While on a fishing trip, Harry Baldwin (Ray Milland) and his family hear an explosion and realize that Los Angeles has been leveled by a nuclear attack. Looters and killers are everywhere. Escaping to the hills with his family, he sets about the business of surviving in a world where, he knows, the old ideals of humanity will be first casualties. Not one to give up, he holds up a store for supplies and hides the family in a cave.
Ray Milland ... Harry Baldwin
Jean Hagen ... Ann Baldwin
Frankie Avalon ... Rick Baldwin
Mary Mitchel ... Karen Baldwin
Joan Freeman ... Marilyn Hayes
Richard Bakalyan ... Carl
Rex Holman ... Mickey
Richard Garland ... Ed Johnson
Willis Bouchey ... Dr. Powell Strong (as Willis Bouchet)
Neil Nephew ... Andy
O.Z. Whitehead ... Hogan
Russ Bender ... Harkness
Director: Ray Milland
Codecs: XVid / MP3
One's expectations for an early-60s B movie from American International Pictures are never very high. But this movie was a surprisingly well thought out & thought-provoking story.
Just as a family has left LA for a vacation in the woods, the US suffers a massive nuclear attack on all its major cities from, uh, an unnamed enemy. (Wink wink...) But you won't find any marauding mutants here. In fact this film isn't about nuclear war per se. It really wants to explore the nature of civilized society. The father, well portrayed by Ray Milland, is grimly determined to protect his family at all costs for as long as it takes for order & civil authority to be restored, which he's sure will be a long time coming.
The father is a good man, but a little paranoid & controlling. This probably wouldn't be noticeable in normal times, but now they're in a panicked rush to escape the LA metro area & gather enough supplies to last for months in the wilderness - ahead of all the other people who are starting to clog up the freeways & empty out the grocery stores along the escape route. The contradiction between following the rules & protecting your loved ones in desperate times is very effectively illustrated as he makes some reckless decisions along the way.
Normally for a low budget 60's film like this, I wouldn't even bother thinking about how it could've been improved. But since it's so good at presenting a major moral dilemma in a realistic way, think of these nits as a sign of respect: Milland's character could use a little more introspection, but of course so could a lot of early 60's dads! (Not that Milland's performance was wooden - it was great. But his character had a very constricted personality.) His wife could use a little more assertiveness. She actually realizes this, and explains that she's still in shock over the attack - but after Sept. 11 a lot of us understand that after a good catharsis we can deal with a lot of trauma that initially would immobilize us. After having a good cry, she could've acted as a better conscience for some of the father's more paranoid acts. Also the daughter's character needed some fleshing out.
But of course this is an early 60's film, and clearly made on a low budget. And given its time & budget it is an amazing gem of a film. Definitely one to seek out!
Sadly, after his best actor Oscar for "The Lost Weekend" Milland never really got a good role again, except for Hitchcock's "Dial M for Murder." But he worked steadily and was never less than very good, even in turkeys like "The Man with X-ray Eyes." Milland fans should not miss his work in this low-budget survival drama.
The premise is that Milland, his wife and two teenage kids (one of whom is Frankie Avalon, short enough to be a credible teenager) get an early start on a vacation in the mountains east of LA. Before sunup LA is destroyed by nuclear bombs, and the movie kicks into high gear and stays there. Milland quickly takes charge of the situation with a cynical foresight which eventually saves his family and him during the breakdown of civilization.
Though he is a basically good man, he intuits that morality will be a relative concept during this disaster and acts accordingly: he apologetically but ruthlessly holds up a hardware store to supply himself; he tries (but is foiled by wife Jean Hagen) to blow away a carload of teen ruffians intent on raping the womenfolk; he causes a traffic pile up in order to get where he's going, and then covers his tracks into the mountains; grimmest of all, he coolly shoots the teen age hooligans (the same we saw earlier) after they have raped his daughter. (Believe me, they deserve it.)
Given the era in which this picture was made, it has to end on hope. It does. Civilization starts to return but only with the help of Army machine guns (more cynicism). All in all, this is a gritty, tightly plotted picture you can't turn away from. Check it out.