On its 20-year anniversary, and not a moment too soon, THE ATOMIC CAFE is back to provide us with a much-needed release of comic energy. A dark comedy in the truest sense, this timeless classic took the nation by storm wh... more »en it first debuted in 1982. The« less
A more-or-less chronological display of atomic age documentaries. Starting with the Enola Gay crew, to duck-and-cover films for schools, onto anti-communist news clips. No narrative at all. If you want nuclear bomb clips start with Trinity and Beyond its follow-ups. For information on how communism was affecting the fabric of America through the Civil Rights movement and other avenues, I recommend Anarchy USA. So, dont bother with The Atomic Cafe.
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Teach Your Children Well
Bruce Kendall | Southern Pines, NC | 12/12/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This review is directed primarily to the under 30's who are still trying to figure out the boomer generation. As one savvy reviewer here surmised, this film goes a long way into explaining the psychological behavior of boomers who actually were instructed by well-meaning nuns (in my case)or other elementary and high school teachers to practice ducking beneath their desks in the event of a nuclear strike. As the wit, Dave Barry, points out, the stucture of wood and minimal steel was no doubt designed as a carefully-constructed safeguard against nuclear annihilation by the brain trust that was guiding the civil defense system of the era. Other such gross anomalies are addressed in this film. In this case, the idea of looking back provides some comic relief, but I for one, can tell you, that when the sirens were going off every other day back in 1962-63, we didn't regard it as all that funny. Read the Amazon reviewer's take above, then invest some money in purchasing this film. It is a great document that depicts a serious subject in a lighthearted manner, yet the underlying message is timeless. It should come shipped with the caveat: "Lest we forget.""
Movie - 5 Stars - DVD - 3 Stars - Average - 4 Stars
Jason N. Mical | Bellevue, WA, USA | 04/25/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Before Peter Kuran and his special effects magic on old atomic films, there was "The Atomic Café." It's a psuedo-documentary (it's all pieces of old Civil Defense, nuclear testing, and government films cobbled together, with some newsreel footage to boot) by Jayne Loader and Kevin Rafferty (George W. Bush's cousin, who later added his talents to a little production called "Roger and Me.") The humor is dark (and funny) only in retrospect, as "The Atomic Café" explores some of the most insidious and stupid moments of the cold war.It starts with the Manhattan Project and the effects of the Bomb on Japan, and segues right into the Rosenberg's trial and the insanity of McCarthyism. Next, you have the famous "duck and cover" films along with lesser-known civil defense stuff, including fallout shelter plans and so forth. There is little narration, and what you hear, comes from the Rosenberg's testimony, army technicians explaining how radiation can be avoided (yeah, right) and the viewer's own common sense, saying, "man, we really believed this hogwash once, and it helped us sleep better at night."This new DVD presentation gives us the film in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with a two-channel stereo soundtrack. The print is decent, but as none of these old films were restored before compilation, there is grain and color loss throughout, but it's a problem with the source material, not the DVD itself (this is how Atomic Café was supposed to look). The sound is the biggest disappointment: Kuran was kind enough to give his Atomic films a dynamic 5.1 DD soundtrack, and Atomic Café sounds more like a radio broadcast than a DVD. Plus, there are zero extras to speak of. Normally, extras do not make a DVD (how many times are you going to watch them, anyway?) but this is one of those times when an interview, or a commentary track, or even a movie trailer, would have been nice.All in all: worth the price, especially to an Atomic collector. This film belongs on the shelf of any serious nuke-film aficionado, and this DVD will probably be the best version we're going to see."
America Adapts to a Nuclear World -- on film...
Jamie R. Wilson | Brooklyn, New York | 05/03/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Atomic Cafe is a cult classic Cold War documentary, focusing on the development and deployment of nuclear weapons from the perspective of the U.S. in 1982. Some of the footage of nuclear detonations is breath-taking, especially when placed into the perspective of the time.The Atomic Cafe does a masterful job of weaving together news reports, government information films, public service announcements and dramas from World War II right up through the Cold War of 1982. It's interesting to watch the sometimes frightening, sometimes naive and sometimes even humorous moments that illustrate the American culture adapting to a world in which it had the ultimate destructive power (the atomic bomb), then lost the edge over the menacing Soviet Union, then developed an even more powerful weapon (the hydrogren bomb) and then saw the Soviets catch up yet again.Some of the moments in the documentary are just classic, thanks to great footage but even more, awesome editing. For instance, one part shows a man looking at a newspaper and he says "well, at least we don't have to worry. We're the ones with the bomb!" Then there is a cut to someone stating that the Soviets now have the bomb.Then there is the naivety: Another part shows an Army officer briefing a company of soldiers who will be deployed into a nuclear area shortly after a test detonation. He tells them that there is this "new" threat called "radiation", but that they won't have to worry about it too much. They then show these soldiers in their trenches immediately after the detonation and they stand up to see, while radioactive dirt and debris whooshes over them. A news reporter asks one of the soldiers: "Did you close your mouth?" The soldier answers, laughing: "No, I got a mouthful!"If anything, the Atomic Cafe is a stark reminder of where we've been. It'll definitely be something interesting for my children to watch someday."
Funny, sobering, shocking, pacifist
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 10/26/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"With a clever montage of 1940s/1950s news clips and Civil Defense and military training films overlaid with off-beat contemporary songs about The Bomb, the creators of THE ATOMIC CAFE produced a film that will amaze the post-Cold War generation and cause those who lived during that period to ask, "Could that be us?"This docu-drama begins with the Trinity atomic test blast in New Mexico in 1945, then proceeds through the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent atomic test at Bikini atoll. With the acquisition of the A-bomb by the Soviets in 1949 - my birth year - and the Korean War, the film gets into the meat of the piece, which is a visual commentary on the paranoia about the Red Menace and Nuclear Armageddon which gripped the United States during Eisenhower's two terms as President. THE ATOMIC CAFE is alternately funny, sobering, and shocking. Funny, as when Kruschev and Nixon verbally joust in a comedic Tricky Dick and Nicky routine during the former's visit to the States. And the training films depicting citizens, singly and in large groups, on the streets and in schools, doing the "duck and cover" drill in response to the hypothetical Big One. Sobering, as when a priest discusses the merits of excluding non-family members from your personal bomb shelter. (In a departure from Christian charity, he was all for it.) Or the message given to Army troops assigned to the near vicinity of test explosions, which was that in a real atomic war it would be the blast that kills them, not the radiation. And shocking, as when we see the disfiguring burns and blisters affecting the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the pigs exposed to subsequent test detonations in the desert Southwest. (My wife, an animal lover, left in horror after seeing the latter.) Released in 1982, THE ATOMIC CAFE is a pacifist and anti-war statement produced, I suspect, in response to President Reagan's confrontational stance vis-a-vis the Evil Empire after his 1980 election. While the film inspires many different emotions, its consistent and overall tone is to mock the U.S. government for the nuclear fix it got the country into with the development of the A and H-bombs, the wild-eyed propaganda it disseminated to rally the citizenry against the Commie Hordes, and the Best Face the Civil Defense authorities put forward on the possibility of surviving a nuclear holocaust.As a child of the 50s, I also remember the periodic tests of the air raid siren, and the "duck and cover" exercises. My Dad built us an elaborate bomb shelter under the garage around the time of the Cuban Crisis. While I found THE ATOMIC CAFE fascinating, it certainly wasn't balanced. (For example, the narrative tellingly ends prior to Kennedy's election. Bay of Pigs and nuclear brinkmanship? Say what?) I would also like to have seen some of the equivalent anti-American propaganda the Soviets disseminated to their citizens during the period. Perhaps, best of all, the film would be better produced today after decades' distance from the events."
Funny but also unsettling
Craig Loftin | Los Angeles | 01/31/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a great documentary: it has no narration and simply lets the time speak for itself. It features a wide assortment of clips: army training films, educational films, TV shows, newsclips--all centered around Americans' attempts to grapple with the reality of "the bomb." While it certainly is outrageously funny, it also reminds the viewer that real people suffered from Cold War atomic ignorance, and that our government, while not always deliberately lying, at least didn't know what it was talking about half the time. The film also effectively shows how the Cold War was not just some abstract "thing," out there, but rather something that affected the lives of everyday Americans in all sorts of complex ways."