Image Entertainment presents
Atomic War Bride/This Is Not A Test (1960)
"They don't dare drop it. It would leave millions dead, and populations ground to powder as if they've gone through a coffee grinder."- John (Antun Vrdoljack)
Stars: Antun Vrdoljak, Ewa Krzyzewska, Seamon Glass, Mary Morlas
Other Stars: Mike Green, Alan Austin, Carol Kent, Norman Winston
Director: Veljko Bulajic/Frederic Gadette
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (war and armageddon themes)
Run Time: 02h:26m:35s
Release Date: 2002-04-16
DVD ReviewSomething Weird is best known for their bizarre exploitation double-feature discs, which are usually chock full of nudity and violence. Generally, the films are laughable, and cheerfully represent the bottom of the B-movie barrel. What really makes this collection "something weird" is that the two paranoid atomic age dramas here were probably seen as genuinely frightening films when they were released in 1960 and 1962. They are still compelling to watch today, despite their often stiff and awkward line readings.
Watching and chuckling at the badly acted Atomic War Bride and This Is Not a Test, along with the various atomic radiation-themed public service films included on this disc, is tantamount to whistling in a graveyard; it's false bravado to cover our deepest fears. The roots of these projects, no matter how out of date they seem now, were made at a time when fears of an atomic bomb attack in the United States were not only real, but also very possible.
Atomic War Bride (01h:14m:32s)
Director: Veljko Bulajic
This 1960 Yugoslavian film, featured here with an adequate English dub, paints a decidedly dark look at the natural fears created during the height of the atomic age. It is set in a country only known as "The Republic" and as the film opens we learn that war has been declared on some unknown enemy. The main character in this tale is John Johnson (Antun Vrdoljak), a dapper young chap happily heading off on his wedding day to marry the lovely Maria (Ewa Krzyzewska). The declaration of war creates a panic amongst the citizenry, who fear the use of atomic weapons will mean the end of the world. Bulajic follows John as he is forced to enter the military (after literally being dragged off the street), and how the fear of war, specifically the use of atomic weapons, affects those around him.
Atomic War Bride paints a grim view of life during wartime, and Bulajic's film was certainly not the "feel good" movie of 1960. It looks as if it were made on a very modest budget, but the minimalism works to its advantage here; there are no elaborate sets, as much of the film is set outdoors. I'm wasn't expecting a Something Weird release to be as engaging as this; I have to admit I was caught a little off guard.
This Is Not A Test (01h:12m:03s)
Director: Frederic Gadette
Gadette's similarly dark film is more of an ensemble drama of atomic age fears, and tells the story of a group of strangers who are pulled over at 4:00 A.M. on a remote desert road (somewhere in the western United States) by a sheriff's deputy. The deputy (Seamon Glass) has received word on his police radio that atomic bombs have been launched, and that it's only a matter of time before they strike. His orders are to prevent anyone from entering the nearest city, and so he is forced to keep the eight strangers against their will. The oddball assortment of characters spend the bulk of the film arguing and speculating not only about their possible fate, but about their lives, as well.
The acting is on par with a bad Twilight Zone episode, and at times this is a comically bad film. But the underlying fear and paranoia from a not-so-distant era is still evident.
It's easy to mock this stuff, and laugh at its simplistic corniness. However, the message is chilling, and the material is macabre.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: Both films are in black & white, presented in 1.33:1 full frame. Atomic War Bride is a little too bright, but looks the best of the two, in terms of overall print quality. This Is Not a Test takes place outdoors at night, so the entire film is very dark. Nicks, splices, sprocket holes, scratches are common on both transfers, but I wouldn't have expected anything more from prints of this vintage.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: English mono (actually an English dub on Atomic War Bride) is consistent on both, with very minimal hiss. Dialogue tends to clip, resulting in a slight buzz, but for the most part a typical mono presentation.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 22 cues and remote access
Extras Review: More creepy and disturbing atomic fears are brought to life in the extras section:
Fallout Shelter TV Spot #1(01m:01s)
Fallout Shelter TV Spot #2 (:59s)
These two spots praise the benefits of having your very own fallout shelter. The first one is marketed toward city dwellers, while the second targets farmers.
You Can Beat the A-Bomb (19m:18s)
RKO Pictures and director Walter Colmes put together this short that discusses the positive uses of radiation in medicine and industry. The highlight of this segment are two "what to do" scenarios, acted by a pair of strangely peaceful 1950s families. The second of the two is really grim, and includes a father and mother fretting about whether little Bobby has been exposed to radiation after an airburst.
Survival Under Atomic Attack (08m:46s)
This Civil Defense short uses a lot of Hiroshima footage, and reminds us that "blast, heat and radioactivity" are the three things we need to fear from an atomic bomb. The information is presented as sort of a checklist to follow, in case the unthinkable were to happen. The underlying theme is that "knowledge is ours."
Duck and Cover (09m:03s)
Another Civil Defense short, this time one of the truly surreal classics of the era. Aimed at grade-schoolers, an animated Bert The Turtle instructs kids to "duck and cover" if they see the flash of an atomic bomb. As if that would do any good at all. Of course the catchy Duck and Cover song is featured as well.
The Medical Aspects of Nuclear Radiation (20m:16s)
The Armed Forces Special Weapons Project released this color short to address what they refer to as the myths of radiation, which according to this are aimed "right at your self-esteem." It is best known for reassuring the populace, and our fears of radioactivity, that "mutation can be a good variation!"
One World or None (09m:13s)
The National Committee on Atomic Information is behind this one, a cheery little piece that details what would happen if an atomic bomb were dropped in New York, Chicago or San Francisco (complete with maps of the destruction).
Atomic Blondes in Action (02m:12s)
Ahhh, a little levity. This quick, and oddly edited short features two uncomfortable looking women gyrating and dancing semi-nude. God bless America.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsMaybe it's just me, but there isn't really any humor here (usually a staple of Something Weird releases). Rather, this disc is a somewhat grim reminder of a time not that long ago when the world was perched on the brink of atomic war, when fallout shelters and air raid warnings were common.
If you really analyze the content here, it is far scarier than any fictional Hollywood monster.
Rich Rosell 2002-05-02