"THE SECOND RED SCARE", brought to the "Greatest Generation", something they never dreamed of while fighting and dying for freedom during the Second World War, TOTAL NUCLEAR ANNIALATION!
PART ONE: THE SECOND RED SCARE AND THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY
On May 31, 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States officially broke their relations as allies during the Second World War. J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were placed on notice that the United States was once more fighting Communism from without and within the country.
On January 3, 1947, Joseph Raymond McCarthy was sworn in as a United States Senator from Wisconsin.
On March 21, 1947, President Truman signed "Executive Order 9835-The Federal Employees Loyalty Program".
On April 3, 1947, the "Attorney General's List of Subversive Organizations" was published and, America, "Welcome to the Second Red Scare".
Six-months later, on October 10, 1947, ten respected members of the Hollywood Film Industry, Dalton Trumbo, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner, Jr., Albert Matltz, Alvah Bessie, John Howard Lawson, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Samuel Orntiz, and Adrian Scott, appeared before the "House Committee on Un-American Activity (HUAC)".
Each man refused to answer questions concerning their alleged communist party involvement, sighting their First Amendment rights, or give the names of others in the film industry whom they knew belonged to the "Communist Party USA". Each man was sentenced to one-year in prison for contempt of Congress. Appeals to the United States Supreme Court would result in their sentences being upheld.
On November 1, 1947, members of the film industry including Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and Groucho Marx, formed "The Committee for the First Amendment" to fight the Congressional Witch Hunts.
On November 25, 1947, a two-page statement by Eric Johnson, president of the "Motion Picture Association of America", representing forty-eight motion picture executives including Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, Harry Cohn, Dore Schary, and Albert Warner, issued the first of what became known as "BLACK LISTS" to the "HOLLYWOOD TEN".
This was the new world the American motion picture industry, that had filmed pro-Communist movies such as 1941's, "Days of Glory", starring Gregory Peck, and 1943's, "Song of Russia", starring Robert Taylor, and its membership were facing from the United States Congress. As the powerful heads of the industry cowed at the perceived power of one Senator and one House committee.
The major studios attempted to keep Congress off their backs, by turning to "Safe Movies", Biblical stories, Musicals, and Historical pictures, that would dominate the first half of the 1950's.
There would be individuals in the industry that took on both Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities head-on, sacrificing everything for what was right. My article, "PAUL ROBESON Before "Ol' Man River" To After Joseph McCarthy: "The Artist Must Elect To Fight"; can be read at:
An interesting mistake was made by both "Joseph McCarthy's Committee" and the "House Committee on Un-American Activity". For whatever reason, they ignored the "Hollywood Poverty Row” studios and their films. This was possibly because these studios might be located in nothing more than a rented office in a Gower Street building off of Hollywood Boulevard, and not the names American's saw on the big-screen, such as MGM, Warner Brothers and even Colombia Pictures.
These independent, sometimes unknown, movie companies, found a way around Congress and the motion picture censors by using Science
Fiction movies as a means to make political commentary against both the Red Scare and Congress.
Before I look directly at all the very imaginative works about the nuclear destruction of the United States released during the 1950's.
I start with a look at five Hollywood motion pictures, three from major studios, one from a minor, and one from a poverty row, that reflect the discovery of the bomb, the fear of nuclear war, the support for the actions taken by Congress, and the infiltration of American life by Communism.
THE BEGINNING OR THE END released on March 7, 1947
The title, that is always confused with producer Bert I. Gordon's science fiction film about giant locust attacking Chicago, 1957's, "The Beginning of the End", refers to how the Atomic Bomb was the real beginning of the end of the Second World War, forcing Japan's surrender. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer also claimed, with the Truman administration's assistance, that the movie was the real story of "General Groves", played by Brian Donlevy, and "Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer", played by Hume Cronyn, the "Manhattan Project", and the development of the first Atomic Bomb.
However, the critics thought otherwise:
Bosley Crowther in his February 21, 1947 review for the "New York Times", wrote:
despite its generally able reenactments, this film is so laced with sentiment of the silliest and most theatrical nature that much of its impressiveness is marred.
"Time Magazine", February 24, 1947, wrote that:
even as entertainment ... the picture seldom rises above cheery imbecility.
Harrison Brown in the March 1947 issue of the "Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists", said that the MGM's production gave:
a completely false impression of how scientists work
It should be mentioned that "The Father of the Atomic Bomb", J. Robert Oppenheimer, would eventually be accused by the United States Congress of being a communist himself.
INVASION U.S.A. released on December 10, 1952
This low-budget motion picture, $187 thousand dollars, would have a box office of $1.2 million dollars, when the average Adult Movie Ticket was 48 cents.
The screenplay starts in a typical New York City bar, a television news anchor, a society woman, a California industrialist, an Arizona rancher, and a U.S. congressman, come together with a "Mr. Ohman" and the bartender.
As this representative group of Americans start to talk with each other, the television program is broken into with an important news bulletin. A group of military aircraft from an unnamed, it didn't have to be, country, is reported heading toward Alaska. The regular problem resumes and the group starts discussing the world situation as another bulletin comes on the television screen. Those military aircraft have just dropped Atomic Bombs on American military installations in Alaska.
What follows is what happens to each member of this group, as that unknown country drops Atomic Bombs on Chicago, San Francisco, Boulder Dam, and military installations across the United States. The enemy's paratroopers are dropped onto American soil and skirmishes develop with civilians being murdered and finally all the patrons of the bar are dead and the unknown country controls the United States.
In the December 31, 1951 issue of "Variety" was this description of the picture:
This production imaginatively poses the situation of a foreign power invading the US with atom bombs. Startling aspects of the screenplay [from a story by Robert Smith and Franz Spencer] are further parlayed through effective use of war footage secured from the various armed services and the Atomic Energy Commission.
The counter-part to "Invasion U.S.A." had been released four-months earlier and was a "Flag-Waving" "Anti-Communist" motion picture. Although the advertising for the feature and the movie's posters, like the one below, didn't want to imply this was a pro-McCarthyism political story.
BIG JIM MCLAIN released on August 30, 1952
John Wayne and James Arness are investigators for the "House Committee on Un-American Activities" and go after a Communist cell operating in Hawaii. They find the cell, several members are convicted of murder, while others pleading the "Fifth Amendment" go free. According to a title card at the end of the movie, the screenplay was based upon the files of the HUAC.
There are two 1950's motion pictures, a Western, and a Science Fiction that are believed to have subtlety attacked McCarthyism.
HIGH NOON released on July 24, 1952
Foreman was "Black Listed" and his partner on "High Noon", producer Stanley Kramer, demanded an immediate dissolution of their partnership. Carl Foreman was a signatory to the loan to make the motion picture and even with his dissolved partnership would remain tied to the production.
Carl Foreman felt pressure from "Los Times Gossip Columist" Hedda Hopper, "Colombia Pictures" owner Harry Cohn, and the "Motion Picture Association's" current president, John Wayne. So, after selling his half of the partnership to Stanley Kramer, Carl Foreman moved to the United Kingdom and would make, among other films, 1957's, "The Bridge on the River Kwai", and 1961's, "The Guns of Navarone", ironically for Harry Cohn's "Columbia Pictures".
In his May 1971, "Playboy Magazine" interview, John Wayne mentioned being offered the role of "Marshal Will Kane" in "High Noon". He refused it because he strongly believed the Carl Foreman's screenplay was an allegory against blacklisting, which he supported. In the interview, John Wayne stated that he never regretted:
having helped run Foreman out of the country
Wayne added that "High Noon" was:
The most un-American thing I've seen in my whole life.John Wayne and director Howard Hawks, made, 1958's "Rio Bravo", as their answer to Carl Foreman's, "High Noon". They never attacked, or blamed anyone else associated with that feature. My article with my detailed account of that story, "Howard Hawks' 'RIO BRAVO' Remade (?) as 'EL DORADO', and 'RIO LOBO' Starring John Wayne", is at:
Director Fred Zinnemann is on record as stating there isn't anything pertaining to either "Black Listing", or the "Red Scare" in the motion picture he directed.
To answer what the screenplay was actually about, maybe, I turn to two people that made this motion picture.
The picture was co-executive produced by Walter Mirisch, and in his 2008, autobiography, "I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History", he wrote:
People began to read meanings into pictures that were never intended. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an example of that. I remember reading a magazine article arguing that the picture was intended as an allegory about the communist infiltration of America. From personal knowledge, neither Walter Wanger nor Don Siegel, who directed it, nor Dan Mainwaring, who wrote the script nor original author Jack Finney, nor myself saw it as anything other than a thriller, pure and simple.In a London, England, interview with Don Sigel, British film historian Alan Lovell, in his 1975, "Don Siegel, American Cinema", quoted the American director as saying:
I felt that this was a very important story. I think that the world is populated by pods and I wanted to show them. I think so many people have no feeling about cultural things, no feeling of pain, of sorrow. [...] The political reference to Senator McCarthy and totalitarianism was inescapable but I tried not to emphasize it because I feel that motion pictures are primarily to entertain and I did not want to preach.
PART TWO: THERMAL NUCLEAR WAR IN 1950'S SCIENCE FICTION FILMS
The motion picture was made for the sole purpose of beating producer George Pal's, "Destination Moon", to the movie theaters and using the publicity for that major studio film to trick movie goers into believing this was Pal's picture they'd been hearing about.
The reason is that producer Kurt Neumann wanted something different from Pal's story, and hired a friend of his, the now Black Listed Dalton Trumbo to go over the screenplay. The uncredited Trumbo rewrote the last half of the screenplay and created the entire Martian sequence for the motion picture.
The crew of the "X-M" loses power 14-hours into their flight to the moon and "Dr. Karl Eckstrom" changes the mixture of the fuel to get them there. However, the fuel change has the unexpected result of increasing the space craft's overall speed and after blacking-out, the crew finds themselves approaching the planet Mars.
When the crew steps foot on Mars, they discover signs of a once advanced civilization equal to current Earth's, but destroyed by nuclear war. A nuclear war that has left the planet desolate and the war's survivors, over generations, having regressed to the stone age and in some cases born blind. Dalton Trumbo's point is made to the picture's audiences as he goes right at the fears of 1950's American's.
THE NEXT VOICE YOU HEAR released June 29, 1950
James Whitmore portrayed "Joe Smith, American", and Nancy Davis portrayed "Mrs. Mary Smith". Davis received a summons to appear before the "House Committee on Un-American Activity" for potential Communist ties, because they mixed her up with another Nancy Davis. She asked the President of the Screen Actors Guild, at the time, for help. He contacted Congress and was able to correct the HUAC's mistake for the actress. His name was Ronald Reagan
Gary Gray portrayed "Johnny Smith", together they were the typical 1950 American family, "The Smith's", with Lilian Bronson as "Aunt Edith".
Imagine you're a typical American family in 1950, sitting at your breakfast table, on a Tuesday morning, listening to your favorite radio program, when it's preempted by God! What would you think, and how would that effect you and the world's leaders in the early days of the "Cold War"?
The screenplay focuses on the "Smith Family" and how over the next six-days. They and every person in the world, in their own language, receive on their radios, messages of hope from God during the building "Cold War" fears of nuclear war?
Of course, the message for the seventh-day reads:
on the seventh day He rested.
The following year came the first picture set after a nuclear war between the United States and (?).
FIVE premiered in New York City on April 25, 1951
Although the picture would be distributed by Columbia Pictures, it was the first truly independent motion picture about nuclear war.
The motion picture was produced, directed, and written by the great Arch Oboler for "Arch Oboler Productions", if my reader is unfamiliar with his name. The playwright and novelist, in 1936, took over the radio program "Lights Out", and at midnight on NBC radio, scared the living daylights out of America. Then he brought the program to 1950's television and did the same with that program. Oboler also produced and directed 1952's, "Bwana Devil", the first commercial motion picture in the third-dimension.
Arch Oboler is described on the blog website, "Marty Baumann's, The Astounding Monster Archive", http://www.bmonster.com/scifi5.html this way:
Even as Welles shocked much of the nation with the unforgettable War of the Worlds sham, so did Oboler incite panic with an episode detailing the horror of a giant, undulating chicken heart. The very fact that something patently silly could nonetheless be terrifying is a testament to Oboler's genius for manipulating his medium. Like Welles, Oboler was eventually summoned to Hollywood and began churning out feature scripts for mellers like RKO's Gangway for Tomorrow. Proving to producers that he knew his way around a screenplay, Arch was at last given the opportunity to direct.
"Michael" attempts to sexually assault "Roseanne" and she reveals she is both married and pregnant. Elderly bank clerk, "Oliver P. Barnstaple", who is in denial of the nuclear bomb and has a delusion he's on vacation, arrives at the house. The vacation idea is kept alive for "Barnstaple" by his caregiver, African-American "Charles".
"Oliver" and "Charles" had survived the atomic bomb, because they were accidently locked in a leaded bank vault. "Roseanne" had survived, because she was in a hospital lead-lined X-Ray room. While "Michael" was in an elevator in the Empire State Building that somehow protected him.
"Eric" starts to sow disconnect within the four survivors and reveals himself to be a racist. He later has a fight with "Charles", but both stop when "Roseanne" goes into labor and "Michael" delivers her baby, a boy.
Later one night, "Eric" tells "Roseanne" he is going to the nearest city, Oak Ridge, and wanting to know her husband's fate, she agrees to go with him, but "Eric" insists "Roseanne" doesn't tell "Michael". She agrees, just as "Eric" wants, but a suspicious "Charles" stops him and they fight. As the two men struggle, "Eric" pulls out a knife and stabs "Charles" in the back, killing him.
"Eric" and "Roseanne" reach Oak Ridge and he starts looting stores, while "Roseanne" heads for her husband's office.
"Roseanne" now starts the long walk back to the house and "Michael". Along the way her baby dies, "Michael" who was searching for "Roseanne" and the baby, finds them. He buries her son, and then the two return to the house and together start cultivating the soil for new crops and their future.
The robot is named "Grut", there is a human looking alien name "Klaatu", played by Michael Rennie, a reporter sees him killed by a lunatic and buried. The reporter watches the robot working on a way to recreate "Klaatu" from a recording of his voice. The new "Klaatu" is not perfect and has defects in its interaction with the reporter. The twist ending reveals that the robot is the "Master" not the original, or duplicate "Klaatu".
The screenplay for producer Julian Blaustein, and director Robert Wise's motion picture was written by Edmund H. North.
On the face of the screenplay, the story is the normal thriller formula of a man on the run, needing to prove his innocence, hiding from the authorities, who want him captured, or killed for a perceived crime he did not commit.
However, there were controversial subtle religious undertones related to the last days of "Jesus" in North's screenplay. 20th Century Fox studio head Daryl F. Zanuck's had to change one important scene's dialogue, because of those undertones. The change was required, not suggested, by Joseph Breen, the censor for the "Motion Picture Association of America", if Zanuck wanted to release the motion picture.
That scene has "Helen Benson", played by Patricia Neal, witness the resurrection of the dead "Klaatu" by the robot "Gort".
To pass Joseph Breen's requirement, Daryl F. Zanuck had Edmund H. North change "Klaatu's" answer to "Helen". "Klaatu" now tells her that "Gort" has only temporarily brought him back to life. Adding that "Gort" doesn't have the power to bring him back to full life, because:
that power is reserved to the Almighty Spirit.According to film historian Melvin E. Matthews, 2007, "Hostile Aliens, Hollywood and Today's News: 1950's Science Fiction and 9/11". Edmund H. North had misgivings about those religious undertones and told him they were:
...my private little joke. I never discussed this angle with Blaustein or Wise because I didn't want it expressed. I had originally hoped that the Christ comparison would be subliminal.
....and we come to the miracle of "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Where every powered machine just stops, but hospitals, out of hospital medical emergencies that need power or vehicles, and airplanes in flight, go on as if nothing has happened.
The second tie-in of the Christ comparison and the Second Red Scare, takes place when "Klaatu" gives his "Sermon on the Mount", or flying saucer, looking down on the representatives of the world's scientists.
In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer.
UNKNOWN WORLD aka: NIGHT WITHOUT STARS released on October 26, 1951
The screenplay was written by Millard Kaufman. Who fronted, his name showed instead, on-screen as the screenplay writer, for his friend, "Black Listed", Dalton Trumbo, on 1950's, "Gun Crazy",
as an indictment of both racism and McCarthyismFor "Unknown World", Kaufman had an interesting "Red Scare" story idea. How to maximize the survival rate of a population from a Soviet nuclear attack on the United States?
The brilliant "Dr. Jerimiah Morley" has created an atomic powered drilling machine, think Edgar Rice Burroughs "At the Earth's Core", he calls the Cyclotram.
At the spot on the surface chosen by "Dr. Morley", the Cyclotram enters the Earth.
Then an underground volcano starts to erupt, "Morley" fails to enter the safety of the Cyclotram and becomes the second person to die in the group, the first was "Ostergaard" in a fight over having "Dr. Lindsey". The Cyclotram enters the underground sea as the cavern is being destroyed by the erupting volcano, but the water's current moves them upward and the Cyclotram emerges in the Pacific Ocean to be rescued.
Husband and wife scientists "Chris" and "Linda Cronyn" have created a hydrogen powered radio transmitter and are picking up messages from Mars, or are they? An old Nazi scientist will claim he was behind them, but was he?
Four-weeks after announcing the first message, the world has been torn into economic chaos, because of the concept of a Utopian society. The United States government claims the "Cronyn's" have:
You have done well, my good and faithful servant
1,000 YEARS FROM NOW aka: CAPTIVE WOMEN aka: 3,000 A.D. released on October 10, 1952
The motion picture was produced and written by Jack Pollexfen and Aubrey Wisberg. The two where the producers and writers for 1951's, "The Man from Planet X".
The director for the picture was Stuart Gilmore. In 1946, he directed Joel McCrea and Brian Donlevy in the Western, "The Virginian", but Gilmore was actually a film-editor.
The leads were also from "The Man from Planet X", Robert Clarke and Margret Field. My article, "ROBERT CLARKE: 'B' Actor, or 'The Hideous Sun Demon' Meets the 'King Sisters", can be read at:
During a brief truce between two tribes, "Robert" and "Ruth", of "The Norms", are to be married in the post-apocalyptic ruins of New York City, Oddly, it is the other tribe, "The Mutants" that try to follow the tenants of a Christian Bible, but they are rejected by the "Norms".
However, raiders from the third tribe, the "Upriver People", kidnap "Ruth" and other women and the "Norms" and the "Mutants" join forces to save them. There is a battle in the Hudson River Tunnel that starts to flood and the survivors of all three groups come together to start humanity once more.
ゴジラ GOJIRA premiered in Nagoya Japan on November 3, 1954
"Gojira" was partly based on an incident related to that fallout spread, but before the 7,000-mile figure was determined.
The Japanese fishing boat 第五福龍丸 (Diago Fukuryu Maru-The Lucky Dragon #5) was fishing well beyond the announced safety distance from the "Castle-Bravo" H-Bomb test on Bikini Atoll. When the H-Bomb was exploded, there was a blinding flash in front of the fishing boat toward the atoll and nuclear fallout in the form of a fine ash reached and covered the "Lucky Dragon #5" and its crew.
What went wrong was the American scientists estimated the yield of the H-Bomb at 6-megatons and set the safety zone based on that estimate. When the first H-Bomb was exploded, the yield was 15-megatons, two-and-a-half-times larger then predicted by the American scientists and that meant the safety field was two-and-a-half-times smaller then needed.
Gojira can be interpreted as a film about nature versus humanity. Gojira the monster embodies mankind’s corruption of the natural world through nuclear weapons. Nuclear testing disfigured the creature and imbued it with radioactive powers. As a result, Gojira seeks to destroy all “symbols of civilization as if seeking revenge on humankind for creating such technology.
The website quotes director Ishiro Honda:
Most of the visual images I got were from my war experience. After the war, all of Japan, as well as Tokyo, was left in ashes. The atomic bomb had emerged and completely destroyed Hiroshima….If Godzilla had been a dinosaur or some other animal, he would have been killed by just one cannonball. But if he were equal to an atomic bomb, we wouldn't know what to do. So, I took the characteristics of an atomic bomb and applied them to Godzilla.
If "Gojira" is the allegorical H-Bomb, the "Oxygen Destroyer" represents the allegorical conflict between on-going scientific discovery versus the unknown consequences of that discovery.
For Japan, the development of the H-bomb raised fears about an intensified and accelerated arms race.
This fear comes in the form of Dr. Daisuke Serizawa. Dr. Serizawa, a man both physically and psychologically scarred from World War II, unintentionally invents a device that destroys oxygen molecules and calls it the “Oxygen Destroyer.” He demonstrates to Emiko Yamane, Dr. Yamane’s daughter, the power of the device in a fish tank. The demonstration leaves nothing behind but fish skeletons. He claims that the Oxygen Destroyer is more powerful than any nuclear weapon and forces Emiko to never reveal this terrible secret.
I cannot believe that Gojira was the last of its species. If nuclear testing continues, then someday, somewhere in the world...another Gojira may appear.
Above at the Nagoya premiere are left, Akihiko Hirata who played "Dr. Serizawa", and far right, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka.
THEM! released June 15, 1954
The motion picture was originally filmed in the Third-Dimension by director Gordon Douglas, but Warner Brothers executive, Jack L. Warner, made the decision not to release it in 3-D, because he claimed the audiences had lost interest in the process.
The story from George Worthing Yates, George Pal's 1955 "Conquest of Space" and Ray Harryhausen's "It Came from Beneath the Sea", and his 1956, "Earth vs the Flying Saucers", is gripping and deals with a very real scientific worry that in 1954, the "United States Atomic Energy Commission", wasn't recognizing.
My article, "George Worthing Yates: Screenplays from 1927's LIGHTNING LARIATS to 1962's KING KONG VS GODZILLA", may be read at:
Answering a call that there might be a little girl wandering around in the New Mexico Desert, two police officers working with a search plane find her in a state of shock. This leads to her parent's trailer that has been pulled out by someone, but there are no bodies to be found and no money apparently was taken. The little girl is taken to the hospital, a strange possible animal print is found near the trailer, and an overturned box of sugar cubes for coffee. The two officers go to a store further along the road and find similar circumstances with one wood wall seemingly pulled out, not pushed in, the owner, "Grant Johnson" is dead, and no money taken. However, his shot gun is literally bent in half, a sugar barrel was turned over and some small ants are in it. One of the officers stays at the store and will be presumed dead, as his body, like the girl's parents at the trailer, is missing. Further investigation reveals the trailer belonged to an FBI agent and his family. The local FBI agent meets the second police officer and they go over the two murder sites and returns to the police station. Where the local coroner reveals that "Grant" had a huge amount of formic acid in him. A plaster cast of the strange animal print is sent to the FBI in Washington, D.C., and a father and daughter team arrive from the Department of Agriculture and George Worthing Yates has set-up his story.
Before he goes to see the little girl and brings her out of shock with the smell of formic acid screaming "THEM", over and over again.
"Dr. Harold Medford" asks several questions of the local FBI officer, "Robert Graham", and the New Mexico police officer "Sergeant Ben Peterson". "Dr. Medford's" critical question is where and when did the very first Atomic Bomb Test take place?
The answer is, July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
The giant ants in "THEM", according to George Worthing Yates in his original story, were created from a normally seen desert ant that had mutated into giant size over that nine-year period from the first atomic bomb test. It is the lingering radiation that had been blown downwind into the desert sand that caused the mutations.
As I mentioned above, the Japanese doctors looking at the crew of the "Lucky Dragon #5" contacted the "United States Atomic Energy Commission" for assistance in treating the crew's radiation sickness, but never received a response from them. Yet, eventually two medical scientists showed up, not to advise the Japanese doctors, but to study the crew.
This same lack of urgency was shown by the commission toward lingering radiation and its effects, until the United States, became a part of the "United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation", established in 1955, a year after "THEM" was released.
There is a town, St. George, Utah, downwind from the United States government's "Nevada National Security Site", where ELEVEN above ground, nuclear bombs, were detonated as part of "Operation Upshot-Knothole" in 1953.
At the time, St. George was the epitome of small-town America, a nice place to raise a family, with mom and pop businesses lining Main Street. Residents of small-town Utah were fiercely patriotic and welcomed any opportunity to do their part for America’s national security.
"They would actually let us out of school, take us out on the lawn so we could watch the mushroom cloud come across us,” said Mel Clark, a sheep rancher from Cedar City.
The United States took part in nuclear testing as part of the escalating Cold War arms race, and nuclear weapons proliferated. With each nuclear test, radioactive fallout spread globally.
The first signs of trouble came from the sheep. Local ranchers observed sheep with severe defects that consequently died. Utah ranchers were convinced radiation from nuclear testing was the cause. The Atomic Energy Commission denied all accusations. In 1956, the ranchers took the federal government to court, alleging the loss of more than 4,000 animals. They lost.
Within years, communities in Southern Utah began to notice a troubling phenomenon. Friends, neighbors and relatives were being diagnosed with various cancers and immune disorders. Cancer clusters emerged in different communities, and relatively rare cancers such as thyroid cancer and leukemia showed up even among children
In 1990, after years of lawsuits, Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act – or RECA. The act provided a means for downwinders who resided or worked near the test site, test site workers and uranium miners to file claims to receive compensatory damages.
The era of nuclear testing changed the world forever; it’s a part of America’s history and downwinders are part of nuclear testing’s legacy that continues to affect Utahns and their communities to this day.
Off and off, from May 1954 through August 1954, on the Escalante Desert, a jacent to "St. George. Where the cast and crew would sometimes go for dinner and use the hotel and motel facilities. Motion picture director Dick Powell filmed 1956's, "The Conqueror", starring John Wayne and Susan Hayward. The cancer rate among the 220 members of the cast and crew would be FORTY-ONE PERCENT!
Below, American soldiers watching a 1951 Atom Bomb Test at the Nevada National Security Site. NOTE: How close they are and the obvious non-worry that they will be exposed to radiation.
Moving forward, we find a low-budget science fiction feature with a hodgepodge of ideas from other movies. The film was made in the United Kingdom by an American producer and starred Patricia Neal. She took the role to raise money to fix-up the house her husband, author Ronald Dahl, purchased in Britain.
STRANGER FROM VENUS released in the United Kingdom in October 1954
Several people on the English countryside spot a flying saucer and American "Susan North", Patricia Neal, is on her way to meet her fiancé, government official "Arthur Walker", played by Derek Bond, and is blinded by the saucer's landing lights and crashes her car.
The title character, played by Austrian actor Helmut Dantine, approaches "Susan's" car, examines her, and leaves. The police find the crashed car, but no "Susan" and start to investigate the driver's disappearance. Meanwhile, the "Stranger" enters an English pub containing "Susan's" fiancé, a medical doctor, and two police officers looking for the missing driver. The "Stranger" tells the group that he helped "Susan North", but has no idea where she might be. He next claims to have comes from the planet Venus and has no name. The doctor and the police are permitted to examine him and discover the "Stranger" has no pulse, no Human fingerprints, can read minds, and speaks every earth language fluently.
Next, in walks "Susan", who seems to have no knowledge of the car crash and her injuries are healed. There is a hint in the screenplay that she died and was resurrected by the Venusian. Who has the power of both life and death by his touch and the two form a bond.
"Susan's" government official fiancé, "Arthur", calls the Ministry of War to report the alien, other government officials arrive at the Inn, and the military surrounds it to keep the Venusian inside.
"The Stranger from Venus" informs the group of officials that his mission to Earth, is to prepare them for the arrival of his superiors that have a dire warning for all the peoples of the planet.
The officials want more clarification and he informs the group that Humans are developing dangerous nuclear technology and that must stop. The "Stranger" explains that in the inevitable nuclear war on Earth, if 50-nuclear devices are exploded in basically the same area by the waring nations. That action will move the Earth out of its orbit and the planet will cause a chain reaction of planetary movement that could destroy the solar system. That cannot happen and so, all nuclear development must stop.
The Venusian promises, if the Humans stop their nuclear development, the peoples of Venus will share some of their advance technology, but he deduces that the Humans cannot handle that advance technology and informs the officials of his thoughts.
He has also realized that the officials, remember he can read minds, are delaying him as a trap is being set for his superiors and to capture their flying saucer. The alien is able to warn his superiors not to land, says good-bye to "Susan", and disappears.
The impression left on the audiences is that the human's will go forward with their nuclear experimentation and a war will result.
This picture is considered the British "The Day the Earth Stood Still", because the screenplay contained many obvious lifts from that 1951 American motion pictures. American producer Burt Balaban was afraid to release the motion picture in the United States and a few years after its release it did appear on American television as "Immediate Disaster". It was also known as "The Venusian" in some countries.
Walter Elias Disney took a classic science fiction novel and brought it into the Atomic Age for American audiences.
20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA released on December 24, 1954
According to French author Jules Verne in his 1870 novel, "Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)". The primary source of power for "Captain Nemo's" submarine, the "Nautilus", was Electricity, provided by sodium/mercury batteries (with the sodium provided by the extraction from seawater.
That might work in the 1870's, but Walt Disney's motion picture was shot from January 11, 1954 through June 19, 1954. Back in July, 1951, the United States Congress had authorized the building of the first nuclear powered submarine, also called "The Nautilus". That submarine had been launched ten days earlier then the start of filming of Disney's motion picture on January 1, 1954.
Above the United States Navy's "Nautilus", below Walt Disney's version of Jules Verne's "Nautilus".
Director Richard Fleischer, son of Walt's animation competitor Max Fleischer, and screenplay writer Earl Fenton, changed Jules Verne's propulsion system to something only "Captain Nemo" knew how to create and decades ahead of its time. Additionally, Fenton added that it was this unknown power that the evil nations and some so-called good of the world wanted to capture "Nemo" and torture out of him.
Above, "Captain Nemo" reveals to "Professor Pierre Aronnax" the power source of the Nautilus, implied that its atomic energy. Below, "Nemo's" base of operations "Vulcania" surrounded by enemy warships.
At the picture's climax, "Captain Nemo" blows up "Vulcania", by what can only be described as a nuclear bomb.
As the Nautilus sinks with "Captain Nemo" and its crew, what is somewhat reminiscent of the words of "Dr. Yamane" at the end of "Gojira", the audience hears James Mason's elegant voice state:
There is hope for the future. And when the world is ready for a new and better life, all this will someday come to pass... in God's good time.
THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED released in December 1955
One could never complain about the posters from American International Pictures. This was Rodger Corman's first of three nuclear war motion pictures, the final one, "The Last Woman on Earth", being released in 1960. Roger Corman was both the producer and director of the "Day the World Ended".
The screenplay was by Lou Rusoff, who had just written the screenplay for 1955's, "The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues", and in 1956 wrote the screenplay for Corman's "It Conquered the World", and director Edward L. Cahn's variation on the "Bridey Murphy" story, "The She-Creature".
The screenplay opens with the words "The End" and shows an atomic war using stock footage of real atomic bomb tests.
The world is covered with radiation, but deep within a box canyon with lead-bearing cliffs are survivors. The radiation has stopped going down into it and there are two survivors, retired "U.S. Navy Commander Jim Maddison", played by Roger Corman regular, Paul Birch, and his daughter, "Louise", played by Lori Nelson. "Louise's" fiancé is missing, but she keeps a photo of him on her night stand.
Above, "Louise's" fiancé looks a lot like director Roger Corman.
Enter geologist "Rick", played by Richard Denning, who is accepted into the home and is shown some drawings made by "Commander Maddison" of mutated animals on the atomic bomb test ships that the commander was associated with.
Now enters a small-time crook, "Tony Lamont", played by Touch Connors, before he dropped his high school basketball nickname and became Mike Connors, and his girlfriend, "Ruby", played by Adele Jergens.
The immediate problem facing these five is rain! Should radioactive rain come, what fresh air is in the canyon will be destroyed and they will be exposed to fallout and eventually get radiation sickness.
Into the canyon comes "Radek", played by Paul Dubov, who was exposed to fallout and is mutating like the animals on the ship "Commander Maddison" was on.
Also, wandering into the canyon is an old miner named "Pete", played by "B" Western sidekick, Raymond Hatton, and his mule.
Over riding the tension between these people is something "Louise" can't see, but seems to be talking to her. Is it her missing fiancé, or is she just reacting to the closeness of "Rick"? There is a fresh water lake near the house and "Louise" and "Ruby" go to use it, but something is watching them afraid to come close to the fresh water.
"Radek" takes "Pete's" mule up the radioactive hillside and eats it, but something else kills "Radek".
"Radek's" killer was once human, it is "Louise's" fiancé mutated, played by Paul Blaisdell. My article, "Paul Blaisdell: 'American International Pictures' Creator of 1950's Aliens and Other Creatures", will be found at:
Another threat to the group is charming "Tony", who wants "Ruby", "Rick" and the Commander out of the way so he can have "Louise".
"Pete" will be killed, the mutate found out and it grabs "Louise".
At the climax, it does rain, but not radioactive fallout, the rain is fresh water and it kills the mutant and any others that might be around. "Tony" stabs "Ruby" to death, the Commander kills him, and reveals he is dying from radiation sickness.
The movie ends with "Rick" and "Louise" starting up the hillside to the now radioactive free world and the words: "The Beginning" appears on the screen.
WORLD WITHOUT END released March 25, 1956
This motion picture received a threat from the estate of H.G. Wells for alleged similarities to his 1895 novel, "The Time Machine", but it never materialized. In fact, in 1960, Rod Taylor, who co-starred in this picture, starred as Wells' "Time Traveler", in producer George Pal's classic motion picture version of the novel.
The intelligent and logical screenplay was written by the motion pictures director, Edward Bernds. Bernds was actually a "B" comedy writer, who wrote films for the "Bowery Boys", and the Sunday newspaper, comic strip, "Blondie" movie series.
Remember, this motion picture was released in March 1956, the story opens exactly one-year later in March 1957. The world's first space trip, the MRX", on a mission around the planet Mars has a crew of mission commander, "Dr. Eldon Galbraithe", scientist "John Borden", radio man "Herbert Ellis", and engineer "Henry 'Hank' Jaffe".
Back on Earth, at the control center, is the only married man in the crew, "Hank Jaffe's", wife, son, and daughter waiting for the next report from the space craft that just completed its second orbit of the red planet. There appears to be a temporary loss of contact with Earth as the crew goes over their return trajectory home. They engage the ships engines and begin the journey to Earth, but suddenly the "MRX" encounters violent turbulence and the crew members are knocked out.
On Earth the spacecraft disappears from radar and contact of any type.
The "MRX" is presumed lost and "Mrs. Jaffe" is informed as a televised report goes out to the world.
While on-board the "MRX", the unconscious crew crashes on a snow-covered mountain in what will turn out to be a valley. The crew regains consciousness, they know that whatever planet they're on is not Mars, and checking their instruments, the radiation level is very slight, and surprisingly, this unknown planet has earthlike gravity, and earthlike oxygen.
They check the outside of the ship and confirm the "MRX" cannot be repaired by them. The obvious choice is made, explore this strange planet, taking supplies and the small arms they have, the four men leave.
After several hours of walking and having left the snow-capped mountain range, they discover a cave and decide to use it for the night. Inside is a giant spiderweb and two strange giant spiders attack them.
The spiders are killed and staying in the cave is out of the question. The four set-up a camp in a clearing, but are unaware they are being observed by a group of mutated human-like creatures who attack them. The four use their pistols to kill some of the mutates and the others run off in fright of the small arms.
Later, the four Earth explorers find what turns out to be an old graveyard and are shocked to realize they're back on Earth. Based upon the dates on the grave markers, the last year they can find is 2188. "Hank Jaffe" goes into a depression over the obvious loss of his family and what they must have felt with his disappearance. "Eldon Galbraithe", believes that they went through a time dilation. Which in psychic's is the difference in elapsed time as measured by two clocks. The one in the "MRX" and the other one that would exist on Earth at this time. Apparently, there was a cataclysmic nuclear event on Earth and those creatures that attacked the four are what has become the human race.
However, "Eldon" is wrong, as the four are led to safety from another attack, as a hidden door opens for them to enter.
There they meet the other survivors of the human race and learn the year is actually, in their calendar, 2508, or 551-years into the future from when the "MRX" left for Mars.
It is at this point that Edward Bernds screenplay gives a ray of home to the future apocalyptic Earth.
There are three groups of humans on Earth. One group has lived underground so long that they are a dying race and the men are infertile. Enter four males from 1957 to perhaps help repopulate the Earth.
The one problem within the underground humans is "Mories", who spy's on the men from 1957, and sees them causing problems for his plan to rule, and kills a man to make it appear they did it. The others who turned against the four will learn the truth and "Mories" will eventually be killed by the mutants.
The men from 1957 manufacture a bazooka and back up "John Bordon" who, with "Deena's" help to speak to the mutants, challenges "Naga" for leadership. In the end, "John" wins and he has "Deena" tell the very few remaining mutants to leave forever.
The future of mankind is re-established, the underground humans return to the surface and children are being born. "Hank" finds relief from his depression by becoming a teacher to all the mutant's normal children and those of the once underground humans All four-time travels help restore the human race and have found love on a "World Without End".
I've previously mentioned how the "United States Atomic Energy Commission" simply ignored the letter for assistance from Japanese doctors concerning the treatment of the crew of the "Lucky Dragon #5". I also mentioned that the same commission seemed unconcerned about lingering radiation in the soil and what it might do to the ecology, or people exposed to it, until the United Nations made it an issue.
While the government seemed to lack concern, or initiative toward the side effects of atomic radiation. The imagination of the independent movie makers did not.
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN released in New York City on February 22, 1957
The screenplay was primarily written by Matheson and the uncredited Richard Alan Simmons. My article, "Richard Matheson: The Screenplays and Treatments", can be read at:
The motion picture was directed by Jack Arnold, who directed 1954's, "The Creature from the Black Lagoon", and, 1955's, "Tarantula". My article, "Jack Arnold 'It Came from Outer Space' to 'The Mouse That Roared': His 1950's Films" will be found at:
Richard Matheson used some imagination in what happens to "Scott Carey" and reminds one of the "Lucky Dragon #5" incident with a science fiction twist.
"Scott" and his wife are enjoying a leisurely vacation outing on the ocean in there comfortable boat.
What happens is "Scott Carey" is shrinking for being exposed to a radioactive cloud from an unspecified atomic test. Medical science cannot help him and his pet cat, becomes an adversary and a common spider a monster.
The motion picture was produced and directed by Bert I. Gordon. Who actually did a colossal man motion picture he released three-months earlier in July, 1957, "The Cyclops". In that story, a search party goes looking for the missing boyfriend of the woman who hires them. What they find is "Bruce Barton's" airplane crashed and now he's a 25-foot giant with one eye destroyed, after being exposed to radioactivity from a massive radium deposit.
Before "The Cyclops", in June, 1957, Gordon released the previously mentioned "Beginning of the End". A story about grasshoppers who have eaten radioactive wheat that is part of a experiment by the "Department of Agriculture" to create enough food for the projected starving earth. The grasshoppers have grown to gigantic size and are overrunning Chicago.
My article, "Growing Up on a Diet of of 'Mr. B.I.G. (BERT I. GORDON)': Giants, Little People and Grasshoppers", is ready for sizing at:
I would have my reader look back at the photograph of actual U.S. Army soldiers observing a real Atom Bomb blast at what was considered to be a safe distance in 1951 from the blast.
Driving there and being admitted to "Glenn's" room, she faints at the sight of a giant "Glenn Manning". "Dr. Linstrom" explains to the shocked "Carol Forrest" that his old cells have all died, but newly created cells are multiplying at an alarming rate, causing "Glenn" to grow at a rate of 8 to 10-feet a day.
At the time that Hideo Unagami came-up with his story idea, the British had started their H-Bomb testing in the Pacific as "Operation Grapple", and the Soviet Union were testing H-Bomb's in the area of the Bering Strait. While, the United States was back to testing in Nevada and the Las Vegas Hotels were posting dates and times of those tests. So, that their hotel guests could enjoy the light show, because "That's Entertainment"!
The radiation had changed the crew into a liquefied form that can turn other humans into the same form.
On the outskirts of Tokyo, a drug dealer, named "Misaki", is apparently killed while attempting to escape from the police, but only his clothing are found beside his car and not his body.
The story that follows seems a little like a caveman version of 1955's "Rebel Without a Cause", with Robert Vaughn in the James Dean role and Darah Marshall in the Natalie Wood.
However, the screenplay returns to the thoughts of the dead man asking will mankind repeat the folly of the past?
THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL premiered in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 23, 1959
Besides "The Purple Cloud", the screenplay would be also based upon the short story, "End of the World", by Ferdinand Reyher. He was a 1930's screenplay writer, novelist and reporter for the "Boston Globe" and "Boston Post". During the 1940's his close friends included playwright Bertolt Brecht, John Huston, and actor Paul Henreid.
The screenplay was written by the motion picture's director, Ranald MacDougall. His screenplays included 1945's, "Objective Burma", the same year's "Mildred Pierce", 1950's, "Bright Leaf", 1954's, "The Naked Jungle", the same year's "Secret of the Incas", and 1955's, "We're No Angels".
The three protagonists are African American "Ralph Burton", a coal mine inspector, who was trapped in a mine cave-in before the attack and wondered why his rescuers seemed to suddenly just stop.
"Sarah Crandall", a twenty-something woman, who was living in New York City and was able to survive exposure to the isotopes.
The two men now move through the city armed watching for the other.
In the end, "Ralph" passes the United Nations headquarters, climbs the steps of Ralph Bunche Park and reads the inscription from the "Book of Isaiah":
They shall beat their swords into plowshares. And their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation. Neither shall they learn war any more
He throws down his rifle and goes to "Benson" unarmed, "Benson" finds he cannot shoot the other. The two men stop fighting, and with "Sarah" in the middle, all three hold hands and walk down a main street to a better future.
This motion picture had star power for the time and a large budget, but it was a box office failure. As the June 1, 1959, edition of "Time Magazine", in the article, "Cinema: The World, The Flesh and The Devil", wrote:
In this instance, the audience is asked to believe that when most of humanity has been wiped out by a cloud of radioactive sodium, the three people who have managed to save their skins will spend most of their time worrying about the color of them [...] The story falls into the predictable triangular pattern, which soon resolves into the predictable eternal question: Which boy will get the girl? [...] the answer is intended to answer the race question, but since Actor Belafonte's skin seems just about as light as Actor Ferrer's, the audience may justifiably wonder if the question itself is not almost academic.
What was not mentioned by "Time Magazine" and other reviewers, was that little movie from Arch Oboler, 1951's, "Five". Which also addressed race and used a nuclear war as its backdrop.
The final Science Fiction of the decade was also an all-star production, but with a somber message.
ON THE BEACH released on December 17, 1959
This was a major motion picture from producer and director Stanley Kramer, his latest feature film was 1958's, "The Defiant Ones", starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, just prior to that movie was 1957's, "The Pride and the Passion", starring Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Sophia Loren. Immediately after this motion picture would be 1960's, "Inherit the Wind", starring Spencer Tracy and Fredric March, followed by, 1961's, "Judgement at Nuremberg", starring Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, and Richard Widmark.
The screenplay was based upon the best-selling novel "On the Beach", by British writer Nevil Shute.
The screenplay was written by John Paxton, 1944's, "Murder My Sweet", based upon author Raymond Chandler's, "Farewell My Lovely", and 1953's, "The Wild One".
The screenplay takes place only five-years after the year of this motion picture's release, 1964. Which appears at the top of a calendar and with the tension between the Soviet Union and the United States in 1959, just seeing the year 1964 had the desired shock effect director Stanley Kramer wanted from the audience.
The Third World War has taken place in Earth's Northern Hemisphere and most of the cities of the world lay in waste from nuclear devastation. The resulting fallout cloud has been slowly working its way south leaving cities as they were built, but with every living thing dead within them. Apparently, the only living humans are in Australia, but the cloud is coming.
The story is about the final days of a group of people living in Australia, living as if nothing ever happened, but knowing what will eventually arrive. Arriving in Sydney Harbor is the American nuclear submarine, the "Sawfish", that survived by staying underwater and surfacing only before the cloud had reached their position.
"United States Navy Commander Dwight Lionel Towers" has his submarine placed under the command of the Australian Navy. While awaiting orders, "Towers" meets Australian socialite "Moria Davidson", and the two start an affair.
"Towers" also comes in contact with Australian scientist, "Julian Osborn", who is rebuilding a race car to enter in the "Australian Grand Prix", another sign that life in Australia continues as if nothing happened.
Assigned to "Commander Towers" is "Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander Peter Holmes" as his liaison. "Holmes" has a wife, "Mary", and a baby.
An incomprehensible signal is coming from the West Coast of the United States in morse code, but it could be a sign of survivors. A scientific theory is that radiation levels are lower in the Arctic Ocean and could indicate that the radiation may be gone by the time the cloud was to have reached Australia. The "Sawfish" is ordered north to find the source of the signal and confirmed the lower radiation levels. "Julian" will accompany the crew as will "Lt. Commander Holmes".
The "Sawfish" reaches Point Barrow, Alaska, and runs tests on the radiation levels, but finds that they are inexplicably intensifying instead of lowering. The radiation cloud may even be stronger by the time it reaches Australia.
Next, the "Sawfish" arrives in San Francisco Bay and through the periscope, the crew sees a deserted city. Crewman, "Ralph Swain", deserts the submarine and goes to find his family and the next morning, through the periscope, "Towers" sees "Swain calmly fishing. "Commander Towers" is warned by "Julian" not to take "Swain" on-board, as he is now a danger to the entire crews, because of his exposure to radiation.
The "Sawfish" leaves San Francisco and heads for San Diego and the morse code signal. "Communication Officer Lieutenant Sunderstrom" is given protective gear and is sent ashore to find the signal and who's sending it.
What "Sunderstrom" finds is an empty Coke bottle hanging by a string from a window shade over the telegraph key. He cuts it off and returns to the "Sawfish".
Back in Australia, "Dwight Towers", and "Moria Davidson", join "Julian Osborn" at the race track and watch him win the race.
As the cloud comes closer, religious fever starts to take hold.
At the climax, "Julian" seals his garage, gets into his race car, and turns the engine on. "Lieutenant Holmes" gives his wife and baby a pill that will let them die in peace and not face radiation poisoning and takes one himself. The crew of the "Sawfish" wants to go back the the United States to die and "Moria" watches it sail out to sea.
Next, producer Stanley Kramer shows the audience a deserted Sydney, Australia.....
.... and the movie fades to black.
PART THREE: FUTURE IMPERFECT
In October, 1962, I was attending "Ulysses S. Grant High School" in Van Nuys, California. My sixteenth birthday fell on October 16th. On the world stage, my birthday present was the start of the "Cuban Missile Crisis". When the United States faced the possibility of Soviet Missiles, with Nuclear Warheads, being fired from Cuba, 90-miles south, of Florida, at the United States. Between October 16th and October 29, 1962, United States President John Fitzgerald Kennedy played a game of chess with First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev.
Three-months earlier, American International Pictures released a nuclear war motion picture that showed how much the United States still didn't know, or wouldn't release to the American people about radiation fallout. It also became an unexpected timely movie due to the "Cuban Missile Crisis".
PANIC IN YEAR ZERO released on July 5, 1962
The motion picture both starred and was directed by, "Academy Award Winning Best Actor", for director Billy Wilder's, 1945, "The Lost Weekend", Ray Milland portraying "Harry Baldwin". Millland had just been seen in Roger Corman's, Edgar Allan Poe feature, 1962's, "The Premature Burial". He would follow this picture with the cult classic, Roger Corman's, 1963, "X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes".
Jean Hagen portrayed "Ann Baldwin". Hagen was nominated for the "Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress", for her role of "Lina Lamont", in 1952's, "Singin' in the Rain". Jean Hagen was nominated three times for the "Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy", in the role of "Margaret Williams", on the television series, "Make Room for Daddy (The Danny Thomas Show)". Hagen was still a television actress at this time.
Frankie Avalon portrayed "Rick Baldwin". Teen idol Avalon was one year away from being teamed-up with Annette Funicello in 1963's, "Beach Party". For those who might be interested in those films, my article "THE GHOST OF DRAGSTRIP HOLLOW MEETS THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI: The Story of the BEACH PARTY Motion Pictures", is at:
Mary Mitchel portrayed "Karen Baldwin". Mitchel was mainly a television actress between 1961 and 1967. She did appear in only one other motion picture, Rodger Corman's produced and Francis Ford Coppola's first motion picture as a director, 1963's, "Dementia 13".
Below the Baldwin Family:
The screenplay was by two writers, Jim Simms, he had just written another cult classic Science Fiction feature, 1962's, "The Creation of the Humanoids", but was mainly a television writer. Although in 1959, Jim Simms wrote both "The Killer Shrews", and "The Giant Gila Monster".
John Morton only worked on this screenplay. However, without on-screen credit, the basic story was based upon Science Fiction writer Ward Moore's short stories, 1953's, "Lot" and 1954's, "Lot's Daughter", set in a postapocalyptic world.
The motion picture revolves around the "Baldwin's" who leave Los Angeles one beautiful morning on a camping trip into the Sierra Nevada Mountain range.
On the way the family notices a very bright light behind them and the radio program is interrupted with a message from "Conelrad" implying that an atomic war has begun.
Conelrad (Control of Electromagnetic Radiation) was an actual form of emergency broadcasting for the public of the United States between March 26, 1951 and its closure on August 5, 1963.
The announcement was confirmed by the "Baldwins" when they see multiple mushroom atomic bomb clouds over Los Angeles.
The family attempts to return home to Los Angeles and rescue "Ann's" mother. They start back, but stopped, as "Harry" realizes the roads will be clogged with people leaving the city and the city will be saturated with fallout.
The story now becomes one of survival as the good "Baldwin's" start to think of their own survival until law can be restored. The problem being in the mountains is the lack of major grocery stores for food, or gasoline stations for fuel. However, they find a small town that has no real knowledge, yet, of the people escaping Los Angeles towards them. "Harry" starts to buy up everything he can, but then thinks about the need for weapons and tools.
The store is owned by "Ed Johnson", who believes Los Angeles was hit, but that the government is still intact. So, he won't let them buy guns until the legal 24-hour hold is enforced. "Harry" and "Rick" now steal the weapons, because of the hold time and that "Ed" refused to take a check.
On the road the hear that the government has stated this is now the "Year Zero", but next the family are stopped by three threatening hoodlum's, but manage to get away.
After some more time on the road and going to a place "Harry" knows about, the "Baldwin" family finds a large cave and settles in to await the return of government control.
The three hoodlum's murder "Ed Johnson" and his wife, who were camping near the "Baldwin's", and rape "Karen". "Harry" and "Rick" find teenage girl, "Marilyn", that the three were using as a sex slave locked-up in her home after she witnessed her parent's murder. With the help of "Rick" the third hoodlum is tricked and killed, but "Rick" is shot in the leg.
"Marilyn" knows of a doctor named "Strong", in the next town, Paxton, and they go there for medical help for "Rick". On the way they hear over the radio that the enemy is asking for a truce and the "Year Zero" is ending.
"Dr. Strong" warns the family that "Rick" will die without a blood transfusion. The closest place to handle such a procedure is an army hospital one-hundred-miles away and they had for it. They are stopped by an army patrol who checked them out and lets them pass. One of the patrol remarks that the family are one of the good ones, who escaped radiation sickness from the atomic bombs.
The "Baldwin's" drive on as their cars tail lights are seen and a title card comes on-screen:
This forgotten, saber-toothed 1962 AIP cheapie might be the most expressive on-the-ground nightmare of the Cold War era...
I mentioned that "Panic in Year Zero" demonstrated how little was still known about nuclear fallout. We see the "Baldwin" family looking back at Los Angeles as the atomic bombs fall. The flash from the explosions seem to have no effect on their eyesight and certainly knowing that the actual fallout range for the 1954 Bikini Test was 7,000-miles. How come not only the "Baldwin's", but at the least, that first small mountain town were not leveled by the bomb blasts as they happened, or at least not covered in nuclear fallout for the multiple atomic bombs being dropped?
Of course, this could have been a decision by the filmmakers for dramatic license.
Joshua: Greetings, Professor Falken.
Stephen Falken: Hello, Joshua.
Joshua: A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?