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The Atomic Kid (1954)

A uranium prospector is eating a peanut butter sandwich in the desert where atom bomb tests are being done. He becomes radioactive, and helps the FBI break up an enemy spy ring.
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Cast

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Audrey Nelson (as Elaine Davis - Mrs. Mickey Rooney)
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Peter Leeds ...
Hal March ...
Fay Roope ...
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Storyline

A uranium prospector is eating a peanut butter sandwich in the desert where atom bomb tests are being done. He becomes radioactive, and helps the FBI break up an enemy spy ring.

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Plot Keywords:

radiation | See All (1) »

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It's a Laugh Explosion!

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Comedy | Sci-Fi

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Details

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Release Date:

8 December 1954 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Le Kid atomique  »

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The nuclear test at the beginning of the film in the title sequence is the iconic shot 'Baker' from the 'Crossroads' test series on Bikini atoll in 1946. See more »

Goofs

Prior to the test, Dr. Rodell states it was 'the most powerful weapon yet developed'. The film makers might not have been aware of this, but the most powerful device up to that time was the 'George' test of Operation Greenhouse, a boosted fission device with a yield of 225 kt, about ten times the yield of the Nagasaki bomb. Even with much lower yields, like the 15 kt of the Hiroshima bomb, it would not make sense to put up a house made of 'regular brick and shingle' at a distance of a mere 200 feet from ground zero for weapons effects testing, because no remains would be found to examine afterwards. That house would hardly be out of the fireball radius, experience more than 25 psi overpressure and wind speeds upwards of 2500 mph. It goes without saying that the detonation would not have been survivable at that range in such a structure. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Back to the Future Part II (1989) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Cold War Wish Fulfillment and where's the great Mumford when you need him.
27 November 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Robert Strauss was a remarkably memorable character actor. Although he looked physically threatening, he actually played comic roles more frequently than villains (and if he played a convict or a hood, it was usually for comic affect). His great breakout part was in STALAG 17, when he was the Betty Grable loving P.O.W. "Animal", who had a memorable (and ultimately sad) moment dancing while drunk with Harvey Lembeck in a "blond wig". But after STALAG 17 there was no comparable role to build on. His next film with Billy Wilder would be as the lecherous building superintendent in THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH. But it was ultimately easy and hard to cast him. Easy in supporting bit parts, but hard to find roles he really deserved.

I consider THE ATOMIC KID the nearest Strauss got to a true leading part. It was made one year after STALAG 17, so his name recognition was still high. And he was teamed with another sure fire box office draw (though slightly faded in 1954), Mickey Rooney. Rooney as a leading draw peaked in the 1940s in his series with Lewis Stone about the Hardy Family. But he was always a capable and entertaining performer, and he and Strauss work well together as a team.

THE ATOMIC KID could easily have been an Abbott and Costello property. The two leads are looking for uranium in the desert, and they have car problems. They find a deserted house, and Rooney stays in it while Strauss goes trying to get help for their car. Rooney finds the larder of the house well stocked with provisions, and makes himself a peanut butter sandwich or two while he waits. Then hell breaks loose - the house is a faked house (though if faked why does it have furniture and food in it) and is at ground zero for an atomic blast site. It is hit, but Rooney survives.

He becomes a national sensation - the first known human being to survive an atomic blast at it's metric center, untouched. Why? Was it the diet of peanut butter sandwiches? One can see Lou Costello in such a role (although he might have insisted the sandwich be a pastrami sandwich), and Strauss replaced by Abbott. Like Bud, Robert always sees the big picture - the money to be made in marketing the celebrity of his friend the survivor. And he soon has all sorts of contracts being signed by Mickey (as Bud would have had Lou sign them) for endorsements

  • like peanut butter brands. Between this and the constant testing by
the government, Rooney has time for little else - although he soon is romancing his nurse, Elaine Davis. However, soon the FBI (Hal March) is aware of another interested party: the Russians have sent an agent to try to discover Rooney's immunity secret.

As a shot at the marketing of modern celebrity in America (think now of Paris Hilton, Marilu Rettin, or George Foreman), THE ATOMIC KID is on target as much as it's contemporary Judy Holiday film, IT SHOULD HAPPEN TO YOU. As a piece of amusing whimsy, it does proud for both Rooney and Strauss (who, despite his crass greed, does show his loyal friendship to Rooney when the latter is endangered). But it is the business of cold war paranoia in the film's background that is fascinating.

I reviewed, some time ago, a contemporary English comedy called YOU KNOW WHAT SAILORS ARE. It too dealt with the fear of nuclear annihilation in the 1950s, and how the public wished it away. There it was "demolished" when Akim Tamiroff and a friendly scientist concocted a scheme to convince the Russians that a make-shift gizmo (that really did not do anything) could demolish nuclear missiles upon take off. Here it is the survival of Rooney, apparently by eating peanut butter. Peanut butter would not be served as well again as a diet treat or power source until Jim Henson's Muppet, "the Great Mumford" would invent his magic catch phrase "a la peanut butter sandwiches" on Sesame Street. Would that something as tasty and satisfying as peanut butter could protect us all from nuclear destruction. It probably could not. Even, in the end, the scientists studying Rooney are not able to say why he survived.


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