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post #1 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 12:36 PM - Thread Starter
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With things heating up in the Middle East related to Iran's nuclear capabilities and threats to Israel, I thought it would be interesting to revisit some Nuclear War movies. I came across this list (one of several such lists):

http://www.scene-stealers.com/top-10...ar-war-movies/

which has working links for viewing many of the movies online. (6. and 9. don't work anymore, as the movies have been removed.) I have the DVDs of 1. Dr. Strangelove, 3. The Day After and 4. Testament (but I personally don't think Dr. Strangelove belongs here because it's a comedy and doesn't show the horrors of nuclear war).

I watched 2. Threads last night. Grim. Depressing. While I don't doubt that some of the other films here (e.g., 7. The War Game, which I intend to watch next) will horrify you, Threads alone is enough to make you realize that nuclear war is just not an option, esp. in this age of bombs that make Hiroshima and Nagasaki seem like a party. Those who are blithely or feverishly looking forward to a nuclear war to hasten or fulfill some religious purpose or prophecy are quite insane or totally ignorant, IMO. Watching Threads could make a fervent hawk into a nuclear disarmament activist.

There are some other lists on the Internet with some other movies that look equally interesting/dreadful, like Nuclear War: A Guide To Armageddon available on YouTube as Pt.1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 (i.e., about 30 minutes long). There are also some grim anime movies from Japan related to the atomic bombing there in WWII that can be viewed online. E.g., Barefoot Gen, done by a survivor of Hiroshima - the bombing sequence is in part 4 of 9 here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oreRba3xyjU

Unfortunately, Threads is only available as a PAL Region 2 DVD. Due to the poor VHS-like quality of the online link, I'd like to get this on DVD. It should be required viewing, IMO.
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post #2 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 01:58 PM
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I have never seen Threads (Netflix doesn't have it either), so glad you pointed me to that, even if the online isn't great quality.

"The War Game" is on Netflix instant and I just watched it maybe 2 weeks ago. It's good, and a good running time (like 45 minutes or so).

"Hiroshima" is also excellent documentary regarding the days leading up to and survivors' accounts (available on Netflix instant): http://movies.netflix.com/Movie/Hiro...ar_II/70050325
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post #3 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 03:48 PM
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There are a number of them, and most do a pretty good job.

A bit of an off the main path movie that is a favorite of mine is By Dawn's Early Light...an HBO movie that is not perfect, but compelling. James Earl Jones and Powers Booth are very good!

I stumbled on this top 20 list: http://www.imdb.com/list/C2wHg4AOJGc/

Not movies, but two amazing books on the subject of nuclear weapons and warfare history are by Richard Rhodes:

The Making of the Atomic Bomb traces the history beginning with the key scientists and science early in the 20th century, covers the Manhattan Project exhaustively, and ends with the end of WWII. He utilizes extensive declassified documents of all kinds from the scientists, to Los Alamos, to the White House. It covers in great detail the firebombing campaign over Japan, the influence of General Curtis LeMay in that campaign, and the great difficulty and debate by many in high places in making the decision to use the weapon on Japan. It also includes a brutally detailed description of the horror in Hiroshima.

Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb picks up where the first left off, covers Oppenheimer's departure, Edward Teller's influence, the weapon ("the super) development, the roots of the Cold War, the development of SAC and again, LeMay. This book ends about at the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The history of the weapons testing, LeMay and SAC, and the Cuban Missile Crisis will scare the crap out of you. We were lucky to have survived that era.

The good news is that we don't now have quite the capacity to make the planet uninhabitable nearly as quickly as we used to. With the last city killer-sized weapon, the B-53 recently dismantled, we are down to much closer to the Hiroshima size yield weapons. Today, the MIRV'd ICBM, SBM, SLBM, and ALCM nuclear arsenal is still a formidible threat to be reckoned with.

In reading these you learn maybe surprisingly that both the U.S. and Soviets realized by the late 50s that the weapons had become so huge and the ability to deliver so many so efficiently had grown to the point that the use of very few would render the planet uninhabitable. Was that enough to insure that we couldn't have gone to a full-on exchange during the Cold War? Unfortunately not since some like Generals LeMay and Power are said to have believed that nuclear war could be won with a preventative (not pre-emptive) strike. Fortunately, by 1956 or so, LeMay believed that the Soviets had reached a point of parity and that a U.S. preventative first-strike might not be successful unless there was some highly unusual circumstance that would give SAC a sizable strategic advantage. At that time, stategic nuclear strike policy changed to one of "Pre-emptive" strike or retaliatory strike. You will read that but once past the Cuban Missile Crisis, it seems that cooler heads began to evolve and come into positions of influence.

That's what I took from the books, anyway.

If you read these books, you will then enjoy watching both Fat Man and Little Boy and Thirteen Days. Both appear quite accurate, and the latter may have used Rhodes' books as resources since events depicted follow Dark Sun very closely. Both movies cover a number of events briefly that will pass you by if you haven't read the books. Once you've read the books, you will catch them and appreciate.

But I get the OP's point. Two countries in the Middle East going to nuclear conflict would be bad enough. Could Pakistan and India stand down, or would they go for it, too? Would the Russians hold tight?

Scary stuff, for sure.
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post #4 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 03:58 PM
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You cannot forget Dr Strangelove

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post #5 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 04:05 PM
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Originally Posted by pokekevin View Post

You cannot forget Dr Strangelove

You're right, and he mentioned it in the original post.
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post #6 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 04:07 PM
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There is a National Geographics documentary about the worlds biggest bombs, that is really good.
They go through the basic/overview design of the models ranging from the first to the USSR-Tsar bomb.
The Tsar bomb being a 50 Megaton bomb.
Which was a 100 megaton design but due to large fallout issues were cut down to 50 megaton.
Apparently there is no point in going above 100 megatons since that will create a fireball larger than our atmosphere venting the explosion out into space
They also go through issues with the nuclear tests and so forth.
Crazy stuff though, the tsar bomb broke windows 500km from ground zero.

The TV-series Oppenheimer is pretty good as well:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078037/

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post #7 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Fredrik View Post

There is a National Geographics documentary about the worlds biggest bombs, that is really good.
They go through the basic/overview design of the models ranging from the first to the USSR-Tsar bomb.
The Tsar bomb being a 50 Megaton bomb.
Which was a 100 megaton design but due to large fallout issues were cut down to 50 megaton.
Apparently there is no point in going above 100 megatons since that will create a fireball larger than our atmosphere venting the explosion out into space
They also go through issues with the nuclear tests and so forth.
Crazy stuff though, the tsar bomb broke windows 500km from ground zero.

The TV-series Oppenheimer is pretty good as well:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078037/

Wow, I haven't heard of the NatGeo doc. I'll have to look for that. There are a number of documentaries available on the atmospheric testing. Available at Amazon.
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post #8 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 05:55 PM
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Two "must sees" in this genre, both documentaries:

White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (2007) is available on DVD at Amazon. I first saw it on HBO three years ago and was speechless for an hour afterwards. It is a documentary featuring several survivors of the bomb (most were children during the war) who speak very candidly about what it looked and felt like, and about the immediate and long-term effects it had on them and those they knew. It's not for the squeamish (some of them show heartbreaking and horribly disfiguring scars).

It's striking how open they are about what it did to them personally, and how they universally blame their own Japanese government, not the US, for creating the circumstances that led to the inevitable use of the bomb. It's also tragic that the survivors are outcasts at home in Japan. No one wants to acknowledge them or face the horrors associated with the tragedy. Younger generations don't even know what happened in their own cities in 1945.

There is one other universal message all of the survivors mention: Never again. They all speak about how vital it is for all things decent and good about civilization that no one ever should have to endure the horrors of nuclear devastation again.

http://www.amazon.com/White-Light-Bl...9871133&sr=1-1

Another that it is "must see" for anyone interested in the genre:


Trinity & Beyond - The Atomic Bomb Movie (1995)
, also available on DVD (and Blu-ray) on Amazon.

It tells the story of the development of the bomb during the war and the nuclear arms race and the weapons testing "sabre rattling" the US and former Soviet Union engaged in up until the early 1960s. It has footage, some familiar and some newly declassified, of many of the tests. It's breathtaking. Two big bonuses: 1) The score is gorgeous and foreboding at the same time -- it's the Moscow Philharmonic symphony orchestra; and 2) William Shatner narrates, playing it totally straight, and knocks it out of the park. This is another one that will leave you speechless.

http://www.amazon.com/Trinity-Beyond...9871586&sr=1-2
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post #9 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 05:56 PM
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I can't remember what it was called but there's a doc showing all the proproganda and nuclear testing during the cold war.

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post #10 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by pokekevin View Post

I can't remember what it was called but there's a doc showing all the proproganda and nuclear testing during the cold war.

See my post #8 immediately above yours.
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post #11 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 06:43 PM
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See my post #8 immediately above yours.

Ahh there we go good stuff. Thanks!

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post #12 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 06:56 PM
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Originally Posted by eweiss View Post

... esp. in this age of bombs that make Hiroshima and Nagasaki seem like a party.

Don't be misled by numbers regarding how many kilotons or megatons of TNT any nuclear bomb is equivalent to. Neither Hiroshima or Nagasaki seem like a party to the survivors. Check out White Light/Black Rain I mention in a post above. It is horrifying, yet somehow hopeful too, in a weird way. The people featured in it are ordinary, but their stories and the inner strength and humility they display from enduring some extremely difficult lives are truly remarkable. They are very special people, but they don't want anyone to have to go through what they did ever again.

Quote:


Those who are blithely or feverishly looking forward to a nuclear war to hasten or fulfill some religious purpose or prophecy are quite insane or totally ignorant, IMO.

Indeed. White Light/Black Rain and Trinity and Beyond should be required viewing for everyone over the age of 13 or 14. We must never be allowed to forget what the only survivors of nuclear weapons used in wartime learned the hard way, nor should we ever forget the terrifying images associated with the heyday of nuclear weapons testing programs. We need to be reminded that that footage is real, not CGI or other Hollywood special effects.
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post #13 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 07:54 PM
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Interesting posts and information here.

Trinity and Beyond is the first movie of its kind I saw. The score and Shatner do make it rather creepy.

Growing up (very young) during the early Cold War years and having an uncle who worked on the Nevada Test Site has made me very curious about all that stuff. Nuclear weapon development and testing and Cold War geopolitics have become something of a hobby.

Here are some other very interesting documentaries:

Hollywood's Top Secret Film Studio http://www.amazon.com/Hollywoods-Top...9878697&sr=1-4 Very interesting to see that something like this existed right in the city, and also to see the photographic technology used to capture what they needed to see in a test.

America's Atomic Bomb Tests http://www.amazon.com/Americas-Atomi...9878849&sr=1-1

I think this instrumentation work is the kind of thing my uncle was doing there, but he would never speak of it to his death. We just knew he worked there and lived there at Mercury during the week. It's really interesting to see all the instrumentation science that was going into this, but so creepy now to hear in the narration how it was generally expected that the U.S. thought that this was going to be the way wars were fought in the future. I think they were too proud of this technological terrror they had created.

I'm glad my uncle wasn't one of these guys. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlE1BdOAfVc

Here is a last thought that I thought you would find interesting. Author Richard Rhodes can be seen in some of these different more contemporary documentaries. In one he points out that despite the horrific potential of nuclear war, if a graph is drawn showing a time line of human deaths in war over the centuries, it drops precipitously beginnning in at the end of 1945. How can something so monstrous have such a positive change?
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post #14 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 07:57 PM
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I majored in intelligence at ndic (names been changed) and focused in iranian weaponry and tactics. Was required to do a lot of readings on nuclear programs. Scary stuff.

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post #15 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 09:04 PM
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Hey this started with THREADS so lets stay with the fictional ones . Threads blows away The Day After in its horrific depiction of the events leading up to and after a nuclear holocaust in England . The alarm that the BBC was using to warn people about impending attack gave me nightmares . My recommendation is TESTAMENT (1983) . It tells the story of a family trying to survive the effects of a global nuclear war . Jane Alexander was rightfully nominated for best actress for her heartrending portrayal of a mother watching as her children die one by one . Break out the tissues for this one folks .

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post #16 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 09:31 PM
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Hey this started with THREADS so lets stay with the fictional ones . Threads blows away The Day After in its horrific depiction of the events leading up to and after a nuclear holocaust in England . The alarm that the BBC was using to warn people about impending attack gave me nightmares . My recommendation is TESTAMENT (1983) . It tells the story of a family trying to survive the effects of a global nuclear war . Jane Alexander was rightfully nominated for best actress for her heartrending portrayal of a mother watching as her children die one by one . Break out the tissues for this one folks .

There's nothing wrong with fiction. I wouldn't discourage suggestions that are documentaries, however, especially in this genre. When it comes to nuclear weapons and their effects, and the sheer terror associated with the prospect of the use of nuclear weapons in the imminent future, documentaries beat the pants off anything in the imaginations of even the most creative writers, directors, and producers.

Truth may be stranger than fiction, but in some instances -- and this is one of them -- it's also far, far more frightening and terrifying. Real nuclear war, not a fictional one, is as scary as it gets.

Oh, and for what it's worth, in my opinion Dr. Strangelove absolutely belongs on any list of great films about the prospect of nuclear war. It's a dark comedy -- about as dark as they come -- but its black humor is so scary precisely because Kubrick got so much of the essence of what the Cold War mutual assured destruction (MAD) deterrence strategy was all about, and the details of things like the interior of the B-52 too, so right.
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post #17 of 57 Old 02-21-2012, 10:15 PM
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Originally Posted by jillbrazil View Post

Hey this started with THREADS so lets stay with the fictional ones . Threads blows away The Day After in its horrific depiction of the events leading up to and after a nuclear holocaust in England . The alarm that the BBC was using to warn people about impending attack gave me nightmares . My recommendation is TESTAMENT (1983) . It tells the story of a family trying to survive the effects of a global nuclear war . Jane Alexander was rightfully nominated for best actress for her heartrending portrayal of a mother watching as her children die one by one . Break out the tissues for this one folks .

I remember seeing The Day After, but I don't think I've seen Testament. Will have to check out.

I have a cousin who flew B-52s in the 80s, and he told me in conversation once about Dr. Strangelove that the interior was pretty darn "authentic-looking." Great movie.

I watched Fail Safe for the first time in many years not long ago. I was always fascinated by the B-58 Hustler you see in the movie. It's interiors were not at all accurate in that movie, as the B-58 was a tandem seat aircraft with encapsulating ejection seats that were very unique looking. They didn't call it the B-58 although that was the aircraft shown flying. I guess their fictitious designation was license enough for the cockpit difference. Also a great movie.

I don't think we need to get too wound up and fearful that a conflict on the scale of nuclear war like we see in those movies is anywhere near imminent. I don't think anybody sees global nuclear war on the horizon. But on a city scale in the Middle-East, it could certainly be that terrible. A terrorist-delivered nuke to the U.S. would be devistating on the city scale, but would not be a large weapon, and not delivered in a manner that would be nominally destructive. If they could get it up in a really tall building or somehow detonate it a few hundred feet above ground, then they would have some serious blast effects because the mach wave would be able to form. None of that would be any consolation to the victims.

The immediate tensions and potential for miscalculation and actions after such an event could possibly escalate into something worse between us and other nuclear powers...which worries me more.

Too much to worry about.
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post #18 of 57 Old 02-22-2012, 04:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jillbrazil View Post

Hey this started with THREADS so lets stay with the fictional ones . Threads blows away The Day After in its horrific depiction of the events leading up to and after a nuclear holocaust in England . The alarm that the BBC was using to warn people about impending attack gave me nightmares . My recommendation is TESTAMENT (1983) . It tells the story of a family trying to survive the effects of a global nuclear war . Jane Alexander was rightfully nominated for best actress for her heartrending portrayal of a mother watching as her children die one by one . Break out the tissues for this one folks .

Yes, Threads is excellent and The Day After is no slouch but it there's too much Hollywood in it wrt plot devices that keeps it from being as good as Threads. Threads is much longer, too, so it can go in to more detail and story.

There's more than a few people here who remember the duck and cover drills in grammar school.

There was a thread a while back where we talked about these movies/series and others. I can't find it. I was on a doomsday kick a while back and watched most of the things in the list and others. It's been so long ago I can't remember if I watched Testament or not.

larry

Edit: I watched Testament because Amazon says I bought the DVD on June 8, 2009 for $36.61 used.

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post #19 of 57 Old 02-22-2012, 07:08 AM
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One little known thriller about Nuclear War is the 1965 film The Bedford Incident. It was the third in the Columbia Pictures "Cold War Trilogy", the other two films being Dr. Stranglove and Fail Safe. It's plot is fairly close to Moby Dick, with the obsessed captain (Richard Widmark in a great performance) chasing a Russian submarine rather than a white whale. It also features Sidney Poitier in what must have been one of his few roles where he played a character who could have been Black or White - and one of the few false notes in this film is that he is Black and seemingly nobody even notices. I mean, I remember the 1960's and we were NOT color blind then.

Related to, but not part of the nuclear war genre are the "Post-Apocalyptic" films, typified by the Mel Gibson movie The Road Warrior, and by the prequel to that film which was pretty much unnoticed until after the second film, Mad Max. My own favorite would be the original On The Beach(1959), but the 2000 miniseries is also a pretty good version with it's own notable performances.

Twilight's Last Gleaming(1977) is another related genre, the "how close we came" warning movie, which is best represented by the various fictionalized versions of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was unfortunately all too real for those of us who remember it firsthand. I think the best of these is the 1974 film The Missiles of October, which is one of two film adaptions of JFK's book Thirteen Days. The second and for me lesser version is the 2000 Kevin Costner movie Thirteen Days.

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BTW, when I was a kid I remember a movie (or TV-series) that among other things showed how US soldiers sat in trenches at X distance from ground zero.
To measure the effects etc.
It was at a test facility in the desert.
I think it was about the manhattan project from the start but it was so long ago.
But e.g. the tv-series oppenheimer don't have the troops in trenches part, IIRC.

Do anyone have an idea what movie/tv-series I'm talking about?

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post #22 of 57 Old 02-22-2012, 08:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fredrik View Post

BTW, when I was a kid I remember a movie (or TV-series) that among other things showed how US soldiers sat in trenches at X distance from ground zero.
To measure the effects etc.
It was at a test facility in the desert.
I think it was about the manhattan project from the start but it was so long ago.
But e.g. the tv-series oppenheimer don't have the troops in trenches part, IIRC.

Do anyone have an idea what movie/tv-series I'm talking about?

I would say that's about 90% of films or documentaries about nuclear testing

Like this video, which is one of the more famous of these types:
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post #23 of 57 Old 02-22-2012, 09:01 AM
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I always wondered what those little strings were on the left of the main explosion/cloud?
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post #24 of 57 Old 02-22-2012, 09:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fredrik View Post

BTW, when I was a kid I remember a movie (or TV-series) that among other things showed how US soldiers sat in trenches at X distance from ground zero.
To measure the effects etc.
It was at a test facility in the desert.
I think it was about the manhattan project from the start but it was so long ago.
But e.g. the tv-series oppenheimer don't have the troops in trenches part, IIRC.

Do anyone have an idea what movie/tv-series I'm talking about?

That's probably Nightbreaker (1989), a made for TV movie where Martin Sheen played a psychiatrist evaluating stress on soldiers being subjected to A-Bomb blasts, and his son Emilio Estevez played his younger self. I still remember that film as a powerfull but flawed production - but images from it did stick with me.

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post #25 of 57 Old 02-22-2012, 09:39 AM
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I always wondered what those little strings were on the left of the main explosion/cloud?

They're smoke rockets fired right before the blast. They were used to measure shock wave effects.

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post #26 of 57 Old 02-22-2012, 12:25 PM
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They're smoke rockets fired right before the blast. They were used to measure shock wave effects.

Ah. Good thinking.
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post #27 of 57 Old 02-22-2012, 12:36 PM
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I think it was about the manhattan project from the start but it was so long ago.

Nah, the Manhattan project didn't have regular soldiers anywhere near it, just scientists and generals, and they were all several miles from the Trinity site.

In the 50s they did tests with soldiers too close to the blast, before they moved to underground testing.

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post #28 of 57 Old 02-22-2012, 12:41 PM
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My own favorite would be the original On The Beach(1959),

I'm actually surprised On the Beach didn't make the list in the OP's link. It's a better film than Damnation Alley, to be sure.

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post #29 of 57 Old 02-22-2012, 01:27 PM
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I also found the Australian TV movie version of "On the Beach" with Sam Neil made about 10 years ago much better than I had expected. It is updated to what we know about what might happen with such a war. I was able to rent both versions from Netflix.
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post #30 of 57 Old 02-22-2012, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Gary McCoy View Post

That's probably Nightbreaker (1989), a made for TV movie where Martin Sheen played a psychiatrist evaluating stress on soldiers being subjected to A-Bomb blasts, and his son Emilio Estevez played his younger self. I still remember that film as a powerfull but flawed production - but images from it did stick with me.

Could be, will have to investigate this one....thanks.

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