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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Civil defense film:
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.
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If you are considering watching this one, be alert to the fact that it is a documentary composed virtually entirely of old black and white news clips and civil defense films. Anything you find in it - humor, dread, amazement - you will be supplying yourself.
As with any documentary, choices have been made as to what to include. They are meant to guide us in a particular direction. That is inevitable, and not a failing of this particular piece. If it did not have a point of view, it would be dreadfully dull. Your particular reaction, though, will depend on your pre-existing mindset.
So, the film is loaded with clips that make people of the past look preposterous. Soldiers are seen staring down nuclear blasts, authorities are shown giving misinformation, and bomb shelters provoke a storm of confused political messages (they may keep you safe, says the good Reverend, but don't let in that lonely stranger if it might compromise you!). Schmaltzy tunes of the past that treat the subject casually are given the "Let them eat cake" treatment, as in, how DARE anyone treat this SERIOUS threat lightly. The film is actually quite moralistic in a backhanded sort of way, in a Jonathan Edwards "enough of this frivolity, get down on your KNEES and fear the bomb" manner.
The documentary over-reaches, however. This was brought out in 1982, and clearly was catering to fears brought about by Ronald Reagan's 1980 election. He was seen by many of his opponents as a dangerous cowboy just itching to blow up the world. Crazy to think that now, of course, given the fact that he did not blow up the world the first, second, or hundredth chance that he had, but that was the mantra. The images depicted are all from the mid-1940s to the early 1960s, but they even manage to work in a quick shot of actor Reagan himself from those years.
If you want to be smug, as the filmmakers are banking on, and react, as they wish, with "weren't they all such idiots," well, fine. But consider this: at one point in the film, someone is asked how far you would have to be to be safe from a nuclear blast. "Twelve miles," he responds grimly. Then, apparently as the "sane" response, someone else is shown saying even more grimly that you basically would have to be on Pluto to be safe.
Sounds awfully familiar. In 2011, the Japanese government said that to be safe from the Fukushima meltdown, you needed to be, what a coincidence, twelve miles away. Meanwhile, the Americans said you had to be much further away. It's so much easier to sit back and laugh at people thirty years later, isn't it.
There is a lot of just plain odd stuff. Richard Nixon, at the depths of infamy at the time of this film, is practically the film's star (heavy?), even though his connection to anything nuclear throughout is forced and tangential (his Kitchen Debate with Khruschev is included just to give him some more negative air time). Just illustrates conclusively the political orientation of the film.
There are some surprises. Lloyd Bentsen, later Democratic Party darling, is shown stridently supporting the use of nuclear bombs in Korea (one shudders that this actual mad bomber almost became Vice President and, later, Secretary of Defense). President Eisenhower, though, is shown as a very thoughtful man who apparently appreciates the dangers at hand.
Some scenes are shown to make fun of the "stay inside, duck and cover" advice. Close the windows to protect yourself. So hilarious, who could survive a radiation scenario, right? Well, that is exactly what the residents of Japan are being told to do right this minute. Hahaha, so funny. But doing simple things like that are, in fact, what people are still advised to do if they wish to increase their odds of surviving a nuclear attack. Under the right conditions, say a large enough distance from a blast, it quite actually could save your life. But so much easier to laugh at the notion that closing a window will deter the effects of a hydrogen bomb.
Of course, bombs in those days were much, much less powerful than they are today or, for that matter, were in 1982. Some of the advice given in the 1950s that was appropriate for that time obviously is outdated. But easy to make fun of people then based on what we face now, isn't it?
Those were the early days of educating people about nuclear events, and there was a lot of misinformation, hyperbole, guess-work and so forth, all given the wise-guy send-up of the malicious tool out to make fun of people. The anti-Soviet attitudes are widely ridiculed, and, given that all-important hindsight, rightly so. And certainly, the complacent idea that nuclear wars are somehow OK is the film-makers' real target, and who is going to deny that (well, maybe Lloyd Bentsen if he were still around). The filmmakers are stacking the deck just a might too heavily against people of the past who sincerely were groping for answers before it just became a fool's "common knowledge" that there is no surviving radiation and you are "better off" just running outside and standing out in the open to hasten your doom if the worst happens.
Just all right as a documentary. Obviously, widely missed the mark with me as either an exercise in comedy or satire. More interesting as insight into the evident cold war paranoia of those who made the film (and their sad, misguided fear of Reagan) than as any kind of insight into the times depicted.
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