Atomic Alert (1951)

Atomic Alert

Atomic Alert (Elementary Version) (1951)

Summary: Instructing elementary school kids on what to do during nuclear attack

The film begins by showing a cartoon atom overlaid over a child’s eye. Cue title card.

Cut to a classroom where young boys are learning about radioactivity. The group of youths is gathered around a Geiger counter as one boy waves a chunk of radioactive material in front of the detector. (Yikes!)

Atomic AlertAtomic Alert

Never fear, the narrator informs us that "the small amount of radioactivity coming from the cylinder is harmless." Uh-huh. Yeah, right.

Anyway, we learn that "atomic scientists" (I didn’t know scientist were atomic…) have many peacetime uses for radiation. Unfortunately "radiation can be used harmfully…as in atomic bombs."

Cut to a cartoon atomic bomb begin dropped on a cartoon city resulting in a cartoon mushroom cloud. You see, anything that is a cartoon can’t be that dangerous, can it kiddies?

Atomic Alert

Relax kiddies, the narration continues. "The chances of your being hurt by an atomic bomb are slight." (Huh?) Unfortunately, we learn that there is a chance that we will be bombed, so we need to know how to protect ourselves. The first step? Learn what an atomic bomb does.

"Blast and heat," we’re told are created by an atomic bomb. (Gee, you think?) Cut to a cartoon house where we see cartoon kids hiding in a cartoon basement.

"These children are protected. Concrete walls help stop radioactivity. Any wall stops the heat. The heat scorches the house but does not harm the children."

We also learn that the civil employees, such as firemen, policemen, doctors, etc., are there to help us if we need them. How they can help us if they are reduced to a charred husk by an atomic blast is not explained.

Now we get to the meat of the matter. What shoud we do if a warning siren sounds? As we watch a group of school children walking down the sidewalk, we hear an air raid siren go off.

"Look for cover…any cover!" Gee, thanks. "Don’t hesitate!"

"If you can’t get into a home, any home, get beside a wall, or steep embankment facing away from the city!"

Truly, to listen to this narration and see children running and cowering is very disturbing.

Now we learn what to do if we are at home. As air raid sirens wail in the background, we see two kids in the living room. An older boy, Ted, obviously the brother, comes downstairs and says to his little sister, "Hi Susie, everything’s fine upstairs. How are you doing here." (As Susie closes the curtains (!!!) to help prepare for the atomic blast.)

"Now we’ll go down in the basement," says Older Brother calmly. Just as they are about to flee to the cellar, Susie turns on the radio and says, "Gee, it was just a practice…all this rushing around for nothing." (!!!)

Atomic Alert

If you live in an apartment without a basement, simply find cover in a hallway, "away from windows if possible." Yup. That should do the trick, all right.

Well, all this is fine and dandy for a practice drill. Now the narrator explains what to do "if there is a bombing. A bombing without warning."

We now see 2 kids talking outside when they are suddenly illuminated by a bright flash of light. The kids drop to the ground and run for cover. Actually, the bright flash would have instantly reduced them to ash, but never mind.

"Don’t look at the flash! Stretch out!" we are told. "After one minute the immediate danger is past, then head for safer cover." (OK, then what?)

All this is narrated while we watch kids run through "rubble" of "bombed" buildings (obviously a construction site.) Strange how there are no fires. Hum. Oh well. "Shed your outer garments…they may have radioactive particles on them!" (Kids toss jackets on the ground as they run down the street.)

"After one minute the danger from heat, radioactivity, and blast have past." We are told. Um, the radioactive danger passes after a minute? I’m not to sure about the accuracy of that last point.

We now see Ted and Susie sitting (comfortably and quite calmly) in their basement, listening to their battery-powered radio. A news announcer reports the following (where exactly he is reporting from is not clear):

"The airburst of 3:01 p.m. was zeroed on Union Station…("Whew," says Ted, "We’re lucky! That blast was miles from here…")…I’ve just been handed a bulletin! There’s been an underwater burst at the waterfront! Water thrown up from the bomb is falling as mist and rain and it is radioactive! Avoid radioactive mist and rain!"

Just think. These types of films were supposed to be taken deadly serious.

Ted goes on to tell his 7-year old sister how she can scrub herself free of radioactivity using kitchen detergent.

Atomic Alert

After a while, there is a knock on the door. Instead of looters or hordes of panicked and injured survivors, it’s Mr. Carlson, the Block Warden, along with Mr. Franklin "our radiological monitor." As Mr. Franklin scans the living room with a Geiger counter, Mr. Carlson tells Ted that his "mother is down at the shopping center…she’s fine." (Ted quickly learns that his father is at "headquarters" and "Boy, is he busy!" (Boy! I sure bet he is!))

Ted and Sue are told to wait at home until the "All Clear" signal is given…

And then what?!!!

Conclusion: A chillingly naive look nuclear war. What the hell were we thinking?

2 comments to Atomic Alert (1951)

  • Niave is right! I remember these nuclear in cover!I had nightmares as a kid for years! Because of these useless films.the Eisenhaur admin. New these were usless they were shown to give a helpless population a false sense of quell panic.the truth was none of these tactics worked. The truth withheld from us is that nothing will save you. You get nuked you are toast!

  • Guts3d

    … or you just might gain super powers and learn to fight crime.

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