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The Atomic Cafe
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Excellent!!! Very entertaining and humorous. Includes all sorts of ridiculous songs, propaganda films, and common beliefs from the time. Read morePublished on Aug. 28 2003 by Pollyessster
I bought this to use the media off of it. This offers a lot of it!! Everything you want to see, that is. Read morePublished on Sept. 17 2002 by Matt
Before Peter Kuran and his special effects magic on old atomic films, there was "The Atomic Café. Read morePublished on April 25 2002 by Jason N. Mical
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 morePublished on April 6 2002
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 morePublished on April 3 2002
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 morePublished on March 27 2002 by The Yellow
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 morePublished on March 15 2002 by timothy hilliard
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