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PANIC IN YEAR ZERO (1962) This post-nuke survival story features Ray Milland (he also directed) as an average middle-class American father who fights to protect his family from pillagers, rapists, and murderers. Forced into brutal resourcefulness and often required to make snap moral decisions, the real challenge that Milland and family face is the struggle to maintain their traditional values in the face of chaos. Yes, it's one of many SF-ish cold-war dramas, but what sets this one apart from others is Jay Simms and John Morton's intelligent script, which is gritty and relentlessly unsentimental. Unfortunately, it is somewhat hindered by Milland's mediocre direction and often stilted performance, but it's still a better-than-average flick. And it's refreshing to see Frankie Avalon--who here does a fine job playing Milland's son--in a setting other than a beach. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) This first cinematic incarnation of Richard Matheson's novel I AM LEGEND--the second was the 1971 Charlton Heston vehicle THE OMEGA MAN--features Vincent Price as the sole survivor of a global pandemic that has transformed the rest of mankind into vampire-like zombies. While more loyal to the novel than the Heston film, the pace is often excruciatingly slow. Still, Price's performance is as entertaining as ever, and the scenes that flashback to the origin of the plague are very well done and chock full of grim imagery. Worth a look if for no other reason than to see why George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) is often compared to it.

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The two-sided disc from MGM offers both movies their original 2.35:1 widescreen format (enhanced for 16x9 TVs), and the digital transfers are beautiful (especially THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, which far outshines the cut-rate DVD releases already floating around). Each flick is paired with its theatrical trailer, and THE LAST MAN ON EARTH also includes a cool featurette in which co-scripter Matheson explains why he was unhappy with the final script and chose to be credited using a pseudonym.

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MG1006770 Panic in the Year Zero/Last Man On Earth DVD (1962/Ray Milland/1964/Vincent Price) $9.98