This is Weapons of Mass Destruction week. The Atomic Cafe is currently available on instant Netflix.
WATCH: The Atomic Cafe (1982) – NR – Not rated.
“A chilling and often hilarious reminder of Cold War-era paranoia in the United States, this film artfully compiles newsreel footage, government archives, military training films and 1950s music into a singular cinematic experience. Also covered are Washingtons Communist witch hunt, the historic trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and the sagely prophetic comments of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.”
“Be sure to include tranquilizers to ease the strain and monotony of life in a fallout shelter. A bottle of 100 should be sufficient for a family of four. Tranquilizers are not a narcotic, and are not habit-forming.”
“To find out who is American and who is a low-down Red.”
“Watched from a distance, this is one of the most beautiful sights known to man.”
WOW! The footage in this documentary is simply amazing. The awe-inspiring atomic blast footage is interspersed with vintage interviews, horrific aftermath video and absolutely hilarious cold war propaganda.
The Atomic Cafe begins with onscreen text describing the setting of the pre-atomic era. They then show, without narration or interview, footage of the Alamagordo testing. For the most part, the rest of the film follows chronologically.
Devastating video of the Nagasaki destruction is played while vintage comedians joke over how big the blast was. There is vintage footage and audio of the Rosenbergs and descriptions of their execution.
On the humorous side, we have the requisite duck and cover footage. There is a homemade radiation suit (now with shredded lead to absorb those atomic rays!). Do not miss the radioactive tuna fish!
The audio is as much of a delight as the video. There are innumerable small interviews from the eras depicted (no modern interviews) and they are often played with video directly contradicting the audio statements. The soundtrack of vintage songs, many of the political and jingoistic, are hysterical.
Video quality, as should be expected, is all over the map but is generally very good. A lot of the source material appears to have been cleaned up to the extent it can.
I highly recommend this absolutely fascinating look at the dawn of the nuclear age. The directors craft this film without any additional commentary – all audio, video, stills, and music are vintage.
People Watch: Look for a cornucopia of our previous Presidents in archival footage.