The Atomic Cafe Image

The Atomic Cafe

By Norman Gidney | July 28, 2023

4K RELEASE ON BLU-RAY AND VOD! The Atomic Cafe, a brilliantly crafted archive of United States Government propaganda films, is more timely now than ever. Military scientists eagerly crawl around a tangle of thin metal beams and girders as a crane very gingerly hoists the first atom bomb into place for testing. The candid, grainy footage captures humanity at a blissfully ignorant moment in time. Developing the most powerful piece of firepower the world had ever seen up to that point was never halted by the thought that it might be a bad idea.

KinoLorber has just released a beautiful 4K restoration of directors Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty, and Pierce Rafferty’s shockingly hilarious. The film stands as a remarkable document of a chapter in U.S. history. Meant to calm a frightened public in the age of the atomic bomb, the footage spins a linear narrative beginning with the first tests, to the effect that this crucial piece of arsenal had on Japan and World War II.

America was heading full bore into the atomic age, and after a show-stopping success in the Pacific Theater, nothing was going to stop it. Not even the horrifying reality that this new bomb, equal to 20,000 tons of TNT, left a legacy of poisonous nuclear residue that lingered long after the blast.

“…the most powerful piece of firepower…was never halted by the thought that it might be a bad idea.”

“Well, I guess there’s nothing for us to worry about. We’re the ones that have the bomb,” says an actor in one of the many clips of political morality plays that make up the absurdity of The Atomic Cafe. The redundant message in nearly all the newsreels was simply not to worry, yet be prepared with measures such as the classic “Duck and Cover” maneuver or a well-stocked fallout shelter. In one clip, a head-to-toe lead suit is modeled by a young boy. Resembling a life-size oven mitt, the happy tike hops onto his bike and demonstrates how easy going to school would be despite the nuclear fallout.

Loader and the Raffertys are far more interested in the darker effects that unchallenged power had on the United States than they are in poking fun at the blatant lies the government was feeding the public. The parade of clips continues as the United States pushes forward with the development of the hydrogen bomb. Rallying the public with staged interviews, it seems that everyone is perfectly fine with the potential of using an even more devastating tool on other countries for lesser conflicts.

While the footage is 100% archival and newsreel material, the 4K restoration was undoubtedly worth the effort. The screen seems to teem with life, swirling with the uneven film grain. The use of music and audio clips stays clear without modernizing or losing the vintage sound.

As funny as it is frightening, The Atomic Cafe is a genius, tongue-in-cheek retrospective of a far less cynical time and the lies that the government used at the time to justify its new power. After all, you just have to duck and cover, right?

The Atomic Cafe (1982)

Directed and Written: Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader, Pierce Rafferty

Starring: Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader, Pierce Rafferty, etc.

Movie score: 10/10

The Atomic Cafe Image

"…genius, tongue-in-cheek retrospective of a far less cynical time..."

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  1. John Webb says:

    Norman, check out, a great look at real atomic events that shaped our world from the man that did the work!

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