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The Atomic Blonde

In "The Atomic Blonde" (a.k.a. "Run For The Hills", 1953), insurance actuary Charley Johnson has run the numbers and knows, downright knows, that the Soviets will be dropping a bomb on his Los Angeles community any day now. His answer is to move house to a remote cave, dragging his wife along with him.

While many UEN SciFi Friday films feature lizard-faced monsters and aliens with nefarious plans for the human race, the monster that gets unleashed in "The Atomic Blonde" is Charley's own imagination. While human life has always been lived in the shadow of death, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. attack on Hiroshima belied the bright promise of security that gleamed in the chrome-edged counters of every malt shop from Penobscot to Pismo Beach. Pearl Harbor showed us we could be attacked; Hiroshima showed us that total obliteration was possible. With a powerful enemy in the U.S.S.R., a fair number of Americans lost more than a little sleep.

This film invites us to ask ourselves what we think a sensible level of caution morphs into downright paranoia. Most of us would agree to practical measures, but what of the "duck and cover" bomb drills that had schoolchildren curling up under their desks with their hands over the backs of their necks as if this would protect them from an atomic blast? What of the citizens who built underground bomb shelters in their backyards (though the recommended two weeks' worth of rations would be hardly enough to weather a nuclear winter)?

The Science

George Williams

George WilliamsPhysicist George Williams of the University of Utah discusses the hydrogen bomb and the film “The Atomic Blonde.”

 

More Science to go with the Show

Related Resources

George Williams

Physics at the University of Utah

Physicists and Astronomers

The Making of the Atomic Bomb

NTI

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