Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Not long after Ray Milland and his family have left their suburban Los Angeles home for a fishing vacation at a cabin in the woods, the Commies drop bombs on L.A., New York, and other freedom-loving cities around the world. After deciding not to turn around and fight the traffic heading out of the city to check on Grandma, the family heads to the woods; along the way, they witness small incidents indicating the unraveling of civilized behavior (theft and thuggish mayhem). While trying to horde supplies, Milland himself winds up stealing from a hardware store, though he insists he’ll pay the owner back—good intentions make it OK? They get to the campground, tear down a bridge so others can’t follow, and set up house in a cave. Soon, the hardware store guy shows up, as do the thugs they saw on the road, who have more mayhem on their minds.

This Cold War-era sci-fi-ish thriller has potential, but its low budget gets in the way. There are practically no special effects, though the first shot of the sky brightening when the bomb drops is effective. A post-apocalypse vibe is clearly intended, but it all feels a bit like a Gilligan's Island kind of apocalypse, partly due to the presence of Frankie Avalon, just before he hit pay dirt with the American International "Beach" movies, as Milland’s son. Don’t get me wrong, Avalon is actually surprisingly good in the part, but along with mom Jean Hagan (who spent years playing the mom on Make Room for Danny), the ho-hum black & white cinematography, and the suburban woods setting, it all feels very bland and made-for-TV. Most of the budget seems to have been spent on one trashed suburban street set used briefly late in the film. The teenage daughter, Mary Mitchel, is very wooden and didn’t have much of a career after the 60s. Even the actors playing the thugs don’t feel very threatening (though they do kidnap and rape). The loud, jazzy score gives the drab proceedings a jumped-up feeling for a while, but the music gets wearisome. Love the title, though. Milland directed, with little distinction. Michael Bay should re-make this one with blood, sex, and CGI galore. [TCM]

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