A Film (documentary) Rumination: The Atomic Cafe, Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty (1982)

8/10 (Very Good)

Atomic Cafe (1982) is a scathing documentary on the atomic age created from archival film from the 40s-early 60s.  The scope of the material is extensive: military training films (often the most morbidly hilarious and poorly acted of the bunch), television news, various other government-produced propaganda films — they convey the American fear and obsession with atomic weapons and their disastrous consequences (both historical and potential).

The first third is more historical in nature — it shows clips the atomic bombs dropping on Nagasaki and Hiroshima (with interviews with the pilots), the effects of radiation, the jubilation at the end of the war, and (one of the more uncomfortable sections to watch) American soldiers explaining to the Bikini Atoll islanders that their home will soon be the site of nuclear testings (and they smile, and laugh, and occasionally look bewildered).

What strikes the viewer immediately is the complete lack of narration (besides the original narration in the film clips).  Instead a WONDERFUL sound track of atomic age inspired songs create a surprisingly horrific atmosphere.  For example:

A wealth of fascinating clips can be found here — and of course with the advent of youtube and imdb.com the actual documentaries and songs can be tracked down online.

A great documentary and an amazing sound track…  One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the second third…

Highly recommended!

4 Replies to “A Film (documentary) Rumination: The Atomic Cafe, Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty (1982)”

  1. This looks fascinating! However the sections on Bikini Atoll must be haunting. Does the film explain what happened to the inhabitants there following the testing?

  2. The documentary doesn’t do a lot of explaining — it’s really just a series of government film section spliced together with the sound track — so, it’s not really the teaching/historical sort of documentary but rather an atmosphere piece — which makes it so amazing. There might be some footage of some of the radiation skin problems afterwards…. but I don’t remember exactly.

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