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The Atomic Cafe

The Atomic Cafe is a film which takes a sardonic look at the 1950s and the nuclear fears of the people of that time. The film makes use of a wide variety of images from the period, as presented in school films, government documentaries, television shows, commercials, and films. Much of what is said about nuclear power, nuclear fallout, and the atomic bomb we know today to be just plain wrong, and part of the tone fostered by this film is making fun of the ignorance that was once disseminated to schoolchildren and the public at large about the dangers of the atomic bomb.

The filmmakers are dealing with an idea, the idea that the government deliberately set out to make the bomb seem safer than it was in order to assuage fears if not out of government ignorance as well. They show how people viewed atomic energy in that era, seeing it both as a benefit that would one day be tapped for peace and as a minor danger whose fallout and radiation were at the most minor health risks. The primary image promoting this idea is the school film "Duck and Cover," which implied that hiding under a desk until the initial blast was over would protect children from the ravages of fallout, when in fact the consequences of fallout would be long-term and much more devastating than this flip film would indicate.

The tone of the film veers between horror and comedy, a difficult mix that is possible in this film first because the entire idea of nuclear devastation evokes horror while the falseness of much of what was said about the subject in the 1950s is both comic and frightening, considering how many people believed it and might have acted on that belief. The film lets most of these images, films, and so on speak for themselves. The filmmakers seek to create a sense of a time and place, the United States in the 1950s, and they do so by taking the viewer back to that time through materials created in that era and that the filmmakers now see as d...

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The Atomic Cafe. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:09, August 03, 2020, from