“Growing up during the Cold War, I saw the Earth end many times over. Mushroom clouds bloomed in films and TV shows such as The Day After, Testament, Threads, The War Game, By Dawn’s Early Light, On the Beach, The Bedford Incident, Fail Safe and Miracle Mile. Looking back from today, they might vary in quality but they share a common tone – grim resignation – and I can recall with certainty that we took them all very seriously when we came across them in a theatre or late night television.
Despair is a sin, and each film did its best to make us commit that sin, for at least as long as we were encouraged to accept the premise – solemnly reaffirmed by statesmen, scientists, journalists and others – that nuclear war was a near-inevitability. Re-watching them now, their desperate message shamefully recalls bitter memories of the too-avid reception they once provoked, but I don’t imagine that anyone who didn’t live through that time would share my reaction. I guess you just had to be there.”
By Rick McGinnis