Atomic War Bride (1960)

Hi there, Nate here with a little Youtube diamond. And...plot! One fine spring day in bustling EveryEuropeanCity, doe-eyed, eternally-chipper salaryman EverydudeJohn gathers up his bouquet of flowers, straightens his tie, and heads off to the gentrified suburbs to marry his too-hot-for-him fiance EverychickMaria. Her family is all here, the tables are set, the priest is in his robes, and all signs point to this being the beginning of a beautiful marriage. Unfortunately, this is also the exact hour that WWIII breaks out. They've barely said their “I do's” when the GenericEnemy jets start strafing and bombing the city, sending everyone into a balls-out panic. Things get worse, John gets drafted right off the street into the army, Maria runs critically short of eyeliner and cute skirts, everyone is holed up in air raid shelters cursing Marx and Crown and the world is aflame with war. In the end it gets even worse as John and Maria are caught in the fallout pattern of a nuke hit on their home city and they shamble back to the ruins of his apartment to die, never getting a chance to enjoy the perks of marriage (tax breaks, hard-to-reach zit popping, jealous single friends, beige minivans with mismatched infant carseats, that sort of thing). A pretty hardcore downer of an ending, no ray of hope, no nose-wiggling rabbit to signal that the world is going to be a-ok, just a massive radioactive airburst crater and a generational increase in leukemia rates. And, presumably, mutant alligators who have developed the ability to carry machineguns.

That's how I looked at my wedding, too!

This is as aggressively Anti-War as any movie as you are likely to see come out of the Cold War era. The pacifist message of peace and love over bombs and guns is hammered in relentlessly, especially in the second half of the movie, so much so that you'll be wishing for a dissenting opinion. Surely there are times when war is necessary, if unpalatable, and surely there are legitimate reasons why any nation would rise up arms to defend itself from attack. And, you know what, there are also times when a nation might take the first shot, the world isn't always black and white. I'm ok with the Anti-War theme, but without giving you anything else to think about it kinda loses its impact for me.

Even if it results in this.

It's not only Anti-War, but also fervently Anti-Government, going to great dramatic leaps to show how the corrupt leaders would and could devastate the globe in an atomic war for no other reason than they refused to talk to the other side. To the surprise of many this movie was made in Communist Yugoslavia, which at the time was firmly under the grip of the insane megalomaniac Josef Tito. For most of his oppressive reign, Tito's cinema censorship stormtroopers would never, ever let such a movie see production without someone being fast against the wall. There was, however, a brief period in the late 1950s/early 1960s where Tito broke up with Mother Russia and dated America on the break. It was during this honeymoon time of relaxed governorship and Westernization that our movie was made. By 1965 or so, Tito had dumped America and went back to his ex-girlfriend Russia, because Russia was into the freaky stuff and didn't care that he smoked pot every day. Jilted, America badmouthed Tito on Facebook and started dating his neighbor Italy just to spite him.

Any resemblance to real-world fascists is purely coincidental.

The only reason I am writing this review, and maybe the only reason I'd recommend you watching this movie, is to marvel at how schitzo the tone is. It just can't decide what kind of movie it wants to be, a rom-com, a serious war film, a slapstick comedy, a dark comedy, a documentary-style film about atomic weapons, or a shoot-em-up action flick, so it decides to be all of them at once. It veers drunkedly from tone to tone to such a degree that you just don't know whether to laugh or cringe. I wonder if the director felt he had to balance the serious anti-war stuff with stupid comedy bits, or maybe halfway through his romantic comedy someone decided to have the main characters die horribly in nuclear devastation, but the film would have benefited greatly from some editing cuts.

Oiy, thatz comedies!

Hmmm...what other stuff did I notice?

There's a conscious effort to make this plot applicable to any nation on Earth. Not once is any individual country named directly, the clothes and sets are “generically European”, there are no flags, no identifying marks on uniforms or anything. It could just as well take place in Paris as Moscow, which might have been another way the director deflected some of the Yugoslavian Communist Party's wrath. Dub this in any language and it would play just fine, though I'm quite sure it didn't get a lot of ticket sales in Khrushchev's Russia in 1960.

Hey, it's Presigeneral Dwight de Churchshev!

Despite showing up on a lot of cheapass science fiction movie boxsets, the actual sci-fi elements are restricted to a few spacey rifles, which are just regular carbines with air filters and cardboard blocks glued on. Everything else you see, from the clunky refrigerators to the Willy's Jeeps and banded fedoras says pure 1960, why would they just make the rifles sci-fi? Or did they just do that to hide the make and model of the weapons in line with their “every nation, every army” theme? Who knows?

What are you doing?

Not only is the title sensationalist, it's also kinda misleading. The “bride” is really only in the first 20 minutes, for 70% of the movie Maria is completely absent, only reappearing towards the end to fawn a bit and then die of radiation poisoning. “Atomic War Bride” is the kind of phrase that looks great on a drive-in marquee, I'll admit that, but the movie really should have been titled Protest War and Get Killed by Nukes: Atomic Bride II. Yeah, that would be much better.

Damn, I know half your face is melted off by atomic fire,
but could you maybe run a comb through that mess for me?

Anyway, watch it or not, it's your hour, but if I were you I'd watch a rerun of Dexter instead.

These ladies would rather watch Dexter, too.

The End.

Written in January 2016 by Nathan Decker.

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