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Plot: A compilation of 1960's films about what to do in case of a Nuclear attack and the effects of radiation, also footage of troop tests of the exposure to an atomic bomb. Written by Michael Edwards Runtime: 86 min Release Date: 29 Oct 1982
For anyone who enjoys a real sense about times in history that they have not lived through, this is an excellent film. I had no idea how the dawning of the atomic age changed American culture. For an interesting continuance of the paranoid atomic era, check out Bowling for Columbine. Both Atomic Cafe and Bowling for Columbine discuss the "Culture of Fear" that is America.Some of the content in the Atomic Cafe is completely shocking, which serves its purpose as a poignant exposé into one of the darker periods of America's if not the world's history . A must see. You'll <more>
The fact that this is true makes this short film scary and worrying...but doesn't stop it from being very entertaining and funny. The pieces of real life propaganda are amazing and it's often hard to believe that it's all true.However remember that all of the snipets of film are cut and pasted together with music added over the top, so everything you see isn't exactly as it seems... it's propaganda on propaganda...and highly entertaining. A must see for any one interested in American History, Propaganda, or just wanting a good sorry laugh.
Duck and Cover (by brokaw-1)
This is an excellent documentary regarding the development, use, and impact of nuclear weapons during WWI. Very insightful. It is quite a commentary on how society viewed the new technology without an understanding of its radiation effects. I especially enjoy the part where the describe 'duck and cover' and how the students used to have to duck when they saw the flash. Now we know just ducking and covering will not save you from the radiation, but there they say there are three things to watch for flash, heat, and radiation. It is also interesting to view the impact created through <more>
the development of the Cold War era and its lasting implications for our own world today. Consider Iran for example. By viewing this documentary, you will have a clearer understanding of how the atomic bomb has done and can do.
Documentary, w/o latter day interpretation (by elwinter)
I saw The Atomic Cafe in a theater when it was first released. Someone exclaimed derogatorily as they walked out on it. But I thought it was brilliant. Sort of a sub-genre of documentary, this one had no commentary, narrative or explanations for the material presented. No retroactive interviews with those who were there. It relied 100% on archival materials.A few years back, I visited the Trinity Site here in New Mexico on the 50th anniversary of the first test of the bomb. Quite a few of those who were somehow involved back then and still living turned up for the event. So I did get to <more>
hear some hindsight comments. Definitely different than what was being said back then, and such commentary could have really changed the picture.This is a rare approach, and therefore thought provoking. One can argue that the choice of material, editing and music track impose some interpretation, and there may be something to that. Although it's unlikely that one could turn the story into something really different unless latter-day, hindsight interviews were added to provide a different spin.Being a "Baby Boomer", I was born during the times depicted in the movie, and have some early memories of them. For those who were alive in that time, it's fascinating to see how it tweaks your memory. I, for one, didn't think deep thoughts about the "duck and cover" drills at school - it was just another thing that got us out of our seats, like fire drills and recess. But it does tweak memory, to bring back things not thought of for many years. Interesting to consider how one's own memory is incomplete, wanders, can be influenced, etc. Now, re-read Orwell's 1984. Brilliant, and disturbing. Interesting to consider in light of current events spring 2003 .
With no narration other than that provided by historical clips, this movie justly states how ludicrous the idea of nuclear war was, and is. The producers of this film spent years going through declassified governmental film archives to find some of the most chilling, and hilarious, footage ever taken. It also tells how the US government screwed over the Bikini Islanders, and has some fine coverage of the spoon-feeding of propaganda to the US public through the 40's and 50's.A great movie for just a laugh, or for some interesting historical perspective on a unique time in the recent US <more>
past. I loved the clip of the guy who invented a lead-lined suit, put it on his son, and then had him try to ride a bike. Could we have possibly been this gullible just a few decades ago? Can you say "duct tape and plastic sheeting"?Duck and cover everyone!
I could watch this movie again and again. If you remember the days when we were all terrified of impending nuclear war with the Soviet Union, this puts your half-remembered anxieties and prejudices in perspective. There's rare archive footage of the first nuclear bombs being primed and detonated. There's stomach churning archive footage about the execution of the Rosenbergs for espionage. And the now hilarious footage about how civilians should protect themselves against the bomb. Makes fun of politicians and broadcasters, and leaves you feeling that you've learned something and <more>
shocking, horrifying, and absolutely riveting (by Jonny_Numb)
The documentary "The Atomic Cafe" is a carefully-edited film composed entirely of newsreel footage, military- and defense-industry propaganda, and authoritative, cheerful narration. It is also billed as a "dark comedy" by some of the critics on the video box, but the movie itself--about the disinformation and manufactured paranoia spread by our government, military, and corporations during the creation and testing of the Atomic Bomb--is a horrifying, riveting, and extremely clever commentary on hypocrisy, mental manipulation, and the speculation that is so often passed off <more>
as "truth" in this country. "Freedom of speech" is only presented as acceptable when it coincides with the ruling party; actors in army propaganda films embarrassingly reading off of cue cards; the antiseptic 1950s vision of the nuclear family in their cozy fallot shelters; the absurd, frightening claim that fallout from an A-Bomb is only about as harmful as a nosebleed. And, as can be expected, country music is the official cheerleader for all that happens on-screen. These are very powerful images that made my mind reel--especially considering I wasn't even alive during the Atomic Age--and made me wonder about disinformation then compared to disinformation now.The execution of "The Atomic Cafe" is exceedingly clever--the since-dismissed hypocrisy of the images presented are shown for what they were--manufactured fear, a reason to hate, and a tried-and-true method of keeping the population in place. I couldn't help but recall Michael Moore's documentaries and Jello Biafra's commentaries in watching this film. It has an eerie resonance, especially considering the outright lies and scheming being fed to us under the guise of "national security" in the wake of September 11, that makes it not only sobering and terrifying, but bleakly prophetic, as well. "The Atomic Cafe" is an informative true-life horror film that caught me completely off guard.8/10
THE ATOMIC CAFE is one of those few rare documentaries that doesn't have a narrator or a framing figure . All it consists of are clips in a chronological order of the history of the atomic bomb and of the early stages of the geo-political situation of what became known as " The Cold War " which was the direct result of the bomb . There's two ways of looking at this . One is the subject matter is a little bit dry and absurd and the second point of view of view is that the audience are allowed to make up there own mind and it's somewhat refreshing to see a documentary that <more>
doesn't involve someone bludgeoning the audience over the head while sticking their opinions down their throat in a painfully smug and snide manner . You can tell this wasn't made by Michael Moore One wonders what life was like in a pre-nuclear age ? I remember the cold war in the 1980s and the paranoia of that era was chilling , so much so that for people of my generation still refer to the 1984 BBC docu-drama THREADS as the most terrifying thing they have ever seen . That said it could also be argued that if it wasn't for the bomb then a conventional war that would have surpassed the death toll of the second world war might have broken out between 1945 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 . Reagen in The White House and Brezhnev in the Kremlin ? Not really a recipe for peace and the fact that nuclear weapons are so terrible to contemplate probably focused the minds of world leadersBeing an American documentary all the clips are from an American point of view with an exception of a clip that's almost certainly from an early edition of PANORAMA from the BBC . This is a pity because I would liked to have seen what sort of propaganda if any the USSR was producing at the same time . That said the old cliché of " Americans don't understand irony " is evident as someone praises the virtues of American freedom " because we have shopping malls that are full of food and clothes and most families can afford cars " . I think someone is confusing system of government with economics .As I write this in 2014 China has shopping malls full of food and clothes and the Chinese people can afford to drive cars . The difference is there's no democratic system of government in China so democracy and capitalism are not the one and the same thing , but I guess that clip is to illustrate the inherent absurdity of propaganda ? Likewise we get clips of real life footage of American servicemen being used to test the effects of being caught in an atomic blast " There's nothing to worry about " and of relaxing should your city be caught up in a nuclear war . Did someone say " Absurd ? " One very interesting point that is often talked about by the CND mob is in relation to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as in " Why didn't the Americans drop the bombs in a remote unpopulated area of Japan to force their surrender ? " I've often thought that myself and am unable to give a counter argument to that question . Here we see an interview with Paul Tibbets the pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima who goes in to some detail - it's because these cities were untouched by arial bombing and the American government wanted to study the effects on a bombed city after the war had ended . Some people might think this is amoral or cruelly cynical but you can make up your own mind as to morality during wartime and THE ATOMIC CAFE does allow the audience to think for themselves no matter what the opinions of this documentary's producers are . In that respect it's very refreshing
The Atomic Café was a blast to watch. (by ironhorse_iv)
The idea of combining film from various sources to make something new is a controversial issue. Some people thinks it's stealing; while other people believe collage films like this, are masterpieces of film novelty. In my opinion, I'm one, for the latter argument since many of these propaganda films, TV programs, army and military training films, advertisements, film strips, newsreels, cartoons, government archival film, documentaries, civil defense films, anti-nuclear footage, public service announcements, educational films, and commercial stock footage are in the public domain. So I <more>
really doubt, any of this, is considered as stealing in the modern term. Then, there are those critics that says, that films like this, undermining the original message, in which, the original film footage was trying to tell. While, it's true, I haven't saw, many of these film archives on their own, before in my life; so, I wouldn't know, what their original intention were really about, however, I do love, the way, this movie consistent edit all of those found footage from disparate sources into one film to prove that life in the 'Atomic Age' was somewhat comical, despite the era being ride with paranoia, anxiety and misapprehension. I saw, 'the Atomic Café' as a funny, but also an eerily look into the nostalgia of 1940-1960s Cold War. The film's satire shines best, and most vividly in the clever image splicing of the cheerful 1952's animation film, 'Duck and Cover', with that the misinform 'Army Training Videos', which state out, soldiers and Bikini islanders would be alright to return to destructive bomb sites, without getting much radiation. Its shows, how inexperienced and naïve people still were, after ten to 20 years after the horrors of the nuclear bombing of the Japanese towns of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, during World War 2. I know, it's a bit hypocritical to laugh at people from yesteryear, when we still, repeating some of the same mistakes, in today's world, but some of the examples, I brought up, here, are just too hilarious, not to give a few chuckles. The movie is just way too entertaining. In my opinion, I thought that directors, Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty and Pierce Rafferty and their team of film editors and researchers did a great job. After all, this movie was made in the early 1980s; where old film footages isn't as easy to find, as it is, today's work. There was no internet, back then, to share film files with; every film archive had to be search and noted for similarities. I heard, that makers of The Atomic Cafe sifted through thousands of feet of Army films, newsreels, government propaganda films and old television broadcasts to come up with 86 minutes of material for their movie. That's pretty impressive at the time. It's also remarkable that all of this, is presented without any new talking narration, or talking-head interviews to push the narrative along. Even, the vintage songs match, the era in which this movie, is trying to portray. It was very whimsical and yet so razor-sharp accuracy. No wonder, why this movie took five years to make. I just surprised that this documentary wasn't nominated for Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1982; because it should had. If the movie had any faults; it's the lack of seeing what the views of the Soviet Union was going through, during that same era. I know, Soviet Union film footage and newsreels is hard to come back, at that time; but just think, if this movie had some of those. It would make a more well-rounded film. I would love to see more scenes like the 1959's Kitchen Debate, between Vice President, Richard Nixon & Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev or something similar to that. Another fault of the film is the movie doesn't talk much about the early 1960s Cold War attitudes. I think, those events would still, fit with the nostalgia cold war tone of the film. It would be nice to see them, to cover the U-2 incident, the Berlin Wall Build up, the Cuba Missile Crisis and the Space Age. My only guess, in why this movie, didn't show that, was because, those events were too tense to make fun of. However, in my opinion, it would still work. After all, this film, did showcase, some dark events like the Korea War, the trials of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and others. So, I don't see, no reason, why they couldn't add those 1960s events in. Despite that, the Atomic Café did serves up a revealing, somewhat informative hot cup of Cold War history. Overall: Atomic Café was da-bomb! The film was immensely enjoyable. I recommended watching to anybody who is a Cold-War junkie. It will warm your heart.