Apocalyptic cinema is making a come-back. In the wake of successful films like "Children of
Men," and the hype surrounding the upcoming movie, "The Road" audiences are beginning to take the genre more seriously. Past problems with the genre like bad plots, poor special effects, and Kevin Costner, have caused a great dwindling of credibility on films and directors to actually deliver. Despite these problems there have been many successes. That said, perhaps none have been as riveting and shocking as Peter Watkin's film, "The War Game."
The 1966 film, pseudo-documentary, "The War Game," is no-joke, one scary as hell piece of apocalyptic cinema. Based in the 1960's Cold War era the movie is a step-by-step account of what would happen to England if it were caught in the middle of a nuclear showdown between the US and USSR. The shaky hand-held and news reporting style of the movie adds a very tangible layer of credibility lacking in most films on the same subject.
In great detail the narrator explains the scenes unfolding. One in particular was a burning neighborhood that had a direct hit by an atom bomb that exploded in mid-air before reaching its target, The London Airport. Grotesque images of people with burns, burn victims, and fire-fighters dying of suffocation while trying to fight fierce 100 mile an hour fallout winds is enough to take your breath away. Highlighting the action all along the way is the soothing British narrator, whose cold voice explains how the real horror of nuclear war will unfold after the bombs go off. No surprise it won the oscar for best documentary in 1966.
In the years since the Cold War has concluded the movie has fallen into obscurity. I didn't know about it until watching a trailer for it on Killerfilm.com's top ten list of the most controversial films ever made. After premiering in Britain the public reaction to the movie was so strong that the BBC banned it until 1983.
I feel very thankful that I was able to grow up in a time when fear of being vaporized in a nuclear holocaust was not something I had to live with everyday. It is perhaps this lack of impending nuclear doom that has opened the doorways for apocalyptic fans to spin stories of other impending dooms like the bullshit that was Y2K and soon bullshit-to-be hysteria of 2012.
Nothing will really ever come close or be more of a reality than those dark days in the 1960's when the possibility of Russia and the United States turning the world into a big parking lot seemed almost certain. While we still retain the weapons to do such things, and the possibility is still real; the promise of mutually assured destruction has so far worked to insure our safety. Only time can tell though.
Thanks be to the end!