DIRECTOROtt, Thomas
TITLERace for the Superbomb
DISTRIBUTORPBS
ISBN0780625315
DATE PUBLISHED1999
RUNNING TIME120 minutes
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This two-hour Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) film about superbombs covers the 10 years after the atomic bombing of Japan. It shows in great depth the race between the United States and the Soviet Union to build the hydrogen bomb. Scientists, scholars, and experts, including Richard Rhodes, Edward Teller, Hans Bethe, and Vladislav Zubok, narrate the film. Teller spearheaded American H-bomb research after a Soviet atomic explosion in 1949. Andrei Sakharov's “layer cake” design is compared to Teller’s early prototype. Later designs, based on magnifying radiation into hydrogen, culminate with the Mike test, a 10-megaton blast in the South Pacific. Several clips show the Bravo test in the Bikini Atoll. The film also explores the political and military ramifications of the hydrogen bomb, documenting President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s use of nuclear intimidation to end the Korean War, and Atomic Energy Commission head Lewis Straus’s successful effort to revoke Oppenheimer’s security clearance, partly for opposing the bomb. The film ends with American propaganda, and futile civil defense exercises to quell fear about Soviet hydrogen bomb attacks.


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