Recently, I attended a local event sponsored by Kansas Public Radio’s Retro Cocktail Hour, Cinema A Go-Go: Atomic Age Nightmares. It was a deliciously campy evening of radioactive cinema shown at my favorite local art house theater, Liberty Hall. The double feature included Spencer G. Bennet’s THE ATOMIC SUBMARINE (1960) and Anton Guilio Majano’s ATOM AGE VAMPIRE (1963). For a special treat, they added a short feature, an industrial film from the United States Office of Civil Defense: “Survival Under Atomic Attack” (1951).
To say this government short film on how to survive a nuclear attack and subsequent fallout is ridiculously naive is an understatement. Which is exactly why it was so uproariously funny. At first it comes across as rather depressing, to ponder the very real and horrific atomic attack on Japan. But then you’re quickly swept up in the 50’s perfection household stereotype. It gets laugh out loud funny with certain fallout ‘pointers’ like putting up dark shades on your windows (as the blast flashes in the background), and simply washing out your hair to rid yourself of that nasty radioactive dust. They summarize by optimistically assuring the audience that by following these handy tips, all be perfectly okay.
Next up, came our first feature-length film, THE ATOMIC SUBMARINE (1960). It starts with a naval crew on a top-secret mission on the high-tech nuclear-powered submarine, the Tiger Shark, to resolve mysterious disappearances of several ships and submarines close to the North Pole. They soon discover a challenging alien foe deep in the arctic circle waters via a deep sea flying saucer. The cheesiness abounds from the low budget special effects (note the high ceilings in the sub) to the forced conflict of its two main characters- the ‘career military’ traditional commander and the young pacifist scientist. Surprisingly, this conflict is utilized as a platform for a bit of ideological discussion. If you choose to enjoy the camp of this flick in a ‘Mystery Science 3000’ approach as many did, you will also note there are silly sexual innuendos everywhere, including an improbable love scene at the beginning between the commander and a platinum blonde (also known as girlfriend to Frank Sinatra at the time). There’s a wealth of character actors and my favorite part is the cyclops-styling alien creature.
Alberto Lupo… Prof. Alberto Levin
Susanne Loret… Jeanette Moreneau
Sergio Fantoni… Pierre Mornet
Franca Parisi… Monique Riviere
Hope you enjoyed my atomic journey as much as I did. I love these B-movie Sci-Fi classics from the 50’s and early 60’s. I’ve always been drawn to the atomic age from a design perspective too. I live in a mid-century home in the midst of a neighborhood filled with gorgeous examples of mid-century modern design. I even belong to a group of other atomic-age architecture lovers called “Lawrence Modern”. For you fellow atomic age movie lovers… enjoy!
2 thoughts on “Duck and Cover… and Pass the Popcorn!”
What a fun evening! Hmmm… I wonder if our library here could "steal" this idea…
You should talk to your library and suggest it! Thanks for your feedback~ So happy you enjoyed my sharing of my fun atomic evening!