It's bombs away at "The Atomic Cafe," a 90-minute montage of visual fallout from the Cold War culled over five years from federal and military film archives by a trio of local talents. Part art, part documentary, this narration-free nuclear satire dishes apocalypse then and now.
While the "Cafe's" jukebox plays radioactive rock from the '40s and '50s, test bombs burst in air, proving America's nuclear superiority. The film clips start with the Trinity Test, when Armageddon was a la carte and fission was fun. We had the bomb and they didn't.
Alas, by August 1949, the blast was past. The Russians had an A-Bomb all their own and Harry Truman had to say he was no longer sure where God stood. The aftershock turned cocksure Americans into pansies, and everybody got "nuclearosis," tittered Government, but don't worry, soothed Defense, "Dr. Strangelove's" got a cure.
And so as the megatons mushroomed, so did the federal flacks, who went into Cold Wartime propaganda production with a vengeance. "Cafe" offers a taste of their best bumbling. For instance, those who fear balding or death from radiation are pooh- poohed with nukespeak like, "The fallacy of devoting 85 percent of one's worrying capacity to an agent that constitutes only about 15 percent of an atomic bomb's destroying potential" was, well, just plain foolish. And they showed slice-of-pie graphs to prove it. How scientific, said mothers in high heels, opening giant Frigidaires above basement bomb shelters.
Then, oh, here comes "Burt the Turtle," a cute cartoon character who tells the kids how to "duck and cover" should the Commies bomb them on the way home from Pop's soda shop. There are official military films of soldiers running into ground zero minutes after a blast. In another segment, a doctor type recommends shelters be stocked with 100 tranquilizers for a family of four. Still another clip offers a panoramic view of a shopping center in Arcadia, California; now just compare that to what you'd get under communism, says the clean-cut announcer.
It was madness and may seem crude stuff to a media-savvy generation, but director/producers Kevin and Pierce Rafferty and Jayne Loaders are saying nothing's changed but the packaging. Remember, the United States Postal Service recently announced plans to issue emergency change- of-address forms in case of holocaust. If you believe that, I've got a movie I want to sell you: "Atomic Cafe," a boom for mankind. THE ATOMIC CAFE -- At the Inner Circle.