The Atomic Cafe

The Atomic Cafe

1982, History  -   41 Comments
7.91
12345678910
Ratings: 7.91/10 from 55 users.

The Atomic CafeOne of the defining documentaries of the 20th century, The Atomic Cafe offers a darkly humorous glimpse into mid-century America, an era rife with paranoia, anxiety, and misapprehension. Whimsical and yet razor-sharp, this timeless classic illuminates the often comic paradoxes of life in the Atomic Age, while also exhibiting a genuine nostalgia for an earlier and more innocent nation.

Narrated through an astonishing array of vintage clips and music (from military training films to campy advertisements, presidential speeches to pop songs) the film revolves around the threat (and thrill) of the newly minted atomic bomb.

Taking aim at the propaganda and false optimism of the 1950s, the film's satire shines most vividly in the clever image splicing, such as footage of a decimated Hiroshima alongside cheerful suburban duck-and-cover routines.

More than anything else, The Atomic Cafe shows how nuclear warfare infiltrated the living rooms of America, changing the nation from the inside out.

Immensely entertaining and devilishly witty, The Atomic Cafe serves up a revealing slice of American history: the legendary decade when we learned to live in a nuclear world.

More great documentaries

guest

41 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Steven J Hopkins
Steven J Hopkins
5 years ago

I was born in 1954. I remember laughing at my duck and cover events in elementary school, as we all knew it would be a fruitless exercise to do such a thing if it was really necessary, but we carried on just the same. Just like the soldiers who were ordered to leave their trenches after a nuclear detonation and charge towards the blast. Loved the part about St. George Utah being "suggested" to stay in your house for about an hour due to fallout from wind shifting...

Steven J Hopkins
Steven J Hopkins
5 years ago

As the robotic actor Army Chaplain explains..."it's a wonderful sight to behold"...what bull.

Eileen Briggs
Eileen Briggs
5 years ago

While this documentary is defining it certainly isn't at all funny in 2018. Does everyone think they are too intelligent to be fooled by such obvious propaganda. I can pretty much imagine a future of Americans (if not extinct) watching the history of our present wondering how the people could be so easily misguided. But hopefully they will NOT be laughing at the fact that we were/are so misguided.

Jo McKay
Jo McKay
10 years ago

"nothing to do but relax and wait for the authorities to tell us what to do"...that about says it. I had forgotten how much my parents were like that - (we trust our leaders to know and do what's best for all of us - propaganda testing and first all out marketing techs hired by government; ultimately, like most, my parents drank the koolaid and never really realized how deeply they were betrayed). Have we learned anything from that time? I don't think much. Our propaganda machine is more alive today - and what is so different from soldiers who distance themselves from the 'drones' who kill, and the people who distance ourselves from the 'acts' of said military, then the horrific photos of innocents from 2 cities of Japan? That we still live in such destructive times, prepare, today in fact, for aggressive actions against one another that might still precipitate that WWIII; that we debate in halls of government the needs of corporate lobbyists over clean air and clean water; that we continue the extinction of plants for food and medicines,seed, wildlife of air and land and sea; that we permit still, our representatives who rule (or govern, what's the difference really) to destroy the future for the greed of the present, is surely the proof that the sweet humanity of what humans might have been is no nearer it's dawn or it's day. - I have little hope of it, but still, I wish you well, and always, peace.

Donna Scott M
Donna Scott M
11 years ago

After I watched The Rape of Nanking it's kind of hard to feel any kind of empathy for Japan and I lived there for 5 years. Way that I look at it, we got to them before they got to us. They're goal was to rule the world and we put a stop to that. Boom. Now sit down Japan. The Nazis weren't even remotely as bad as the Japanese. The A bomb was 100% more humane way of killing than what they did to China. Suck but hey, an eye for an eye....

hansi mann
hansi mann
12 years ago

Yes, we are all pretty ignorant, first because we expects those in Power to uphold our interests, which they don't according to this film. We are always being reassured by authority, but things go wrong all of the time. What we need to be is more skeptical of our leaders, scientists, and religious pastors (and imams, might I add). They know little or nothing more about anything than we do.

hansi mann
hansi mann
12 years ago

Great film, but the last 6 minutes froze up on me... bummer.

Pennia Perez Gonzales
Pennia Perez Gonzales
12 years ago

Timely, considering all the warmongering going on today, and especially in regards to Iran and their nuclear energy program.

Ezizen RonPaul Davis
Ezizen RonPaul Davis
12 years ago

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results"~Einstein

there is ONLY one man capable honest and smart enough to be President...
he is...
RON PAUL!! (google him)
wake up and make a real change and bring back sanity or.... wait till its to late!

Mercenarry ForHire
Mercenarry ForHire
12 years ago

This criminal thinks of what we could achieve if we put that same effort into making this country more efficient and getting rid of all the r*tarded Politicians.. but what do i know im just a shady guy >:3

Nakor420
Nakor420
12 years ago

Amazing how ignorant and naive the average citizen was back then. Not much different than today come to think of it.

Digital Dante
Digital Dante
12 years ago

How bad must "the president" be to call the other nuclear weapon having party "the enemy of freedom"? This is ridiculous. How do these people get elected? Please start voting sanely. Anyone sounding at all in favor of ANY war, for ANY reason or not 110 % diplomatic: that´s the WRONG person: just say no. Vote for someone else. There must be someone at least somewhat sane.

Digital Dante
Digital Dante
12 years ago

This world is so primitive. It´s a little bit better now, but still... Incredibly primitive. And the worst of all are most of the politicians. The rulers. Those that have inclinations and want to rule others should never rule. Nuclear weapon should be destroyed now. Now. Don´t elect evil children. Elevate yourself. Evolve.

CherryBombpop
CherryBombpop
12 years ago

An oldie but a goodie. You think YOU hate that turtle? I'm so old, I remember when we used to have air raid drills at school once a week, and we all had to practice "duck and cover" under our desks, after watching the little propaganda film with that annoying turtle. Even at 7 years old I had some clue that it would be useless against a nuclear bomb. This doc is a good one to know about, it was pretty original when it was released, and exposed a lot of people to these things when there was nothing else going. I worked at a video rental place in the 80's, so I took it home one night - I would never have known about it otherwise. It's a look back worth taking. I'm very grateful to Vlatko for all his efforts in maintaining this site so we can browse and watch so many docs so easily. :)

zaphodity
zaphodity
12 years ago

Absolutely hilarious, loved the bit about a race of bald headed people and how not to worry, just wear a toup'ee until your hair grows back XD

Greg_Mc
Greg_Mc
12 years ago

I watched it for an hour and really didn't see the point in finishing as it was probably going to be more of the same stuff they had been showing for the last 45 minutes. At I believe the 58 minutes or so mark did anyone notice who the army guy sitting behind the desk was? Lol now if you are young you wont get the reference but the guy was Ward Cleaver from Leave it to beaver, I almost fell off my chair laughing. The songs they kept playing for a while (like 1 minute) were ok in a make fun of the 50's kind of way but man they got annoying. What I didn't like was the first part as they dropped the bombs on Japan then showed Americans making Jap comments, then they flipped back to showing the people who had been burned or had body parts torn off from the bomb. People (and rightly so I must say) say how bad the Nazi's were (yes they were worse) but nobody says anything about the atomic bomb and how cruel that was, but yet the Americans glorified what they did and took pride in doing so much harm to civilians. They even said they picked cities that had never been bombed by anything so they could properly measure the destruction. I know the Japanese army were not boy scouts either and this was a different time but the tone of the whole doc while funny at times and just plain stupid in others (Lak wanting to choke that turtle refers to one of the stupid parts) showed the American propaganda machine was alive and well in the 50's. The destruction the bomb did was incredible and to think if the rumours are even partially true Iran is on it's way to building at least one, even if not true it is a scary thought.

Having said all that I am watching the History channel (Canadian version if there are different channels in the US than here) and they are showing WW2 shows and I noticed 2 things from them. 1) I am glad, very glad I wasn't alive then to have to have taken part in it 2) There are a lot of heroes and very brave people who did some amazing, scary brave, sad, horrific and heroic things in the war that most will never know about (and people like me who now know of some of them but will forget their names in far to short a time) and after hearing their stories one can only imagine the nightmares they quietly had for the rest of their lives because of things they saw and had to do.

Charles Alderson
Charles Alderson
12 years ago

You can't hug your children with Nuclear Arms :(

I wouldn't mind a post-nuclear world. I'd be able to play Fallout in rl everyday!

Rebecca Moore
Rebecca Moore
12 years ago

'Nagasaki, pretty as a picture...I let the bomb go - that was my greatest thrill'. The mind boggles.

Guest
Guest
12 years ago

I'd like to get my hands around that turtle's neck. Duck and cover? Duck and kiss your a$$ goodbye.

Guest
Guest
12 years ago

I choked at 7 mins, sweaty palms and tears in my eyes. Does it stop being horrid? :(

KsDevil
KsDevil
12 years ago

Nostalgia and naivity. From the future we can laugh at the past. But it makes one wonder what foolishness we in the present are doing that the future may laugh at. Actually, I would hope the future finds comparible humor from our present. That would mean the future will be better. However, I am not pleased people in the future will consider our current fashion to be quiaint and a bit silly.

haimimack
haimimack
12 years ago

'' we pray to God to guide us to use it in his ways and for his purposes'' amaizing!