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.