Sorting through some posts from ten years ago, I came across an interesting Cartoon Brew article on Frank Tashlin, that mentions a religious public service film he directed in 1947 called The Way of Peace. It’s one of several anti-nuke movies from just after the war, when the Cold War battle lines were not yet inked and ‘big ideas’ were circulating without necessarily being labeled with a Pacifist or Warhawk orientation. The Way of Peace is an illustrated Christian sermon with an atomic kicker; its remedy for nuclear annihilation is Love as represented by Faith. The movie may be have the first graphic representation of a full-on nuclear missile attack, all done with ‘representational’ visual effects. The graphic design is excellent; the technique uses pyrotechnics and a great many miniature settings. The film was designed by the noted James Blanding Sloan.
The Bible section of the story segues directly into an expression of modern Evil – Nazi swastikas — and then to a fantasy of a possible Atomic war. The Atom Bomb is visualized as a giant object, possibly inspired by the ‘Fat Boy’ design of the Nagasaki bomb. ↑ When the camera frames the top of the bomb it looks like a looming dome … the same graphic image that recurs in later science fiction movies about ominous future threats: Quatermass 2, Kronos, The Mysterians.
None other than the famous Frank Tashlin directed, The film’s images are charted out in animated cartoon terms, but using 3-dimensional animation. The visual effects were created by a team that included the young Wah Ming Chang and Gene Warren. The effective narration is read by actor Lew Ayres, the most famous conscientious objector of WW2.
Stop-motion animation shows the raising / erection of a single atomic missile — suggesting an unavoidable ‘Doctor Strangelove’ sex association, in Tashlin terms, anyway. That’s followed by a fast-cut montage of dozens of missiles launching, arcing through the night sky, and blowing up cities, factories, everything.
The finale sees the Earth reduced to a steaming, radioactive grave, and the film ends with church choir music. ↓
Being church-produced and organized, The Way of Peace saw a lot of screenings when new. It made the National Film Registry run by the Library of Congress. When UCLA remastered it in 2017, they published a good article on the picture.
The best online copy of the film is at this Youtube address: The Way of Peace.
→ Another short film made a year earlier was not given the same welcome. The Federation of American Scientists and the ‘The National Committee on Atomic Information’ are credited on an open ‘scare’ film called One World or None, that uses a sober approach and nightmarish visuals to argue that no one country developed the bomb or can claim ownership of the science behind it.
The animated short subject explains how destructive and lethal the two Japan bombs were, by showing what a single bomb could do to New York, Chicago or San Francisco. It then demonstrates that there is no defense against bombs delivered by plane, missile, submarine and even atom saboteurs. The final plea is for a ‘one world’ authority — exactly the kind of proposal that didn’t go over well in the cold war political climate. Here in the U.S., One Worldism (a belief in a world government) was denounced as traitorous alignment with the ‘other side.’ Today, the (naïve?) interest in One Worldism is lumped into crazy paranoid conspiracies, with a hundred other taboo ideas.
One World or None re-uses the ‘good world/evil world’ image from Frank Capra’s Why We Fight propaganda films, but folds the world’s hundreds of competing nations into one conjoined globe. Two Atom Scare films immdediately post- Hiroshima: one prescribes Christian Love and the other the surrender of national sovereignity to a One-World authority. Knowing human nature, neither seem very practical.
Before we go … the Film Masters people asked me to append my review of Beast from Haunted Cave with some information that’s been circulating on web boards for a litttle while. It’s an old fashioned Easter Egg.
If you click right on the main menu, the image of the spider lights up. Tapping the ‘Enter’ button takes the viewer to an extra not included in the main line-up, either by design or — who knows? It’s a nice Ballyhoo interview with actor/monster maker Chris Robinson, a career start-up story that includes his journey to South Dakota to improvise the title Beast. Robinson’s a fine storyteller; it’s a shame his contribution isn’t up there in the main menu.
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson