves the City of Angels in glowing ruins. Without a home and now living in a chaotic situation, the Baldwin family is forced to devolve into survival mode. They rob a grocery store at gunpoint and decide to hide out in the hills of California in a cave in the side of a mountain. The family is not safe however: numerous less than desirable people are attacking their new humble abode especially Karen who becomes the target of a bunch of marauding thugs who rape her. How does a suburban family survive the end of civilization?

First of all just because Panic In Year Zero! is an older film does not mean that it is a family event and viewing for everybody. This is a fairly depressing film as the Baldwin family is mentally and physically assaulted at every turn, plus it is interesting how the All-American family will perform acts such as robbery and murder when their existence is threatened. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is explored here with some degree of success as the family goes into survival mode and is only concerned with food and shelter. The fear of the unknown is also explored especially when the teenagers argue about whether or not the canned foods they stole may be radioactive, and the argument that Milland has with a gas station attendant over $3 per gallon gasoline is comical considering petroleum is north of $4 per gallon as of this writing yet in the 1960’s that would have been ten times what people would have paid for gas. Milland and Hagan are pretty good as the concerned parents who will do literally anything to help their children survive the apocalypse; as for the children the acting is a mixed bag as Avallon is not so stellar in his first drama. One aspect of Panic In Year Zero! that is a complete miss is the horrendous soundtrack by Lex Baxter which is some acid jazz and does not fit into the somber mood of the film at all.

Milland had an extraordinary acting career but was limited in the directing profession, and Panic In Year Zero! is his best film. Panic In Year Zero! is an interesting look at the end of the world with a combination of 1950’s optimism mixed with real life. Fans of post-apocalyptic films such as The Road Warrior will find Panic In Year Zero! an intriguing look at the evolution of the mentality of the end of the world film and how the attitude of society at the time reflects in the movies of the same era. Panic In Year Zero! is absolutely worth watching but loses a half-star due to probably the worst soundtrack I have heard in a  long time that adds nothing to the atmosphere of the production. This film is mainly available as a double feature with Vincent Price’s The Last Man On Earth, a quality end of the world film as well, and is worthy of playing as a double feature at home with friends.

* * * 1/2

–Mark

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