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The Atomic Cafe (1982)

Not Rated  |   |  Documentary  |  29 October 1982 (Finland)
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Disturbing collection of 1940s and 1950s United States government issued propaganda films designed to reassure Americans that the atomic bomb was not a threat to their safety.

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Tibbets ...
Himself (archive footage)
Harry S. Truman ...
Himself (archive footage) (as President Harry S Truman)
W.H.P. Blandy ...
Himself - Commander of the Bikini Test (archive footage) (as Vice Admiral W.H.P. Blandy)
Brien McMahon ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Sen. Brian McMahon)
Lloyd Bentsen ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Rep. Lloyd Bentsen)
Owen Brewster ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Sen. Owen Brewster)
Julius Rosenberg ...
Himself (archive footage)
Ethel Rosenberg ...
Herself (archive footage)
Val Peterson ...
Himself - Director of Civil Defense (archive footage) (as Gov. Val Peterson)
Himself (archive footage) (as Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson)
Lewis Strauss ...
Himself - Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (archive footage) (as Lewis L. Strauss)
George Molan ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Cpl. George Molan)
George Portell ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Tech Sgt. George Portell)
Jerry Schneider ...
Himself (archive footage)
Sergeant Weaver ...
Himself (archive footage)


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




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Parents Guide:





Release Date:

29 October 1982 (Finland)  »

Also Known As:

Atomic Cafe  »

Box Office


$300,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The filmmakers received pressure from their financiers to have supplementary modern update footage or narration in the film but they relented and presented the film with no narration. However, the documentary has a soundtrack that includes songs and music with nuclear-inspired lyrics from the 1950s cold war period designed to underscore the movie's anti-atomic theme. One of these is a W. Gladstone Haley fantasy musical number where the only survivors of an atomic bomb are himself and thirteen women. See more »


Army information film: When not close enough to be killed, the atomic bomb is one of the most beautiful sights in the world.
See more »


I'm No Communist
Performed by Carson Robison
Courtesy of Phonogram International Records, Inc.
See more »

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User Reviews

Make Up Your Own Minds
4 April 2014 | by (Isle Of Bute , Scotland) – See all my reviews

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 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 leaders

Being 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

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what were the actual ideas expressed about the times covered? swashbuck1
Disturbing, at times... Boring, thoroughly highwayChile
No one's here yet? arigatou_gozaimasu
Soundtrack? namhoram
Song (about Eisenhower?) iskander777888
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