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Atomic Cafe

Paul Tibbets , Harry S. Truman , Jayne Loader , Kevin Rafferty    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
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The atomic bomb changed the world forever, and this wonderful film shows how Americans expressed wonder over atomic weapons and then suffered from the pervasive fear that America would be on the receiving end of a Soviet nuclear attack. Atomic Cafe is a brilliant compilation of archival film clips beginning with the first atomic bomb detonation in the New Mexico desert. The footage, much of it produced as government propaganda, follows the story of the bomb through the two atomic attacks on Japan that ended World War II to the bomb's central role in the cold war. Shown along with the famous "duck and cover" Civil Defense films are lesser-known clips, many of which possess a bizarre black humor when seen today, and it's easy to see why this film, which was produced in the early 1980s, became a cult classic sometimes referred to as the "nuclear Reefer Madness." Bellicose congressmen are shown advocating a freewheeling policy of nuclear strikes against China during the Korean War, suburban families are shown enjoying the comforts of their bomb shelters, and footage of a boy trying to bicycle to a bomb shelter in a "bomb survival suit" his father designed is priceless. Atomic Cafe is at once clever and poignant, a canny and offbeat look at a significant period in American history. --Robert J. McNamara

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Most helpful customer reviews
The Atomic Cafe gives us an excellent look at the development of the atomic bomb, the H bomb and the repercussions it had on the world, including America. Although some parts provide black humor, I saw things like the "duck and cover" scenes as being symptomatic of a time when people truly thought America could at any time come under nuclear attack by its arch enemy, the former Soviet Union.

The film begins with the test detonation of an atom bomb in the desert of New Mexico and proceeds roughly chronologically to tell the story of how the atom bomb helped to end World War II. We get footage of the bomb's mushroom cloud after it was dropped on Hiroshima; and there is a plethora of footage and film clips from the era regarding how government taught Americans to think about the bomb as the tool to destroy all our enemies. We also see much paranoia fueling these government films which are often little more than poorly disguised propaganda films of the day.

However, a closer look reveals the absolute obsession Americans experienced about the threat of the Soviet Union to rob them of their "American dream." Communism was fought against vigorously--not just in Congress but in the form of protest marches, films churned out by the American government and radio and TV talk shows of the day. I could not help but feel sympathy for people who genuinely believed that at any moment an enemy like the Soviet Union could destroy almost all of Los Angeles, Minneapolis or New York. I remember how I myself had those fears at times when I was a young boy.

Overall, the footage and the pace of the documentary provide us with excellent insight about how Americans thought and dealt with the newborn atomic age during tough times; and this film held my attention well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Duck, Cover, And Blow Away... March 13 2004
Yep, get those fallout shelters dug and those lead suits pressed! It's time for THE ATOMIC CAFE! Culled from archival footage and spliced together to make the best presentation of the nuclear nightmare I've ever seen. Watch as politicians talk about the benefits and wonders of the hydrogen bomb! See ordinary folks being lulled to sleep by official propoganda! Listen to the military brass tell their troops about the minor threat of the live nuke test they are about to experience up close! Hear the pure balogna told to the poor natives of the Bikini atoll, just before the test blast that would bring tons of radiation raining down on their smiling heads! This is more than a movie, it's a damning slice of history. Nothing gets across the vastness of our own insanity like our own words and actions! The atomic age becomes the atomic culture as we live in fear of the russians and the bomb. Most of the statements by politicians and military types are so ridiculous, it's as though they were scripted by Mel Brooks! The true horror of this movie lies in it's presentation of real people saying and doing irrational, stupid things. Watch it and tremble...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, sobering, shocking, pacifist Oct. 26 2003
With a clever montage of 1940s/1950s news clips and Civil Defense and military training films overlaid with off-beat contemporary songs about The Bomb, the creators of THE ATOMIC CAFE produced a film that will amaze the post-Cold War generation and cause those who lived during that period to ask, "Could that be us?"
This docu-drama begins with the Trinity atomic test blast in New Mexico in 1945, then proceeds through the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent atomic test at Bikini atoll. With the acquisition of the A-bomb by the Soviets in 1949 - my birth year - and the Korean War, the film gets into the meat of the piece, which is a visual commentary on the paranoia about the Red Menace and Nuclear Armageddon which gripped the United States during Eisenhower's two terms as President.
THE ATOMIC CAFE is alternately funny, sobering, and shocking. Funny, as when Kruschev and Nixon verbally joust in a comedic Tricky Dick and Nicky routine during the former's visit to the States. And the training films depicting citizens, singly and in large groups, on the streets and in schools, doing the "duck and cover" drill in response to the hypothetical Big One. Sobering, as when a priest discusses the merits of excluding non-family members from your personal bomb shelter. (In a departure from Christian charity, he was all for it.) Or the message given to Army troops assigned to the near vicinity of test explosions, which was that in a real atomic war it would be the blast that kills them, not the radiation. And shocking, as when we see the disfiguring burns and blisters affecting the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the pigs exposed to subsequent test detonations in the desert Southwest.
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Format:VHS Tape
Excellent!!! Very entertaining and humorous. Includes all sorts of ridiculous songs, propaganda films, and common beliefs from the time. From kids trying to ride bikes in lead suits, to families throwing their lunch and crawling under their picnic blankets for protection from nuclear blast. A must see!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Media Reference Sept. 17 2002
I bought this to use the media off of it. This offers a lot of it!! Everything you want to see, that is. From people dressing in home-made fallout suits that are going to save you from the "big one" to the propaganda the government sent out. Of course, there are many pictures of the bomb and its effects also. It's even kid friendly, so you can show it in a high school class. I'm in high school, and I guarentee they'll at least look at it during class.
One note, though. I don't think the DVD is worth having over the VHS version. The only useful feature is scene selection, which can be good in a classroom but not real great for home viewing. That can be added to the fact that since this is all about old propaganda, there's little to no stereo in any of it anyway.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars America Adapts to a Nuclear World -- on film...
The Atomic Cafe is a cult classic Cold War documentary, focusing on the development and deployment of nuclear weapons from the perspective of the U.S. in 1982. Read more
Published on May 2 2002 by Jamie Wilson
4.0 out of 5 stars Movie - 5 Stars - DVD - 3 Stars - Average - 4 Stars
Before Peter Kuran and his special effects magic on old atomic films, there was "The Atomic Café. Read more
Published on April 25 2002 by Jason N. Mical
1.0 out of 5 stars Dr Strangelove without the creativity, script, etc.
This is a cult flick, won't argue it. It's also overly long, often boring and even though it's using no original material whatsoever, the juxtapositions and thematic polarization... Read more
Published on April 6 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars It's Finally on DVD!
I am gratified to see that this film is on DVD. Michael Weldon, author of The Psychotronic Film Guide, calls this the most important film ever made. Read more
Published on April 3 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing has changed!
As easy as it is to look back and laugh at the naivety of our nation some fifty-years ago, one still questions how far from that point have we come? Read more
Published on March 27 2002 by CormanFan
5.0 out of 5 stars Never did annihilation sound so cheerful !
Be prepared to roll on the floor with laughter.When you watch these excerpts from 50's government "educational" films,the only rational possible response to the inanity... Read more
Published on March 16 2002 by timothy hilliard
4.0 out of 5 stars the atomic cafe
I want to thiis dvd?
cloud you send me plesa?
Published on March 8 2002 by sebahat
5.0 out of 5 stars Good film
In their brilliant compilation film "Atomic Café", Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader and Pierce Rafferty reveal a dynamic disapproval of atomic warfare. Read more
Published on March 7 2002 by "venus5683"
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