The Atomic Cafe - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Atomic Cafe Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ November 14, 2010
This is easily the most bizarre documentary I've ever seen. Most documentaries use interviews, have a host who guides people through the film (example, Morgan Spurlock in "Super-Size Me"), and have some form a commentary with a narrator. "The Atomic Cafe" is very different. This film is made up entirely of newsreels and propaganda films to tell the story of the world after the atomic bomb and the paranoia of the Cold War. The only alterations the film makers have made is some editing and subtitles so we know who the people are. That's it. The rest is up to the viewer to gather for themselves. I know a lot about this period in history and some of the footage in this is almost as funny as it is disturbing. For example, a happy kids film with a cartoon turtle mascot who cheerfully reminds us "When you see the flash, remember, duck and cover, duck and cover, duck and cover!" If you want to kill an hour and a half, give this a shot. It can get a bit slow at times, but its definitely worth watching.
Super Reviewer
April 30, 2009
great document of the paranoia of the nuclear age with some of the blackest humor possible. made entirely from archival footage of atomic blasts, scary news reports and pretty hilarious civil defense propaganda full of misinformation. there are some upsetting scenes of blast victims as well. this would make a great double bill with strangelove
October 23, 2013
A more-or-less chronological display of atomic age documentaries. Starting with the Enola Gay crew, to duck-and-cover films for schools, onto anti-communist news clips. No narrative at all. If you want nuclear bomb clips start with Trinity and Beyond its follow-ups. For information on how communism was affecting the fabric of America through the Civil Rights movement and other avenues, I recommend Anarchy USA. So, dont bother with The Atomic Cafe.
September 11, 2012
This is a darkly funny and often scary look at first twenty years of the nuclear age. The filmmakers took archival government footage of alleged information on atomic bombs, their effects and what to do in case of a nuclear attack. While I think it is heavy handed at times, it's just plain entertaining to see what was being shown to people in America, what was possible even believed by the American people and how much was probably hidden. Some of it was quite shocking at times, like soldiers asked to patrol ground zero right after a bomb was tested only 150-200 yards from their shallow trenches. Or the feeble instructions for people to simply duck and cover, as if that was an effective way to shield them from a nuclear blast. I was surprised they didn't do more with the Cuban Missile Crisis or interviews with Oppenheimer or some of the scientists. It was nice to see Ward Cleaver show up, though!
½ September 8, 2011
The first half of this flick is pretty interesting, and gives me hopes of doing similar film work with any other type of archive footage I might be interested in conveying.

The second half, however, gets a bit dull as the "message" of the flick becomes apparent.
March 11, 2010
I originally watched this my first semester, freshman year at college, as part of our honors seminar, which focused on the Cold War. At that time, I merely found it comedic, while now I absolutely laugh at some bits, but am more interested in the psychological warfare the H bomb really did cause, and the way the former USSR and the US dealt with it.
½ January 14, 2010
Although I was born during the Cold War, 1987 gave me no time to truly digest what was happening around me. By the time I was ready to learn and cognizant, the Wall had fallen and the Balkans were at war due to the power vacuum left by the Soviet Union. Because of this time being my birth era, I have found myself absolutely fascinated with the Cold War. This film, along with a handful of others, truly captures the full blown insanity that was the time. Between Presidents calling upon God to fight against the Soviets and preachers endorsing the H-Bomb, its no wonder that the children of that time ended up doing a lot of drugs. While parts The Atomic Cafe where genuinely funny, the underlying frightening truth of Mutually Assured Destruction and global nuclear annihilation makes for an incredibly intense experience. I highly recommend this movie and feel that it should be shown in schools.
July 13, 2009
Excellent and darkly humorous. I didn't pay attention too much when it was shown in my class (Needs a rewatch), but this film was a highlight among the monotonic things that we were learning. Just don't forget to duck and cover.
½ February 17, 2008
Ah, yes, another Cold War pic. This one has a lot of clips from the old Civil Defense days. Remember where your fallout shelter was? I guess there was an Atomic Cafe in Las Vegas. Here, in Cambridge there used to be an "Atomic Supermarket" until 2005.
½ June 9, 2007
An interesting collage of images from the 1950s. However, it does run a little long. This film is definately worth watching once.
March 12, 2007
great collection of historic facts about nuclear arms development through the cold war...political science majors, watch this
January 24, 2007
No words. Just showing us, without narration, how ridiculous we are makes for a very rewarding and sickening experience.
½ December 22, 2006
So I gathered one thing from this movie, "Stethoscope" was not an easy word to pronounce in the 1950's. LOL! God I love the irony of the american public's view on nuclear warfare.
July 6, 2006
declassification is an interesting thing. this film wasn't made, but rather just edited, splicing together old propaganda, declassified footage, old newsreels and miltary breifings to the grunts set to period approipriate music. it's disturbingly facinating how ignorant the us military was to the power they held with the spliting of the atom. i'll admit the perfect score comes from my personal facination and horror towards the nuclear bomb, but truly this was a remarkable beyond just my opinion. And for those who think it's just libral propagana, you might want to watch it anyway, because i think it's rather non-partisan myself, although it definatly anti-nuke. definatly a must watch for anyone with even a passing interest in the subject.
November 28, 2013
Now here's a found footage film. This documentary is constructed entirely from footage taken from the US government ... footage of nuclear tests and propaganda films designed to convince the public that they could survive nuclear war and that nuclear weapons were necessary to protect against Russian invasion. It's a bit of a cheap shot, but it's not really trying to make a definite, coherent point so much as to bring out the inherent absurdity of the situation. After all, if the government feels the need to tell absurd lies, what does that say about its policies?
July 15, 2015
I've watched this film multiple times and it honestly never loses both the humor and the shock value. It's still hard to process that period of time, and this piece manages to capture some of the hysteria and strangeness of that period of American history.
September 7, 2013
Saw this movie in a private preview when I was a teenager. Back then there was still a U.S.S.R. A great movie about an early part of the cold war - an almost parallel one could me made today about the war on terrorism or drugs. Wars all important and insane at the same time. I'd like to find a site that listed each documentary included in the movie. It took courage to make and show The Atomic Cafe at the time. I'm happy to have it in my library in vhs and dvd.
½ March 30, 2013
As someone who didn't grow up with the threat of nuclear war hanging over my head, I find the clips in this documentary both quaint and disturbing at the same time...

It's funny to see all of the government propaganda in the light of 20/20 hindsight, and a little bit concerning given that if they lied once, they'll probably lie again. I will say the clips of the nuclear test are amazing to watch.
July 30, 2012
It's easy to look back from today's over-saturation of information and find it unbelievable that this is spun from official propaganda or that anyone could have bought these explanations. More scary than funny, and any humor to be gotten from this is of the pretty bleak and dark variety. All of that being said, it is a fascinating (albeit repetitive) look at the creative and destructive power and worldwide changes that the atomic age ushered in.
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