Help, help, the bad guys are threatening to fire a nuclear missile at us and I don’t have a clue about how to survive the attack! Don’t worry, the British government have everything you need to know to help you and your family stay alive during such an event. Just watch the following series of videos and follow the advice to the letter!
I don’t know if the government of the day actually believed we could survive or not. I suspect the videos were created to prevent panic rather than to safeguard lives, though I do like the idea that we could survive nuclear fallout with nothing more than a few spare suitcases against a wall.
The final minutes of the video are the most useful – what to do if a member of your family dies whilst you are nestled in your safe zone!
Wargames may be a classic, but it wasn’t the only 80s movie to showcase a kid genius who almost starts a nuclear war. Far less remembered but (in my opinion) just as good is 1986’s The Manhattan Project.
Starring John Lithgow, Jill Eikenberry, a young Cynthia Nixon, and Christopher Collet as the teen genius Paul, The Manhattan Project is not only one of a handful of great 80s nuclear disaster films but also protest films. In it, Paul protests a nuclear facility in the most logical way possible: by building a nuclear bomb of his own and then confronting the authorities with it. He also makes some friends and falls in love along the way. To a 12-year-old me, this was perfectly plausible and reasonable, and it would contribute to my expectations and philosophies forever. It did not contribute so much to my actions, as I have never had the need, the guts, or the knowledge to build a nuclear bomb, but my expectations and my philosophies.
There are a couple great scenes in The Manhattan Project. One is the bomb building montage, which is somewhat realistic as it shows the lengthy steps Paul has to take to learn to and then make the bomb. The other is a scene where Lithgow tests Paul with a little round transparent plastic device. Inside the device are four slots and four metal balls. Lithgow challenges Paul to get a ball into each of the four slots. As he then turns to Paul’s mother and says something about how the most brilliant students can do it in X-number of seconds, Paul merely sets it on the table and spins it, allowing centrifugal force to put the balls in the slot for him. I stored that one up in case I was ever tested in that same way. I’m still waiting.
I’m still under the influence of the discussion we had on the Cold War and it’s affect on pop culture in the forums. That discussion first led me to look up a young adult book series I vaguely remembered called After the Bomb. Now it has led me to a similar series called Firebrats.
This is the UK cover. I got the UK version because it was cheaper, but I like the American cover better.
See? Told you it was better.
If After the Bomb is The Day After, then Firebrats is Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. There is a fairly chilling sequence in which suburban America is bombed by the Russians. However, rather than giving a more realistic account of the clean up and rescue efforts following such an attack, Firebrats focus on two teens who have to contend with roving gangs. Actually, that might be pretty realistic as well, but it is a different arena of realism than what After the Bomb presents. There is a romantic subplot, of course, and some life lessons/growing pains/raising up to meet the challenge parts as well. All pretty standard, but as I’m a kid of the 80s, I can’t get enough of it.
There were four books in the Firebrats series: The Burning Land, Survivors, Thunder Mountain, and Shockwave. That’s twice what After the Bomb had. I only read the first book. Since there are no e-copies that I could find, and since the hard copies are very expensive, and since I’ve been told that the series does not come to a conclusion, I might not pick up the other three. I had a good time with the first, though. It really took me back to those days when we were sure the missiles could fall at any moment, which, strangely enough, was not entirely unpleasant.