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The Atomic Caf̩ (1982) РDVD Review


Directed by: Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty & Pierce Rafferty

Released by: New Video Group
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A; presented in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Rent It

The first images you see in The Atomic Café are workers setting up the first atomic test. They handle a large metal ball that looks like it’s held together with duct tape and a prayer. It’s hard to believe this crude device will change the world by making it possible to destroy said world. But that small shiver up your spine after seeing the flash and billowing mushroom cloud is a good indication that your attitude has changed. And we have had The Bomb in our power for over fifty years. Imagine the reaction of those who saw this test for the first time. I doubt they knew all the changes The Bomb would bring.

[ad#longpost]The Atomic Café shows the viewer how America tried to handle this new power and responsibility from the end of WWII to the end of the 1950s. By showing us newsreels, Army training films, and other media of the time–it looks like we weren’t handling it all that well. We’re shown footage of how people (housewives, priests, and even Sen. Lloyd Bentsen) were in favor of using nuclear weapons in Korea and nuking the Commies. We’re shown how townspeople near an atomic test site in Nevada simply went indoors when fallout was blowing their way. And of course we get the infamous “Duck and Cover” film.

Throughout we get the message that the Communists are evil and we need The Bomb to protect freedom and democracy. Of course the government was running Communist witch-hunts and telling people not to worry and just buy stuff and build those bomb shelters. And you have to wonder about the government when they had troops walk into the fallout of a just-exploded Atom Bomb to see what would happen. This either suggests terminal stupidity or just not giving a damn about those soldiers–but it’s probably both. This documentary is very one sided, in favor of the anti-nuke camp. But it is very effective nonetheless. The directors wisely didn’t use a narrator and only added several relevant folk songs to add to the images we see. Seeing a small child trying to ride a bicycle in an anti-radiation suit speaks for itself.

While this DVD release was timed for its 20th anniversary, there are no added features on this disc. That’s irritating. It would have been nice to have some commentary from the directors about what it was like to sift through all this archival footage, how the response to this movie is different now from its initial release in ’82, and what we can learn from this period of history, especially with the “War on Terror” going on. Watching the film will give you the chills on occasion, but be thankful we didn’t have to live those times of fear, uncertainty, and the threat of destruction.

Wait a minute………

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