[Nov. 15, 1962] Panic in Year One (the movie, This is not a Test)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

With nuclear bombers parked just 90 miles off the coast of Florida, and last month having seen the United States go to its highest military alert level since we were fighting the Japanese, its no wonder that The Bomb remains a popular cinematic topic.  In the last decade, most of the films that featured Our Enemy, the Atom starred horribly mutated monsters.  More recently, there has been a slew of films portraying a post-apocalyptic world, starting with On the Beach, including the excellent The World, The Flesh, and the Devil, and also the less than excellent The Last Woman on Earth.


This is a test… of your patience.

The most recent entry in this radioactive field is the Z-Movie This is not a Test.  Its “star” is Seamon Glass as Deputy Sheriff Colton, a lawman dispatched to establish a roadblock on a rural road at 4AM.  As the cars and trucks are detained, we learn that Colton is after a young murderer.  The manhunt is interrupted by a bulletin: A Yellow Alert; the nation is under attack, and missile impact is imminent.


Todd Stiles and Buzz Murdock as truck drivers…

After the first few minutes, the flood of vehicles abruptly stops, and we are left with our cast of characters.  There’s the estranged middle aged couple with a dog (the Young Traveler quickly dubbed it “Gertrude“).  There’s grandpa and his pretty, pious daughter.  There’s the rakish truck driver, in whose rig the murderer had been hitchhiking.  There’s the hip couple, just back from Vegas after having made it big.  Wrapping up the ensemble is the late-arriving young scooter driver with an intellectual mien and an amazing capacity for remembering all of his lines (and little else).


“Drink this, honey — it’ll help the movie go down.”

And so begins a sort of atomic 12 Angry Men, a one-set piece in which the interactions of the characters, such as they are, takes center stage.  Civilization breaks down in the sixty minutes prior to the Bomb’s fall.  The rake seduces the wife.  The milquetoast husband shoots himself rather than interfere.  The hipsters drink themselves silly.  The fugitive, clearly mentally challenged, makes a few languid ominous moves at the daughter…but mostly just wants his suitcase back.  The grandfather suddenly remembers the existence of an abandoned mineshaft and dispatches his daughter and the intellectual to it.


Our Kooky Kast.

The most interesting character is Colton, who is a moron and yet, by virtue of his position, in charge.  He orders the roadblocked travelers to give him their car keys, he smashes the liquour in the back of the truck (so as to keep people from drinking), and then directs the stranded civilians to empty the vehicle so that it can be used as a bomb shelter — though what good thin, above-ground metal walls will do is an open question.  Later, while panting in the hot bed of the truck, the Deputy decides to kill the puppy to conserve oxygen (yes, Gertrude dies in this film, too!)


This is the enemy.

At the film’s conclusion, looters show up and abscond with the wife.  The rest of the travelers close up the truck just before the bomb hits, leaving the criminal and the deputy out in the open.  Cue a bright flash and… The End.


And thus the movie ends as it began… with a whimper.

By any measure, This is not a Test is terrible, made on a shoestring, indifferently written, counterproductively acted.  Still, as bad as this movie clearly is, it does work.  Sort of.  It’s obvious within the first ten minutes that the only drama is that provided by the characters under increasing stress.  It’s strangely compelling and somehow keeps your interest from beginning to end.

Two stars.

And now for a view from the perspective of a teen: Young Traveler, take it away!


by Lorelei Marcus

You know what there aren’t enough of right now? Movies with people talking about what to do when a nuclear bomb hits! At least, that’s what the writers of This is Not a Test thought before writing this sorry excuse of a movie. That’s right, we’re back with another movie review, and this time the movie is really bad. Let’s start from the beginning.

This is Not a Test is about a group of people who get stranded on a mountain close to ‘ground zero’ just before the missiles hit. The entire movie is their discussion of how they will survive the blast. That’s it. Now this movie was made on a shoestring, so I can let some cheapness slide but the storytelling was just lazy! There was practically no plot! Sure there were a few conflicts here and there, but nothing I really cared about. “Oh no, that one guy’s wife is cheating on him. Oh no, that other girl’s dog died.” You’d think a movie about a nuclear bomb would manage to be a little bit thrilling, or even interesting, but I guess not.


“You think we’ll see the bomb?  Hear it?”  “Not on this budget…”

I think this movie is also made so much worse because we have an example of a really fantastic movie on this topic, also made on a low budget. Panic in Year Zero was an excellent film, made with little more than This is not a Test. It had a fascinating story, compelling characters, and thrilling conflicts. In fact, its as if someone saw Panic and said, “I want to make that… but worse!” It’s a bit uncanny how the events in Panic line up with the topics of discussion in Test so flawlessly. Hmm..


“Calling all cars.  Watch out for traffic jams and people pushing cars off roads.  We won’t show you, but you’ll hear about it.”

The plot wasn’t the worst part of the movie though. The entire movie had one set: an empty road on the side of some barren mountain. I’ve seen some very bad movies, but at least they gave me something to look at! For example, the movie Konga was one of the worst films I’ve seen, but at least it was awesome seeing the city getting destroyed by a giant ape! Instead, Test gives us a couple shots of a dirt hillside and some cars to look at for an hour and ten minutes.


“Kids, I just remembered that there’s an old mine nearby.  You might have to fight Ray Milland for it, though.”


A band of looters!  This isn’t anything like Panic in Year Zero

The acting was extremely dry, the story was unoriginal and terrible, and it was boring to look at too! The title might as well be This is Not a Film! I was thoroughly bored from beginning to end, and it was frankly a waste of (more than) an hour of my life. I give this movie 1 and a half stars.

This is The Young Traveler, signing off.




3 thoughts on “[Nov. 15, 1962] Panic in Year One (the movie, This is not a Test)”

  1. Thank you for the warning and the well written reviews. At least it came out at the right time of year, and with this turkey you don’t have to worry about the leftovers.

  2. I’m sure the pitch for this was “It’s Lifeboat, but with the bomb.” If only they’d had source material as good as John Steinbeck and actors like Tallulah Bankhead and William Bendix.

  3. I have to disagree a bit and say that, given this film’s extremely low budget and other obvious shortcomings, it did create a sense of tension for me.  I thought it was an earnest effort.

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