Thursday, October 27, 2005

PANIC IN YEAR ZERO / THE LAST MAN ON EARTH

What looks to be the last gasp of MGM's "Midnight Movies" line (these discs were originally supposed to ship last Spring) has hit the shelves, and among them the post-Apocalyptic double bill of PANIC IN YEAR ZERO/THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1962/1964).

PANIC IN YEAR ZERO stars and is directed by acclaimed actor Ray Milland, who, with an obviously meager bankroll, manages to craft a tense, grim little thriller. Although naive about the realities of an all out nuclear war, the film does a good job of examining how fragile most peoples' veneer of civilization is when faced with catastrophe. Great performances from the entire cast, including pop idol Frankie Avalon as Milland's teenage son, help the viewer maintain the necessary suspension of disbelief.

MGM provides a perfectly balanced B&W transfer in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, and it is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Sound is in the original mono, but the dialogue is clear and the intentionally ironic, upbeat jazz score is quite robust. The original theatrical trailer is also included.

LAST MAN ON EARTH is the first film adaptation of Richard Matheson's classic novel, I am Legend (predating the 1971 Charlton Heston vehicle, THE OMEGA MAN by nearly a decade), and stars a genuine film legend in the titular role: none other than the incomparable Vincent Price.

The film follows the book fairly faithfully with Price as the last normal human man on a plague-ridden Earth overrun by vampires. Price gives a somber, subdued performance thankfully devoid of his trademark ham, and the low budget filming in Italy conveys the post-Apocalyptic setting adequately.

MGM provides another solid B&W transfer in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio, and it is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Sound is in the original mono. This is by far the best version of this movie available on DVD. Avoid "budget label" versions of this great flick, as they're often framed incorrectly or derived from poor-quality TV prints.

Two better than average Atom Age gems for one low price. Highly recommended.

BUY: Panic in Year Zero/The Last Man on Earth