Duck and Cover (film)


Duck and Cover (film)
Duck and Cover

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Anthony Rizzo
Written by Raymond J. Mauer
Distributed by Archer Productions
Release date(s) 1952
Running time 9 min 14 sec
Country United States
Language English

Duck and Cover is a civil defense film (sometimes also characterized as a social guidance film or propaganda) produced in 1951 (but first shown publicly in January 1952) by the United States federal government's civil defense branch shortly after the Soviet Union began nuclear testing. Written by Raymond J. Mauer and directed by Anthony Rizzo of Archer Productions and made with the help of schoolchildren from New York City and Astoria, New York, it was shown in schools as the cornerstone of the government's "duck and cover" public awareness campaign. The movie states that nuclear war could happen at any time without warning, and U.S. citizens should keep this constantly in mind and be ever ready.

The US government contracted with Archer to produce Duck and Cover. The film is now in the public domain, and as such is widely available through Internet download sources, as well as on DVD.

Contents

Plot summary

The title screen from the film.

The film starts with an animated sequence, showing an anthropomorphic turtle walking down a road, while picking up a flower and smelling it. A chorus sings the Duck and Cover theme:

There was a turtle by the name of Bert
and Bert the turtle was very alert;
when danger threatened him he never got hurt
he knew just what to do...
He'd duck! [gasp]
And cover!
Duck! [gasp]
And cover! (male) He did what we all must learn to do
(male) You (female) And you (male) And you (deeper male) And you!'
[bang, gasp] Duck, and cover!'

The significant scene before Bert ducks and covers.

While this goes on, Bert is attacked by a monkey holding a string from which hangs a lit stick of dynamite. Bert ducks into his shell in the nick of time, as the dynamite goes off and blows up both the monkey and the tree in which he is sitting. Bert, however, is shown perfectly safe, because he has ducked and covered.

The film, which is about 10 minutes long, then switches to live footage, as a narrator explains what children should do "when you see the flash" of an atomic bomb. The movie goes on to suggest that by ducking down low in the event of a nuclear explosion, the children would be safer than they would be standing, and explains some basic survival tactics for nuclear war.

Purpose

After nuclear weapons were developed (the first having been developed during the Manhattan Project during World War II), it was realized what kind of danger they posed. The United States held a nuclear monopoly from the end of World War II until 1949, when the Soviets detonated their first nuclear device.

This signaled the beginning of the nuclear stage of the Cold War, and as a result, strategies for survival were thought out. Fallout shelters, both private and public, were built, but the government still viewed it as necessary to explain to citizens both the danger of the atomic (and later, hydrogen) bombs, and to give them some sort of training so that they would be prepared to act in the event of a nuclear strike.

The solution was the duck and cover campaign, of which Duck and Cover was an integral part. Shelters were built, drills were held in towns and schools, and the film was shown to schoolchildren. According to the United States Library of Congress (which declared the film "historically significant" and inducted it for preservation into the National Film Registry in 2004), it "was seen by millions of schoolchildren in the 1950s."

Controversy

There is controversy from some people regarding the actual usefulness of the film. Since it has no counterpart in any other country (although the British film Protect and Survive is a much more blunt take on the same theme), it is sometimes regarded as being a red scare political tool, to make children frightened of the Soviet Union and communism.[1] Also questioned is the film's scientific accuracy; whether or not the tactics shown in the film (such as ducking into a doorway, putting a newspaper over your head, and even just throwing yourself face down on the ground) would actually work. While this (or any) tactic would be useless for someone at ground zero during a nuclear blast, it could be beneficial for those who are positioned away from the blast hypocenter: both the thermal pulse of some weapons and shrapnel from all weapons (particularly from shattered windows)[2] could be evaded. In particular, higher yield thermonuclear weapons have thermal pulses which last for several seconds. By promptly putting something between yourself and the fireball, you could avoid or reduce the severity of the burns you would have otherwise received. For those not at ground zero, there would be a delay between the flash (indicating the need to duck and cover) and the arrival of the blast wave, which could shatter windows and cause other blast or impact injuries (although electromagnetic radiation, such as infra-red and gamma rays, would arrive at the observer's position at the same time as the light flash, leaving the observer no time to find cover from these particular aspects of a nuclear detonation).

A newspaper would, at least in theory, block alpha radiation although skin does this anyway, provide some shielding from the heat (IR, visible and UV) radiation and small debris, though it would have no effect on the beta and gamma radiation or on the shockwave that would accompany an atomic detonation.

Cultural impact

Although duck-and-cover drills are no longer held in United States schools and most fallout shelters have been closed down or abandoned, Duck and Cover, which was shown to an entire generation of children, is referenced in television shows and movies, usually in a context implying Duck and Cover is an example of camp.

However, many schools across the United States continue to use the "Duck and Cover" sheltering style in the event of tornadoes, earthquakes, and full lockdowns among other things.

The satirical animated series South Park lampooned Duck and Cover in the first season episode Volcano, as giving instructions on how to avoid hot lava. Another parody, "Atomic Holocaust," appeared in the animated film The Iron Giant.

Steampunk musician Doctor Steel sampled segments from the film's soundtrack into his recording Drop Da Bomb on his 2001 album Dr. Steel II: Eclectic Boogaloo.

See also

  • Atomic Cafe, documentary film including Duck and Cover.
  • Duck and cover, for further discussion of this method of self-defense.
  • List of films about nuclear issues
  • List of films in the public domain
  • Protect and Survive, a British information film on the same topic.

References

  1. ^ Duck and Cover: A Propaganda Film for Red Scare Youngsters?
  2. ^ The good news about nuclear destruction.

External links


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Duck And Cover (Film) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Duck et Cover. Duck and Cover (que l on traduirait par Plonge et Couvre toi ! ou Couché, couvert! ) est un court métrage de propagande américain de 1951. Ce court métrage de neuf minutes était destiné aux… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Duck and cover (film) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Duck et Cover. Duck and Cover (que l on traduirait par Plonge et Couvre toi ! ou Couché, couvert! ) est un court métrage de propagande américain de 1951. Ce court métrage de neuf minutes était destiné aux… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Duck and Cover (film) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Duck et Cover. Duck and Cover (que l on traduirait par Plonge et couvre toi ! ou Couché, couvert! ) est un court métrage de propagande américain de 1951. Ce court métrage de neuf minutes était destiné aux… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Duck and cover (disambiguation) — Duck and cover is a safety drill taught during the Cold War. Duck and cover may also refer to: Duck and Cover (film), the nine minute training film for this method of self defense, later a cult hit Duck and Cover (The West Wing), episode twelve… …   Wikipedia

  • Duck and cover — For other uses, see Duck and cover (disambiguation). A movie, geared towards children, portraying the act of ducking and covering by a turtle. Duck and Cover was a suggested method of personal protection against the effects of a nuclear weapon… …   Wikipedia

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  • Duck and cover — Filmdaten Originaltitel: Duck and Cover Produktionsland: USA Erscheinungsjahr: 1951 Länge: 9 Minuten Originalsprache: Englisch Stab …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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