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CONELRAD | ATOMIC HYGIENE: Cold War Short Subject Films
Civil Defense Short Subject Films
Enjoy the film strip!


During the Golden Age of Homeland Security numerous short subject educational motion pictures dealing with the Cold War were produced for civilian and government audiences. In its ongoing effort to explore all things atomic, CONELRAD will be examining the genre in-depth in this special database. The ultimate goal of our long-term project is to catalogue and review all of these important (and hilarious) films for posterity. There are far too many fly-by-night video profiteers exploiting these atomic shorts with little regard for their true legacy. CONELRAD is all for exploitation, but crass compilation cash-ins would be so much more rewarding with a modicum of context and, dare we suggest, analysis. Though, admittedly, absent this shameful research gap our database would not be necessary, so CONELRAD would like to take a moment to honor the historical negligence of video entrepreneurs everywhere (you know who you are, but especially the ones on eBay).

Government, civic groups and private industry churned out a broad range of these titles to help America beat the A-Bomb, tame the Red Menace, and reinforce patriotism. More often than not, however, these fascinating works present an alternate celluloid reality to what was actually happening at the time. In retrospect, these movies also offer an instructive counterpoint to how Hollywood perceived the period. The disparity between the two cinematic interpretations could not be greater: For every government endorsed atomic hygiene film that instructs a family to calmly retreat to a fallout shelter for two weeks during an attack, there is a B-movie epic presenting a square-jawed hero protecting his wife and children from looters and radioactive mutants (fallout be damned!).

For the purposes of this comprehensive inventory, CONELRAD has grouped many of the different subgenres of Cold War instructional movies under the umbrella title, "Civil Defense Short Subject Films." Under this heading, you will be able to find the following sections that feature the shorts that best correspond to their respective category:

CIVIL DEFENSE: Films that deal explicitly with preparing for atomic attack or other disasters and the anticipated aftermath of such events. This subgenre includes Civil Defense commercials that were aired on local television in the public interest.

RED SCARE: Anti-communist films that warn of the true aim of the Red Menace.

PATRIOTIC: Films that trumpet the greatness of America and remind its citizen-viewers, in subtext at least, "love it or leave it."

ATOMIC TESTING: Films produced by the government that lovingly record every last detail of preparations for and execution of atomic test explosions. These films, of which there are hundreds, possess an almost fetishistic quality.

MEDICAL AND MILITARY TRAINING: This subgenre explores the role of medicine, science and military preparedness in dealing with the consequences of atomic, biological and chemical warfare.

FILM COMPILATIONS: A running list of relevant short subject film compilations with details on availability.

As always, we encourage you, the reader, to notify CONELRAD of any titles that you may be aware of that are not contained in our database. We also welcome VHS and DVD submissions of such titles. If you wish to contribute and be acknowledged for your efforts, please contact CONELRAD immediately!


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