AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Atomic Cafe
Director: Kevin Rafferty (Dir)
Release Date:   17 Mar 1982
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 17 Mar 1982; Los Angeles opening: 14 May 1982
Production Date:   1976--1981
Duration (in mins):   87
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Cast:   Rep. Lloyd Bentsen    
    Vice Admiral W. H. P. Blandy    
    Sen. Owen Brewster    
    Dwight D. Eisenhower    
    Richard M. Nixon    
    Frank Gallop (Newsreel narrator)  

Summary: After testing an atomic bomb in New Mexico, the U.S. dropped the nuclear weapon on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. In television news footage, President Harry S. Truman declares atomic weapons necessary for America’s safety and for its image as a prospering nation. In military training films, U.S. pilots are instructed to select untouched “virgin” targets throughout the Pacific that can be used to study nuclear destruction. Images of hospitalized, dismembered Japanese civilians are juxtaposed with Americans basking in their postwar victory as they dance, eat, and play on the beach. On the remote Pacific Island of Bikini, an American Navy officer tries to convince the locals that the U.S. needs to test the atomic bomb on their land for the good of the world. The U.S. military declares that the islanders are “more than happy” to evacuate. A Paramount News report summarizes America’s postwar struggles against Communism. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon justify America’s use of nuclear weapons by claiming that the atom bomb is the ultimate guardian of democratic values. Television and radio broadcasts replay the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, warning Americans against the danger of Communist spies. News of Russia’s own hydrogen bomb in August 1953 elevates the nation’s Cold War paranoia. Politicians make televised appearances, encouraging the use of the bomb to end the Korean War. Returning to the Bikini Island test bombing, newsreel footage reports that atomic ash from the detonation wrought injuries on outlying island populations and caused severe radiation poisoning in crewmembers of a nearby Japanese fishing boat. The radioactive fish later sold in Japan caused catastrophic damage to Japanese trade, essentially shutting down the country’s fish market. The American government, however, issues public service announcements that minimize the threat of health risks, lightheartedly equating radiation exposure to a woman burning her hand on the stove and a man slipping in the shower. As young girls enjoy milkshakes at a roadside diner and a housewife browses a wide selection of frozen meals at the grocery store, President Eisenhower declares that America’s atomic bomb symbolizes the nation’s growing strength. A chipper cartoon character instructs schoolchildren how to “duck and cover” under their desks or seek refuge outside during an atomic bombing. Televised programs instruct suburban families how to collect food and build underground shelters to protect themselves in the event of an attack. Footage of a simulated air raid assures Americans that the country is well prepared, and the possibility of illness or death is minimal. There is nothing to do but sit back and relax. 

Production Company: The Archives Project  
Distribution Company: Libra Films  
Director: Kevin Rafferty (Dir)
  Jayne Loader (Dir)
  Pierce Rafferty (Dir)
Producer: Kevin Rafferty (Prod)
  Jayne Loader (Prod)
  Pierce Rafferty (Prod)
Film Editor: Jayne Loader (Ed)
  Kevin Rafferty (Ed)
  Dominick Bono (Negative cutter)
  Mary-Ann Dillillo (Negative cutter)
  Cyndi Bono (Negative cutter)
Music: Rick Eaker (Mus coord)
  Richard Bass (Mus consultant)
  David Dunaway (Mus consultant)
  Dr. Charles Wolfe (Mus consultant)
  John Allinson (Mus source)
  Ray Avery (Mus source)
  Bowling Green State University Library (Mus source)
  Cinemotion (Mus source)
  Country Music Foundation (Mus source)
  Helen Hunter (Mus source)
  Robert Javors (Mus source)
  William L. Schurk (Mus source)
  Raymond Wile (Mus source)
Sound: Margie Crimmins (Sd ed)
  Lee Dichter Photo Magnetic Studios (Sd mix)
  Andrea Hull (Sd asst)
  No Evil Multimedia (Addl sd eff)
Special Effects: Carol Clement (Titles)
Production Misc: Pierce Rafferty (Archival res)
  Stewart M. Crone (Memorial activities)
  Obie Benz (Prod consultant)
  Susan Kellam (Prod consultant)
  George Pillsbury (Prod consultant)
  Nan Allendorfer Washington (Addl archival res)
  Jon Else Los Alamos (Addl archival res)
  Margaret Henry London (Addl archival res)
  Independent Documentary Group (Addl archival res)
  Victoria Peterson Los Angeles (Addl archival res)
  David Thaxton Washington (Addl archival res)
  Arca Foundation (Foundation support)
  Bydale Foundation (Foundation support)
  Cricket Foundation (Foundation support)
  CS Fund (Foundation support)
  Evergreen Fund (Foundation support)
  Film Fund (Foundation support)
  Funding Exchange (Foundation support)
  Fund for Tomorrow (Foundation support)
  Institute for World Order (Foundation support)
  Pacific Alliance (Foundation support)
  Pioneer Fund (Foundation support)
  Vanguard Public Foundation (Foundation support)
  BBC (Archival footage source)
  CBS News Archive (Archival footage source)
  Center for Defense Information (Archival footage source)
  DASIAC (Archival footage source)
  Defense Nuclear Agency (Archival footage source)
  Department of Agriculture (Archival footage source)
  Department of the Air Force (Archival footage source)
  Department of the Army (Archival footage source)
  Department of the Navy (Archival footage source)
  FEMA (Archival footage source)
  Fox Movietonews (Archival footage source)
  Hearst Metrotone (Archival footage source)
  Hollywood Newsreel Syndicate (Archival footage source)
  Library of Congress (Archival footage source)
  Los Alamos Scientific Libraries (Archival footage source)
  National Archives (Archival footage source)
  National Audiovisual Center (Archival footage source)
  NBC News Archive (Archival footage source)
  Sherman Grinberg Film Libraries (Archival footage source)
  U.S. Marine Corps (Archival footage source)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music: "Rozsa Conducts Rozsa"--"Theme From 'Brute Force'" and "Theme From 'The Killers,'" written and performed by Miklos Rozsa conducting the Frankenland State Symphony, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.; "Flying Home," written by Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton, performed by Glenn Miller and the Army Air Force Band, courtesy of RCA Records, Inc.; "Franz Liszt--Hungarian Rhapsody #2 In C Sharp Minor," written by Franz Liszt, performed by Arthur Fiedler conducting the Boston Pops, courtesy of RCA Records, Inc.; "Mussorgsky--Pictures At An Exhibition," written by Modest Mussorgsky, performed by Charles Mackerras conducting the New Philharmonia Orchestra.
Songs: "When The Atom Bomb Fell," written and performed by Karl Davis and Harty Taylor, courtesy of CBS Records, Inc.; "This Cold War With You," written and performed by Floyd Tillman, courtesy of CBS Records, Inc.; "Atom Bomb Baby," written by Anne Jones, performed by The Five Stars, courtesy of MCA Records, Inc.; "Jesus Hits Like An Atom Bomb," written by Lee McCullom, performed by Lowell Blanchard with the Valley Trio, courtesy of Phonogram International Records, Inc.; "I'm No Communist," performed by Carson Robison, courtesy of Phonogram International Records, Inc.; "Thirteen Women," written by Max Steiner, performed by Bill Haley and the Comets, courtesy of Phonogram International Records, Inc.; "When They Drop The Atomic Bomb," performed by Jackie Doll and His Pickled Peppers, courtesy of Phonogram International Records, Inc.; "The Hydrogen Bomb," performed by Al Rogers and His Rocky Mountain Boys, courtesy of RCA Records, Inc.
Composer: Benny Goodman
  Karl Davis
  Lionel Hampton
  Anne Jones
  Franz Liszt
  Lee McCullom
  Modest Mussorgsky
  Miklos Rozsa
  Max Steiner
  Harty Taylor
  Floyd Tillman
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
The Archives Project, Inc. 6/5/1982 dd/mm/yyyy PA140167

Physical Properties: Sd:

Genre: Documentary
Sub-Genre: Cold War
Subjects (Major): Atomic bomb
  Cold War
  Nuclear warfare
  Postwar life
Subjects (Minor): Communism
  Dwight D. Eisenhower
  Family life
  Harry S. Truman
  Hiroshima (Japan)
  Hydrogen bomb
  Military invasion
  Richard M. Nixon
  United States. Atomic Energy Commission
  United States. Navy
  World War II

Note: The film opens against a black screen containing the heading “WORLD WAR II JULY, 1945,” accompanied by the following statement: “The destruction of Nazi Germany by the Allied forces had ended the fighting in Europe. In the Pacific, Japan was desperately fighting a losing battle against America and her allies. At Alamogordo, New Mexico, a new and secret weapon was about to be tested in the desert.”
       End credits feature a “Special Thanks to Bono Film Services,” including Joseph R. Bono, Richard N. Houk, Mireille C. Kreeger, Dorothy J. MacDorman, Allen L. Russell, Richard D. Ero, Joseph K. Hooper, Miguel A. Munoz, Carl P. Palumbo and Zenon J. Slawinski.
       The filmmakers include another “special thanks” to the following contributors: Chris Beaver, Lance Bird, Tom and Lillian Brandon, Alida R. Dayton, Film Fund, Charles Grigg, Judy Irving, Tom Johnson, Arthur Kanegis, Richard Klein, Mary Lampson, Terry Lawler, J. Fred MacDonald, National Archives staff, Ginny Newsom, Richard Prelinger, Mr. and Mrs. W. G. Rafferty, Deborah Shaffer.
       Additional “thanks” are given to: Peter Adair, Nick Allen, Emile de Antonio, Guy Arceneaux, John Avildsen, Jules Backus, Smith W. Bagley, Claude Beller, Mary Benjamin, Peter Biskind, Larry Bogdanow, Anne Bohlen, Barry A. Brown, Nancy Casey, Bernie Chertok, David Crimmins, David Crocker, Stuart Cody, d.c. space, E. L. Doctorow, John Douglas, Howard Dratch, Ralph Embree, Roseann Ernst, Elizabeth Dworkin, Connie Field, Mary Fingers, Robert Finley, Phillip Frazer, Ellen Geiger, Charles Gellert, Doug Gillette, Karen Gittleman, Seth Glickenhaus, Jack Goelman, Green Mountain Post, Bruce Greenberg, Wade Greene, Sally Groo, Anna Gyorgy, Steven Haft, Mr. and Mrs. John A. Harris IV, Frances Hart, Syd Hausnecht, Ruth Heller, Elizabeth Hess, Abbie Hoffman, Barbara Hoffman, Dale Hopkins, Derek Huntington, Calvin Jefferson, Lisa Johnson, Daniel Keller, Peter Kinoy, Daphne Kis, Sam Kitt, Barbara Kopple, Ruth Landy, Jennifer Lawson, Charles Light, Chip Lord, Darlene McClurkin, Michael Mayne, Stefan Moore, Media Network, M.U.S.E., William T. Murphy, Jill Nelson, Jack Muth, Andrew Noren, Dolores Neuman, Grace Paley, Pacific Street Films, Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Patterson Jr., M. C. Parker, Eric Peterson, Richard Peterson, Lynn Phillips, Drummond Pike, Dennis Pohl, Harold Potter, Judy Pratt, Corinne Rafferty, Robert Richter, Marilyn Ries, Lloyd Ritter, Donale Roe, David Root, Jonathon Rose, Robert Rouse, Dr. Vera Rubin, Fernando Sandoval, Richard Schmiechen, Pete Seeger, Victor Schonfeld, Sandra Schulberg, Glenn Silber, Jamil Simon, Sue Simpson, Larry Singer, Judith Skinner, Amanda Spake, Dinah Starr, John Steiner, China Stewart, Margery Tabankin, Ann Thompson, Ted Troll, Tad Turner, Les Waffen, Paulette Walther, Betsy Weedon, Cora Weiss, Marc N. Weiss, Barbara Zhuetlin.
       The name of composer and conductor Miklós Rózsa is misspelled in end credits as “Rosza.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files and a Los Angeles Film Exposition (Filmex) press release, development for The Atomic Café began in 1976 with a collaborative group of filmmakers called “The Archives Project.” Originally intending to create an historical parody of U.S. government propaganda, the focus on the atomic bomb emerged from film researcher Pierce Rafferty’s work as a specialist in nuclear energy and weapons footage. Joining Rafferty in Washington, D.C., were his filmmaker brother, Kevin Rafferty, and Jayne Loader, a journalist and historian teaching film in New York City. There, and at a lab in Arlington, VA, “The Archives Project” began the five-year process of research and editing. According to a 10 Mar 1982 Var article, the budget was approximately $270,000, raised from private donations, grants from the Film Fund and Institute for World Order, and the filmmakers’ own capital. However, a 10 May 1982 Rolling Stone review indicated a final cost of roughly $300,000. A separate 10 Mar 1982 Var news item reported that The Atomic Cafe was scheduled to make its world premiere at a benefit in New York City on 11 Mar 1982, with all proceeds supporting the Media Network and Film Fund. Var also announced the film’s opening at New York City’s Film Forum on 17 Mar 1982, as well as another screening at Filmex in Los Angeles, CA, on 30 Mar 1982.
       A 28 Apr 1982 Var article stated that The Atomic Cafe made $29,500 during its two-week limited engagement at the Film Forum before it re-opened on 23 Mar 1982 at the New York Waverly Twin Theatres, distributed by Libra Films, which had acquired domestic theatrical and ancillary rights to the picture. The company anticipated opening at individual theaters in TX, CA, and Washington, D.C., during the first two weeks of May 1982. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Hollywood Reporter   26 Mar 1982   p. 45.
Los Angeles Times   15 May 1982   p. 1.
New York Times   17 Mar 1982   p. 16.
Variety   10 Mar 1982.   
Variety   10 Mar 1982.   
Variety   17 Mar 1982   p. 26.
Variety   28 Apr 1982.   
Rolling Stone   10 May 1982.   

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