We are bombarded with nuclear visions, left reeling with radioactivity. Even the musical "Grease 2" stages a seductive song and dance in a bomb shelter. "Wrong Is Right" tapes Armageddon for television and "Atomic Cafe" gives us an archival montage of black comedy.
But none of these films offer us much hope for a non-atomic future. For that, there is "Eight Minutes to Midnight," a portrait of Dr. Helen Caldicott, advocate for human survival and tireless opponent of nuclear power, which she calls "the greatest health hazard ever known."
In this hour-long documentary, a 1981 Academy Award nominee, Caldicott confronts doubletalking bureaucrats, fast-talking radio hosts, back-talking students and all manner of challengers. What's the use, they ask? What's the harm in another megaton? Caldicott shakes her small fist in their apathetic faces. "All I know," she swears, "is that I'll be damned if I'm going to let them get away with this."
In her try to stop the doomsday clock -- which since the filming has ticked off another four minutes -- Caldicott, who's afraid of flying, wings to Australia, her native land, to urge an end to uranium mining. She warns the Aborigines and Aussie miners of the health risks they take when digging the stuff up. "We're killing ourselves to make the bombs to kill ourselves better," she laments.
From Australia she travels to Three Mile Island, then the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons arsenal outside Denver, where testicular cancer is more than a hundred times the national average. Finally, at Grants, New Mexico, before a gathering of Navajo miners, fatigue and emotion catch up with this pediatrician, wife and mother. She weeps, "We are about to destroy the most beautiful people in the world, the Indians and the Aborigines . . . We musn't destroy the earth."
It is a moving moment in a delicate work, produced and directed with care and concern by Emmy Award winner Mary Benjamin. It will be shown with the short ''No Place To Hide," which includes much of the laughable civil defense footage featured in "Atomic Cafe."
EIGHT MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT At the Biograph through June 24.