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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

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Duck, Cover, And Blow Away... March 12 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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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. Some of the footage of nuclear detonations is breath-taking, especially when placed into the perspective of the time.
The Atomic Cafe does a masterful job of weaving together news reports, government information films, public service announcements and dramas from World War II right up through the Cold War of 1982. It's interesting to watch the sometimes frightening, sometimes naive and sometimes even humorous moments that illustrate the American culture adapting to a world in which it had the ultimate destructive power (the atomic bomb), then lost the edge over the menacing Soviet Union, then developed an even more powerful weapon (the hydrogren bomb) and then saw the Soviets catch up yet again.
Some of the moments in the documentary are just classic, thanks to great footage but even more, awesome editing. For instance, one part shows a man looking at a newspaper and he says "well, at least we don't have to worry. We're the ones with the bomb!" Then there is a cut to someone stating that the Soviets now have the bomb.
Then there is the naivety: Another part shows an Army officer briefing a company of soldiers who will be deployed into a nuclear area shortly after a test detonation. He tells them that there is this "new" threat called "radiation", but that they won't have to worry about it too much. They then show these soldiers in their trenches immediately after the detonation and they stand up to see, while radioactive dirt and debris whooshes over them. A news reporter asks one of the soldiers: "Did you close your mouth?" The soldier answers, laughing: "No, I got a mouthful!"
If anything, the Atomic Cafe is a stark reminder of where we've been. It'll definitely be something interesting for my children to watch someday.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Movie - 5 Stars - DVD - 3 Stars - Average - 4 Stars April 25 2002
Before Peter Kuran and his special effects magic on old atomic films, there was "The Atomic Café." It's a psuedo-documentary (it's all pieces of old Civil Defense, nuclear testing, and government films cobbled together, with some newsreel footage to boot) by Jayne Loader and Kevin Rafferty (George W. Bush's cousin, who later added his talents to a little production called "Roger and Me.") The humor is dark (and funny) only in retrospect, as "The Atomic Café" explores some of the most insidious and stupid moments of the cold war.
It starts with the Manhattan Project and the effects of the Bomb on Japan, and segues right into the Rosenberg's trial and the insanity of McCarthyism. Next, you have the famous "duck and cover" films along with lesser-known civil defense stuff, including fallout shelter plans and so forth. There is little narration, and what you hear, comes from the Rosenberg's testimony, army technicians explaining how radiation can be avoided (yeah, right) and the viewer's own common sense, saying, "man, we really believed this hogwash once, and it helped us sleep better at night."
This new DVD presentation gives us the film in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with a two-channel stereo soundtrack. The print is decent, but as none of these old films were restored before compilation, there is grain and color loss throughout, but it's a problem with the source material, not the DVD itself (this is how Atomic Café was supposed to look). The sound is the biggest disappointment: Kuran was kind enough to give his Atomic films a dynamic 5.1 DD soundtrack, and Atomic Café sounds more like a radio broadcast than a DVD. Plus, there are zero extras to speak of. Normally, extras do not make a DVD (how many times are you going to watch them, anyway?
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars We're gonna live, live LIVE---IN MY FALLOUT SHELTER !!!
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. Read more
Published on Nov. 10 2007 by Matthew G. Sherwin
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining review of the "atomic" aspect cold war era
Excellent!!! Very entertaining and humorous. Includes all sorts of ridiculous songs, propaganda films, and common beliefs from the time. Read more
Published on Aug. 28 2003 by Pollyester
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Media Reference
I bought this to use the media off of it. This offers a lot of it!! Everything you want to see, that is. Read more
Published on Sept. 17 2002 by MZ
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 15 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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