Monday, June 7, 2010
Ray Milland, Bryan Cranston
There was a movie years ago called Panic in the Year Zero, 1962. American International Pictures. A tale of survival and sex slavery. Directed by and starring Ray Milland.
A family goes on a camping trip. Ray Milland, his wife, Jean Hagen, and his children, Mary Mitchell and Frankie Avelon.
Good thing they brought guns.
They're heading out and there are some odd reports on the radio, I don't remember. But they stop and get out of the car, look back and see a large mushroom cloud where Los Angeles was supposed to be.
Ray Milland instantly turns survivalist.
Cars are streaming out of LA. The traffic is rather heavy. They can't pull onto the road---there are too many cars! They won't stop and let them in!
So Ray Milland and Frankie grab a can of gasoline. They toss it into the road and set a large fire giving them time to merge.
The family hides out in a cave. Mary is taken prisoner and held as a sex slave by some young fellows, if I recall correctly. Ray Milland and Frankie Avalon kill them.
Milland turns instantly into an animal! He's willing to do whatever he has to survive. He doesn't care who suffers! He'll cause a massive pile-up on the road if it will allow him and his family to safely merge! He robs a small general store when the owner hears about the nuclear war and starts price gouging.
As one critic pointed out, Ray Milland was little better than the thugs who killed people and kept his daughter as a sex slave.
On Malcolm in the Middle he was a very nice man consumed with love for his horrible wife and children.
On Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston starts out as a mild mannered high school science teacher. His DEA agent brother-in-law thinks he's a wimp.
But when he finds out he's terminally ill, Cranston decides to start producing methamphetamine so he'll be able to leave money for his family.
And he gradually gets worse. More and more violent and depraved as he gets deeper and deeper into his work.
I guess the point here is to contrast the instantaneous change Ray Milland went through. A nuclear attack and, POW!, he's a cruel heartless survivalist.
Bryan Cranston goes into the meth business thinking he can remain a nice guy. But there's no way to avoid certain things. There's a guy. They hold him prisoner. They don't want to kill him, but what else can they do?
He also seems to become distant from his wife and son. He works with one of his former students who he learned was a drug dealer. He's closer to him than to his own teenage son who begins to seem rather childish in comparison.
I don't know which is more realistic.
My guess is that someone changing from good to evil would probably be more like---
Like teenagers. They don't gradually drift from being immature children to being mature adults. It's like the changing of the guards. The new guards arrives. The old guard goes away. But for a moment or two, both guards are there at the same time.
Teenagers make the transition like that. They act like children half the time. They act like adults the other half. If they're lucky, the adult half gradually takes over.