Crossroads, October 5
Join us for a pre-Halloween meltdown! A racketeer on the lam wanders into a secluded test site and emerges a man of steel in Allan Dwan's last film, oddly unappreciated in its day: "[An] absurd and tasteless melodrama."-Variety. "At the most crucial moments the audience howled."-N.Y. Times
One of the best-known films in our series is one that really deserves rediscovery for its thoughtful adaptation of Nevil Shute's novel about Australians waiting for fallout. Stanley Kramer directs Gregory Peck and Fred Astaire, marvelous in his first dramatic role.
From oddball innovator Arch Oboler (Bwana Devil) came the first film in the post-apocalypse genre. There are exactly five survivors-one woman, four men-holed up in Frank Lloyd Wright digs. Hey, this was Hollywood, in 1951.
Imagine Dr. Strangelove with a straight face and Henry Fonda's soul, and you have Fail Safe. "From its illusory calm to its final frightening sequences, this story of America today and tomorrow, and the people with the power to control the world . . . [is] the more frightening for being utterly realistic and straight."-New York Film Festival, 1964
In "six fables about politics and power in the age of science," Adam Curtis (The Power of Nightmares) intriguingly muses on the determinism that has shaped our age, from the Soviet Five Year Plans to the Rand Corporation's fascination with game theory and war. "I was reminded of Isaac Asimov's Foundation books . . . yet this was sober truth, not whimsical fiction."-The Times, London
Noted San Francisco artist Bruce Conner's film composed of mushroom-cloud footage from actual H-bomb tests is "Conner's most eccentrically imaginative work . . . an awesome and fearsome poem."-S. F. Chronicle. With shorts, Glenn Scantlebury's From the Field and Bill Brown's Buffalo Common.
Dennis O'Rourke's film on the U.S. abuse of Marshall Islanders as guinea pigs in nuclear tests was a stunning eye-opener in 1985. As Time Out suggests, "This blast from the past lingers on." See it and weep.
The first Japanese film to address the atomic bombings, made in 1950 and directed by Hideo Oba, is an intriguing melodrama set in Nagasaki. The U.S. Occupation censors allowed it only because it portrayed the positive spirit of the survivors.
Kurosawa directed Toshiro Mifune (then 35) in a daring performance as an eccentric old patriarch with a neurotic fear of the bomb. "The final effect is overwhelming, and perhaps Kurosawa's most sweeping statement on the human condition."-Film Forum
Jon Else in Person. Else's celebrated doc on the father of the atomic bomb, a complex character, as seen through the eyes of his fellow scientists in the nuclear race with Nazi Germany. Constructed (in 1980) from previously classified footage, "an incredible drama of secrecy, intrigue and suspense."-S.F. Chronicle. Plus clips from Else's work in progress Wonders Are Many, a portrait of Peter Sellars and John Adams at work on their opera Doctor Atomic.
Sam Fuller's headline-ripper from 1954 has Richard Widmark on a privately funded submarine mission to stop a commie nuclear insurgency in the Arctic. His ship of fools exemplifies the hysterical vigilantism of the Cold War, but also looks kinda familiar.
A rare screening of this British thriller from 1950 about an atomic scientist who goes postal for peace. "Still relevant and surprisingly powerful [in its] noir-ish camerawork [and] carefully sustained paranoia."-Time Out
Carey Schonegevel's poetic pastiche is a call to action. With Dan Reeves short A Mosaic for the Kali Yuga.
In 1947 MGM offered this dramatic account of the development of the first atomic bomb. Brian Donlevy stars as Gen. L. R. Groves, keeper of America's best-kept secret, the Oak Ridge Project, for which entire populations are relocated as mega-labs rise. The film is as interesting for the historical falsehoods it propagates as for the dramatic frenzy of men in lab coats pursuing the power of the universe.