By George Stahl
The age of the atom has been conquered! Remember those movies that tried to tell us of the horrors and consequences of all of that nuclear testing and radiation exposure back in the ‘50s and ‘60s? Every time a new development came from government scientists, a new movie came out that was supposed to wake us up and let us know that in the event of a nuclear strike, and duck and cover was as effective as using a roll of Scott Towels to sop up Lake Isabella during a torrential downpour.
One of the most famous, arguably, was the 1954 movie called just, Them! It had some big-name stars in it from the time and had some of the best sound effects in any science fiction film ever. It was centered around a town in New Mexico where, not too far away, the first atomic tests (after the atom bomb was built and used) in the desert were conducted. As a result of this bombardment of radiation and nuclear snow, the desert floor was dusted and glowing. Of all of the insects that roam the desert, apparently, ants were the only ones defenseless against it. Go figure. Anyway, they mutated into giant creatures that emitted a terrifying sound and had an insatiable taste for human blood. Giant, mutated, radiated, nuked, vampire ants were unleashed on mankind and if it were not for a few people, and the National Guard, these giants would have taken the planet. Now, that’s a warning!
Other films followed, like the 1955 classic Tarantula about an innocent spider who is giganticized after an experiment in radiation goes really bad. Some of these movies even featured the same actors but in different roles. James Arness and James Whitmore were popular stars in these B-Movies, as they were called. Did these docudramas of sorts and harbingers of the future deter the politicians? No, not really. In fact, on this day, September 5, in 1961, at the direction of President John F. Kennedy (JFK), underground nuclear testing was approved for sites in New Mexico and eventually, Nevada. These tests went on randomly for the next 29 years. In that time, more movies were made, more warnings were given, and more people didn’t listen. At the same time, no reports of giant ants, gargantuan spiders or any other mutants were made. Although, it was about that time in history that the frenzy on UFO sightings began. Hum…But, read on, please.
The testing was not only conducted in the United States. All across the world, these devices were exploded underground, at various depths, but mostly all below 4,000 feet. As a result, strange things have been happening on a global scale. Scary things have been unleashed by these irresponsible tests that were tolerated over the years because of man’s fear of himself. Over the years, like with other things involving the movies, plots have resurfaced that often times seem familiar. I think they call that déjà vu. They are also called remakes! In these remakes, new warnings of a new threat are being given to the movie going public. Movies like Them! and The Day the Earth Stood Still have taken on a new cause, replacing the nuclear threat with the threat of global warming. It is the melting glaciers, the in-climate weather patterns and the hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes rocking the planet, that are either a direct result or an indirect result of the ice melt at the poles of the earth and a Swiss cheese-like ozone layer above us. These natural disasters, or to some, not so natural catastrophes are the monsters that have been born over the last few generations.
The idea is that everything is connected on the planet, and there is a breakdown in that connection caused by mankind. Notice, we are always the cause, never just an innocent bystander, but the root of it all. Maybe we should take the backseat in the Studebaker for a while and see how it all plays out without us. Maybe we could have a movie to go along with that. “The Day the Earth was Humanless.” Or “Mankind takes a Holiday.” “Mankind without Man.” Or “Let’s sit this one out, what do you say?”
Back on September 5, 1961, when JFK approved those underground nuclear tests, he was probably not aware of the mutant sized can of worms he was opening. That reminds me, have you ever seen the movie Tremors? It’s not about earthquakes.
We live on a rock, the third one from the Sun in our universe, and she, as the earth is referred to in literature, has been here for billions of years. She survived the dinosaurs, at least five major ice ages geologists say she has had, the meteor that took out the dinosaurs and a multitude of earthquakes, asteroid encounters and a worldwide flood. As fleas on her back, mankind can do a lot of damage to her, and we have, but we will not be the one to bring her to her demise; that’s up to someone else. We will most likely be long gone before then. We are, however, and we should be, responsible to keep her looking good and clean and in as good a shape as we can keep her in. While we are here with her, we are responsible for her, and we should start acting like it, don’t you think? It’s Her and Us, not Her vs. Us. Why don’t they make a movie about that?