Atomic War Bride (1960)

This is an on again, but mostly off again satire about how dumb war is. I assume it’s some type of satire for two reasons. One is that there are some scenes in this movie that look like they were intended to be silly as opposed to just being chalked up to the usual incompetence you see in cheap imports like this. The other reason is because the back of the DVD box tells me so.

Atomic War Bride seesaws back and forth between atrocious foreign film with war crime level dubbing where the characters deliver dialogue stiffer than the dumb grin the star (John Johnson) wears throughout everything that happens and pretty decent takes on the ridiculousness of military thinking (the scenes where John is getting his training are priceless).

Unfortunately, the movie gets heavy-handed more often than not, and the complete lack of realism in any of the people on the screen keeps the viewer at a mostly disinterested distance.

John Johnson (part of the satire of this movie is how all the players have names like Pete Peters and Jack Jackson and I guess I’m to assume that these people are generic everymen because of their relative nondescript and pornish-sounding names) is a smiling blonde guy who is about to marry some gal whose name I missed whenever someone said it (Maria Mariason would be a good guess).

John is pretty psyched about getting married and even has his landlady help him push the beds together in his swanky flop house efficiency unit. John charges out of his building with flowers in his hand and goes to get his bride-to-be.

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While he does this, some kid is running around hawking newspapers shouting “war declared” over and over. John is relatively unbothered by this development and sets about getting himself across town to the bride’s house.

On the way there he encounters the civil defense people passing out radiation suits and giving pointless instructions on how to use them. There are some bizarre scenes here where John complains that his suit is somehow busted and tries to get under a couple of other people’s suits. John also runs into an anti-war taxi cab driver who gets himself arrested for being against the war.

Finally, he gets to Maria’s house and we meet his prospective in-laws. One of them is Maria’s cousin who faints whenever any mention of war is made. He sounds like he’d be fun at parties.

They get out to the church where the wedding is taking place and the priest performing the ceremony has to rush through it because of all the jets in the air and he just doesn’t quite get it finished before the bombs start landing on the open bar.

He bolts, as does the rest of the wedding party, and we see John and his woman running around dodging bombs and gunfire. They finally make it back to town just in time to run into the military where John and the fainting cousin are promptly conscripted to fight the good fight.

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The high point, humor-wise is watching them get trained. They get instruction on how to exercise their trigger finger over and over, they are taught how to fire their weapons at smiling targets with a heart painted on them, and they learn to use their gun for camouflage.

John then goes out on patrol and is told to bring some old coot to the fallout shelter, but the guy wont listen and somehow because John gets his arm caught in the door to the fallout shelter he has to go in with the civilians and basically deserts his unit.

As fate would have it, he is in the same fallout shelter with his fiancee, so they get some quality time together and then John stops an anti-war guy from committing suicide after the leader of the nation announces they are using atomic weapons on the other side.

John then begins an anti-war movement, all the while being AWOL from the military. All this on his wedding day no less! Some days it just doesn’t pay to do anything after your morning leak!

John leaves the fallout shelter, leading a pack of civilians in an anti-war march when he runs into his commanding officer. Since this is allegedly a satire, John is one of those wide-eyed innocent dopes who thinks everything is going to work out and has no clue as to the serious trouble he and everyone else is in.

Just as John is about to take one for the team, some guy comes running over yelling that peace has been declared. John is saved and he and his bride scamper off, but the commander gets orders to go after him, and the chase is on!

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He gets cornered and John is trying to tell them that since the war is over, it’s all no big deal, but then the president of the republic himself appears! He asks John if he made fun of him when he was protesting and John says, “yeah, but not much.”

The president doesn’t think that he should be made fun of and it looks like curtains for John when a bulletin comes in! The other side has launched their own atomic missiles and in twenty minutes you may as well start puckering up and bending over if you catch my meaning.

It’s a finish that would have been effective in a serious movie about people confronted with this situation, but all the goofy Fredonia-style political humor undermines the dramatic impact of the serious scenes, whereas the lapse into Threads-like drama at the end renders the satirical aspect pretty much forgotten.

A fairly bizarre film by any measure, it merits a look though the abrupt shift in tone is off-putting. The DVD as a whole is an easy buy with This Is Not a Test included as well as a half dozen short subjects from the atomic era. These are funnier than either of the movies with public service ads touting the benefits of a bomb shelter (one guy brags he built his for $118!) and a cartoon turtle named Bert helping kids to understand that they might be able to survive an atomic blast.

I don’t see how anyone who really cares about their family’s safety can justify not screening this one for their kids. After all, as one of the shorts says, mutations aren’t that bad. Who wants to look like their parents anyway?

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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