‘Now is the nuclear winter of our discontent’

Published 9:00 am Friday, December 1, 2017

By Rick Baldwin

Greetings, fellow cinephiles of Winchester!

Fresh off the Thanksgiving holiday as we finish up our last leftovers of turkey and gear up for Christmas, this week comes to a close which is one of great concern for our nation.

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The threat of potential war with North Korea is imminent as they fired off ballistic missiles trying to call our bluff and retorted with holding Anti-American parades to our very vocal guarantee that there will be consequences.

We have grown used to increased nuclear tensions and Anti-American sentiments to include a museum by the government of Iran, but North Korea has taken this to an all new level.

Nuclear tensions are nothing new to our country. Since World War II, nuclear weapons have been prevalent topics of debate by many nations. The Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, and on-and-off-again nuclear arms deals between the U.S. and other countries have been news even before I was born, and is still ongoing.

Nukes have been a hot topic over the years, and this issue has inspired its own subgenre of film that strikes the viewer with fear to their core about their survival within our lifetime.

Post WWII, Korean War and the birth of the Cold War against communism, saw popular Sci-Fi films of the 1950s, addressing the damage of nuclear testing and its effects on society and the environment.

Nuclear testing and the aftermath resulted in “The Beast of 20,000 Fathoms” (1953), prehistoric beast, “Godzilla” (1954) was awoken from nuclear radiation in Japan, and “Them!” (1954) showcased giant ants created from a test site in the American Midwest and is looked at as the pinnacle atomic monster movie of the 1950s.

My personal favorite was “Duck and Cover” (1952), which was an instructional video for school children on the actions to take if a nuclear bomb was dropped hosted by Bert the Turtle and had a catchy song. The kids are told to take cover under their school desk as a sure way to protect themselves from the blast. How delightful and informative.

The 1960s were in full swing and steered away from the 50s’ approach of addressing the issue with some popular titles in varying genres — 1964’s thriller “Fail Safe,” addressed a thermonuclear mishap between the U.S. and Soviet Union. Stanley Kubrick’s hugely-popular cult classic comedy “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964) was a zany satire that shows the flaws in government, authority and the absurdity of blowing up half the world because of a comedy of errors. “Gentlemen. You can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!”

“Planet of the Apes” (1968) shows Charlton Heston as an astronaut landing on a faraway futuristic planet where apes run society after humans fail because of their preoccupation with nuking themselves. Though they were not released in the 60s, the Cuban Missile Crisis is on display in “Matinee” (1993) and “Thirteen Days” (2000).

The 70s followed this theme of post-apocalyptic society with the underrated Don Johnson flick, “A Boy and His Dog” (1975). The title is about a young man and his dog travelling to find normalcy in life and society after nuclear war has eliminated their past lives. This post-blast world was addressed again in the popular 1983 TV movie, “The Day After,” seeing citizens of small town Kansas picking up the pieces of their lives after the fact. The 80s rolled out the documentary, “Atomic Café” (1982). The chronicle of 1940-60s nuclear archival footage. “WarGames” (1983) exhibited our growing love for computers and how a teenager accidently started a nuclear crisis for hacking on a PCU. Even the Man of Steel got involved to save the world from themselves in the dismal “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” (1987).

The 1990s and 2000s saw a slew of titles worth a mention and at least a one-time view.

“Broken Arrow” (1996) portrays John Travolta as a domestic terrorist trying to seize a nuke from his own country, whereas “The Hunt for Red October” (1990), “Under Siege” (1992), “Crimson Tide” (1995) and “K-19: The Widowmaker” (2002) all focus on the mishaps and stressful situations at sea with nuclear water vessels.

Nuclear mayhem and author Tom Clancy were like peas and carrots through these two decades when “The Sum of All Fears” (2002) covered the aftermath of a nuclear attack.

Today’s column was not written to make light of our current and possibly dire situation with North Korea, but more a suggestion of film titles to stay in line with what was topical at the time it was scribed.

So don’t stress. Bunker down and check out one of the mentioned titles to pass the time as you maintain your sanity and your will to survive.

Have a safe and filmtastic day!

Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker and film/music historian. He is president of the Winchester-Clark County Film Society. Find more from Rick on Facebook at facebook.com/ricksrhetoric and online at theintestinalfortitude.com