Plot: This release from Mill Creek Entertainment collects a host of Cold War related shorts, documentaries, and of course, propaganda elements, allowing us a glimpse into this historical period. I think this is a terrific release, as it covers a wide scope of topics and more to the point, content styles. Cold War Remembered clocks in at almost an hour in duration, but most of these programs are shorter formats, with the others at 30 minutes or less. Some are serious documentaries that relay information about the era and have some insightful elements, while others are dramatized takes and even others are wild propaganda films. I think those who prefer the nostalgic, more over the top style content will be more pleased here, as there’s more of that than the traditional, serious documentary style programs. But if you have an interest in the Cold War, given the low price, Minutes to Midnight is recommended.
1. Cold War Remembered: This piece is the longest of the collection, about an hour and most of it focuses on the bomber squadrons of the period. I appreciated hearing from so many of the veterans who flew as pilots, as that kind of first hand knowledge adds so much to the piece. But the pace is slow, even by documentary standards, so it might lose some viewers in the process.
2. A Day Called X: This is one of the set’s highlights, a fictional account of what would happen if a nuclear threat became real. Portland is the focus and we’re shown the processes that would unfold if a bomb was imminent, as well as how the fallout would be handled. This is an interesting inclusion and the kind of historical curio that makes these kind of collections so desirable.
3. Duck and Cover: This is a classic short about school children being trained on how to react to incoming bombs. The piece has immense camp value now, picnic disaster and all, so even those who don’t delve into history often would likely find some interest in this one.
4. Atomic Alert: This one feels similar to Duck and Cover, but lacks the wilder touches for the most part. Some outlandish moments come across, but overall this is a slower, less interesting version of that short. Still worth a look, as it is only 11 minutes and has a few over the top performances.
5. The Challenge of Ideas: This is half an hour of pure, over the top propaganda, the kind that borders on camp, it is so heavy handed. I know these kind of Red Scare movies have a considerable audience, but even beyond historical buffs, this is almost b movie levels at times. A strange, beyond nationalist piece that rails against the Commies and earns some laughs.
6. Red Chinese Battle Plan: This one runs under half an hour, but despite the title, has little to do with battle plans. Instead, we’re given a lesson on how China became a Communist nation mixed with some Red Scare elements, but the latter isn’t over the top enough to entertain. So if you want actual insight into any kind of battle plans, this is more vague and what little information is provided, doesn’t really have anything to do with battles, just other strategic elements.
7. Target You: This is kind of a Duck and Cover for the mature crowd, telling adults what to do and what to expect when the bomb drops. This is more straight forward and less ridiculous than the children’s version, however. A little curio value, but not much fun or wackiness to mention.
8. Warning Red: This one has some real b movie appeal, as we have a goofball actor taking us through the realities of post apocalyptic life. In addition to the hilarious performance of our hero, we also have low rent special effects and of course, over the top theatrics. One of the true highlights of Minutes to Midnight, one that fans of cult cinema should seek out.
9. Our Cities Must Fight: At first, this one seems rather dull, but has some outlandish moments to appreciate. The lesson is to stay close to home in case of an attack, which apparently means you should do all kinds of dangerous tasks, regardless of your lack of skill or knowledge. There’s also some propaganda appeal, as there’s talk of treason for those who refuse to pitch it at home.
10. Bombproof: This was an interesting one, a look at how to keep records and documents preserved through a nuclear incident. This is part of war most never consider, so getting a look at how the topic was approached at the time adds some real value to this collection.
11. About Fallout: I found this to be one of the lesser entries in this set, as it runs overly long and just gives general preparedness information. At almost half an hour, the pace is slow and the tone is serious, so there’s no b movie or propaganda appeal in this one, just dull stretches of time.
12. Town of the Times: This is a look at the need for fallout shelters, giving us a long, dull conversation on the topic, as well as some humorous, slightly over the top dramatized portions. The mayor is a real card and I wish the entire short was just him in ridiculous situations, rather than what feels like an informercial for building fallout shelters all over the place.
13. Let’s Face It: This was a wild one. The short takes us inside a test city, a locale built to resemble an actual town, so that the effects of the bomb could be studied and better prepared to deal with. This one runs about 13 minutes and gives us a look at the devastation a bomb would leave behind. I found it to be quite interesting, since it was less theory and more application.
14. What You Should Know About Biological Warfare: This is a very short look at how to cope after the bomb drops, like basic survival elements that the victims of the attack might need to be aware of. I think it makes a welcome inclusion, as it helps round out the content in this collection, but it doesn’t have much that makes it memorable or overly informative.
15. You Can Beat the A-Bomb: This is another look at how to prepare for the bomb and survive in its wake, but seems to be better funded or at least the producers cared more about the content. This means the short yields less in terms of outlandishness, but has more of an impact, since it is crafted with more care and skill. While more serious, there are some silly moments, so don’t sleep on this one, even if you prefer the wackier side of the Cold War shorts.
16. The House in the Middle: If you want to survive the bomb, make sure your house is clean, with a fresh coat of paint. I am thrilled that this is the actual message of this short, which is beyond ridiculous and ensures the short has massive b movie appeal, as well just general WTF level appeal. A true highlight of the package and an eye popping look at the era’s social propaganda.