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Want to watch a real horror film? I’m not talking about some flick with a supernatural masked killer who wants to knock your face into halves with an axe, I’m talking about real life fears, ones that gripped have gripped us and have permanently scarred our national psyche?

Check out The Atomic Café.

A documentary without narration, the film is comprised solely of nuclear war footage from the 1940s through the 60s- everything from newsreel clips to military training films to those educational videos that they showed in schools. They even have the infamous Duck and Cover video (which was sampled at the beginning of Jedi Mind Tricks and RA’s instant classic Uncommon Valor) that instructed kids to dive to the floor and cover their heads if they happen to be in the middle of a nuclear blast. Because, you know, that would protect them.

It starts off with terrifying footage of the bombings of Japan (before and after) and leads straight into the Cold War. It shows the various nuclear tests we went through in our dick-swinging contest with Russia and the fears we faced as a nation equipped with a tremendous weapon we didn’t quite understand.

Yet as bleak as this sounds the film is frequently very funny. Not that the footage shown is funny in itself, but clever editing and the use of contemporary music makes this a film with perhaps the darkest humor around. While most of the soundtrack is centered on nuclear war it sounds
disturbingly jovial…anyone who has played Fallout 3 knows how well this can work.
Plus, when you see
someone dressing his son in a bomb survival suit, or watch a family
having fun and smiling in their fallout shelter, it’s impossible not to
laugh. You feel horrible for the stupid soldiers who were ordered to stand in front of nuclear blasts with no protection (and then charge into them!) so that the army could test the effects of radiation on people. And then you remember that just a few years ago people lined up for hours and
hours to purchase government-recommended duct tape and plasting sheets
and you wonder how much smarter we really have gotten.

The Atomic Café is a remarkable film, a hugely influential documentary and required viewing for anyone with an interest in perhaps the darkest portion of our history. It’s available on Instant Netflix, so click here to add it to your queue and watch it now!