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81.

Prelinger Archives: What You Should Know About Biological Warfare (1952) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film is a Cold War-era effort to warn Americans about the possibility of an unconventional weapons attack, and to educate them in both preventing and coping with such attacks. The film shows how lab-cultivated germs and toxic chemicals might be used in biological warfare, how a germ-warfare strike could be launched (for example, a local attack with spray cans or other tools), and what citizens should do if a disease outbreak or epidemic actually occurs. Vulnerable areas cited include farms, reservoirs, and manufacturing facilities.
Online
1952
82.

Prelinger Archives: A Is for Atom (1953) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film illustrates the scientific advancements that helped launch America's nuclear power industry in the 1950s. With cartoon animation aimed at charming average viewers, most of whom had little or no knowledge of atomic energy beyond its use as a weapon, the program describes what an atom is, how energy is released from certain kinds of atoms, the potential uses of atomic energy in medicine and agriculture, and the byproducts of nuclear fission.
Online
1953
83.

Prelinger Archives: Give Yourself the Green Light (1954) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film is an urgent message to 1950s America concerning the need for modern roads and highways, with the ultimate goal of creating the Interstate Highway System. Following an ill-equipped repair crew as it patches holes in pavement, the film bemoans an outdated transportation system that can't support "our growing greatness" (in other words, the rising numbers of cars in use) while scenes of rush-hour traffic warn that "we're running out of roads!" For solutions, the program illustrates state-of-the-art highway development across the nation and lobbies viewers on the importance of tax-supported financing so that construction can take place immediately. "If you pay as you go," warns the narrator, "you may not go at all.
Online
1954
84.

Prelinger Archives: The House in the Middle (1954) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film presents a 1954 civil defense test demonstrating "atomic heat's effects on American homes." Miniature houses are built in the Nevada desert and exposed to atomic blasts. "What do these tests prove?" asks the optimistic narrator. "Many things!" Viewers are encouraged to practice "civil defense housekeeping"--keeping the yard neat and giving the house a fresh coat of paint, evoking the corporate purpose behind the film, which was created under the auspices of the National Paint, Varnish, and Lacquer Association. No information on health concerns or personal safety during a nuclear attack is included, however. National Paint, Varnish and Lacquer Association, for the National Clean Up-Paint Up-Fix Up Bureau.
Online
1954
85.

Prelinger Archives: American Harvest (Part I) (1955) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film promotes the activities of farmers, miners, and manufacturers in the production of industrial materials--particularly those essential to 1950s car-making. From the Texas goatherd whose fleeces are used in fine upholstery to the Washington State lumberjack whose felled trees go into paper for car-design blueprints, the film highlights America's astonishing ability to reap nature's bounty and transform it into automotive technology (an endeavor the U.S. continues today, of course, but with far greater dependence on the rest of the world). The narration is verbose and overwrought, waxing eloquent as shot after shot passes by in the glorification of automobile manufacturing, raw materials extraction, and mid-1950s consumerism. Revised from an earlier 1951 version.
Online
1955
86.

Prelinger Archives: American Harvest (Part II) (1955) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film highlights the activities of farmers, miners, and manufacturers in the production of industrial materials--particularly those essential to 1950s car-making. From the bustling Pittsburgh steel foundry to the California oil well contributing to the rubber in tires, the film highlights America's wondrous ability to reap nature's bounty and transform it into car technology (an endeavor the U.S. continues today, of course, but with far greater dependence on the rest of the world). The narration is verbose and overwrought, waxing eloquent as shot after shot passes by in the glorification of automobile manufacturing, raw materials extraction, and mid-1950s consumerism. Revised from an earlier 1951 version.
Online
1955
87.

Prelinger Archives: Magic in the Air (1955) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film illustrates the basic principles of what was, in 1955, state-of-the-art television technology. Visiting a TV studio as it prepares for a live broadcast, the film shows how television equipment works--including going inside a bulky camera and examining its contents, then following the broadcast "signal" with the help of classic voltage-like animation to a TV antenna and into the home of a happy viewer. How electrons are used to scan and reproduce a picture is explained quite effectively, if not in complete scientific detail then at least to the satisfaction of the average high-school physics student. The evolution of TV technology is paralleled with that of the American car.
Online
1955
88.

Prelinger Archives: Operation Cue (1955) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film documents a nuclear bomb experiment at a remote Atomic Energy Commission test site in 1955. Reported on by a young female journalist, the test focuses on how a nuclear blast would affect the average home and household. Civil Defense Operations set up in the Nevada desert simulate a small town of ranch houses, complete with fashionably dressed mannequins placed in and around the buildings. Food storage and the vulnerability of food are also explored. Despite chilling images of the bomb's destructive power, perhaps most jarring to today's viewers are scenes filmed 24 hours after detonation, in which test personnel and observers casually wander through the ruins, totally unconcerned about fallout--even enjoying a communal meal (to test Civil Defense readines [...]
Online
1955
89.

Prelinger Archives: Atom Bomb (Joe Bonica's Movie-of-the-Month) (C. 1955) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film records the procedures and results of three different atomic bomb tests during the 1950s. The first takes place on Bikini Atoll, with Navy crews watching from the deck of a ship; remote control detonation; crews strapping on goggles; bomb exploding; and aerial shots of ships immediately adjacent to the mushroom cloud. The second and third take place in Mercury and Yucca Flat, Nevada. They show the results of a hydrogen bomb explosion on a dummy-filled "Survival Town" and the dutiful actions of of 9,000 servicemen who take their places in trenches, then dust each other off with brooms when the explosion is over. Frighteningly few precautions are taken with the lives of those present. The film purports to prove that survival of a nuclear attack is possible.
Online
1955
90.

Prelinger Archives: Aluminum on the March (Part I) (1956) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film is a mid-20th-century look at the aluminum industry and its contributions to major engineering ventures as well as daily life. The documentary opens in the bauxite mines of Jamaica, from which bauxite ore is conveyed over an aerial tramway to waiting ships, then carried to a factory for processing. Emerging as a snow-white powder, the "alumina" is further processed and used in a variety of other industries, including aircraft manufacturing and national defense. Its versatility and flexibility are illustrated with stop-motion animation of a quasi-human aluminum figure leading ingots, blooms, and billets in a grand march. Perhaps most intriguing, however, is a detailed look at the steps by which massive aluminum blocks are pressed into thin foil sheets.
Online
1956
91.

Prelinger Archives: Aluminum on the March (Part II) (1956) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film is a mid-20th-century look at the aluminum industry, focusing on a wide variety of products from the Reynolds Metals Company. The film depicts aluminum uses in automobile styling, in home appliances, in product packaging, in cooking and preserving, as a "do-it-yourself" material, and as the key metal in jet airplanes, Diesel engines, buses, and heavy industries. The ease with which aluminum can be handled is demonstrated in a sequence showing a farmer using it for siding and insulation and to irrigate a field. The piping in this scene is shown to be highly portable, being moved in sections by one person. In a "pageant of packaging" the film presents row after row of familiar brands parading in step to stirring martial music, filmed against a background of [...]
Online
1956
92.

Prelinger Archives: Design for Dreaming (1956) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film was produced to bring the 1956 General Motors "Motorama" show to audiences unable to see it in major cities. The film introduces the new 1956 cars, Frigidaire's "Kitchen of Tomorrow," and the electronic highways of the future. GM's "dream cars" of the 1950s, including the Oldsmobile Golden Rocket and the turbine-powered Pontiac Firebird II, are also displayed. In glittering Hollywood style, the film depicts a sleeping beauty who dreams of a magical figure handing her an invitation to the Motorama at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. She flies through the nighttime sky to the hotel, where she sees the milling crowds and marvels at the new cars. Suddenly, an apron appears around her waist and she is carried into the "Kitchen of Tomorrow." More adventures oc [...]
Online
1956
93.

Prelinger Archives: Unconditional Surrender (1956) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film concerns the development of the Salk polio vaccine and its mass production and distribution as the American public went on the offensive against the disease. Beginning in MacLean, Virginia, the film depicts Randy Kerr, the young boy who received the first inoculation. After a retrospective outline of polio's tragic impact in which numerous children are shown in wheelchairs and hospital rooms, the film moves on to show the testing and experiments which led to the vaccine. Scenes of laboratory tests on animals, including monkeys, rats, and guinea pigs, may disturb modern viewers who are sensitive to animal rights, although the film also glosses over any real trauma that test animals might have endured.
Online
1956
94.

Prelinger Archives: On Guard! the Story of SAGE (C. 1956) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film introduces SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment), a computerized early warning system designed to guard against enemy aircraft. State-of-the-art in 1956, the system was composed of room-sized computers and giant "Displayscopes." The film represents an effort to describe the system without alienating a technologically unsophisticated public. "You are listening to the heartbeat of the SAGE computer," says the narrator. "Every instrument in this room is constantly monitoring, testing, pulse-taking, controlling." With images of children playing and a little girl sleeping, the film asks, "What better reason for an electronic defense?" and tells us that "the future of America is secure." Glimpses of huge mainframes maintained by well-tailored men and women a [...]
Online
1956
95.

Prelinger Archives: Behind the Freedom Curtain (1957) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film pushed for the implementation of voting machines during the 1950s, promoting them as engines of governmental efficiency and practical democracy. It features what was then state-of-the-art technology--namely, a mechanical bank of switches and rotating dials that allowed voters to easily record their choices and stored the numbers in, according to the film, a reliable manner. The process is illustrated as citizens enter the booth in succession and make their decisions, after which a panel is removed so that the inner cogs and number-counters of the machine are revealed. This process is contrasted with shots of messy pencil-and-paper voting methods culminating in numerous voided ballots. The film also includes dramatized portrayals of local leaders as they m [...]
Online
1957
96.

Prelinger Archives: Mainline U.S.A. (1957) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film shows the important role of rail transportation in the mid-20th-century American economy. Outlining the development of steam and diesel trains, the film depicts railroad technology in action--hauling passengers, farm products, manufactured goods, and raw materials. Recreational uses are shown, too. Glamorous music accompanies lush footage of natural wonders and glittering cities, among which restless trains move as they crisscross the American continent and help to expand the U.S. economy. Innovations in rail technology are explored at length, portraying trains as "marvels of science" as well as essential vehicles in the search for new and ever-improving ways to develop commerce.
Online
1957
97.

Prelinger Archives: 6 1/2 Magic Hours (1958) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film depicts the comfort and delight of transatlantic air travel at the beginning of the Jet Age. The story begins with a scale model of the "futuristic" Pan Am terminal at Idlewild Airport (later renamed JFK), designed to allow passengers movement from terminal to jet under covered awnings. Next, Pan Am initiates Flight 1000, a so-called "paper flight"--a hypothetical experiment taking place between New York and London, collecting scientific and logistical data in preparation for the milestone jet voyage. Then the film shows the real thing, offered in an upscale Boeing 707 Clipper with a spacious cabin and luxurious amenities. Finally, viewers see activities to be enjoyed in Europe, made possible with "extra hours to do what you want" thanks to the new swift [...]
Online
1958
98.

Prelinger Archives: Boulder Dam (C. 1950) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film documents the logistical and construction process that created Boulder Dam, now called Hoover Dam. Completed in 1936, the dam was the world's largest hydroelectric power generating station and the world's largest concrete structure (although in 1945 it was surpassed in both respects by the Grand Coulee Dam.) The film depicts the blasting procedures necessary to begin construction, visits worker housing and meal facilities, shows how equipment and materials were transported to work sites, and highlights the often daring and sometimes deadly feats of physical labor that workers performed. The exterior and inner workings of the finished dam are also explored in detail.
Online
1950
99.

Prelinger Archives: News Magazine of the Screen - Atomic Energy (C. 1954) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film is a 1954 compilation of newsreel stories on atomic weapons testing, civil defense, and nuclear energy. It depicts the following events: Operation "Tea Pot," an atomic test at Yucca Flat, Nevada, with narration that (in a minor departure from other such films) actually acknowledges the dangers of nuclear fallout; the launch of the U.S.S. Nautilus, America's first atomic submarine, from a shipyard at Groton, Connecticut; observations of an underground atomic blast test; air particle sampling and airfield blast tests that highlight the role of the U.S. Air Force in developing defenses and strategy; desert blast tests on fake houses and mannequin families; tests performed at a robotic arm facility, to develop industrial uses for radioactive materials; and bi [...]
Online
1954
100.

Prelinger Archives: Stay Safe, Stay Strong - the Facts About Nuclear Weapons (1960) [electronic resource]

This Prelinger Archives film is a 1960 instructional film on nuclear warfare created for U.S. Air Force personnel. Through an intro-level, semi-animated explanation of nuclear physics and its role in the weaponry of the time, viewers learn the basic definitions of conventional and nuclear weapons, the differences between fission and fusion bombs, and the mass-energy conversion that takes place inside atoms during fission and fusion. Varieties of nuclear devices discussed include gun-type and implosion. Footage of atmospheric and underground testing, a bomber making a crash landing, a wall-sized "lightning-fast computer," and other images are interwoven with the frequently repeated reminder, "These are the facts!
Online
1960