Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"War Game" Is Deadly One

Cleveland Press October 14, 1967

"The War Game," a movie now showing at the Continental, is a 47-minute pseudo-documentary that is unusual and frightening. The work is offered as a documentary, but it documents a hypothetical situation.

It shows the effect on one small English community of a thermonuclear attack on a nearby airfield. It was produced by the British Broadcasting Corp. but never televised because it was felt its showing would be both horrifying and depressing.

It is. It also is realistic, informative and shattering.

It is a movie that everyone should see, especially people who talk glibly about "clean" bombs.

DIRECTOR Peter Watkins has turned out a production that compares with the best possible newsreel, but there isn't a foot of newsreel film in it. He shot his movie in the community of Kent using amateurs, working in an area where condemned houses were awaiting demolition, filming with hand held cameras in the fire storm sequences.

And through it all the narrator describes the events in a voice that is dispassionate, in a style that is matter-of-fact and this makes it all the more real and horrifying.

The movie starts with what might be ordinary news broadcasts. The Chinese have invaded South Vietnam and the U. S. has threatened to use nuclear devices. Russia threatens to take over West Berlin and in an exchange of threats and bluffs there is a limited nuclear exchange.

The movie ignores the global complications, concentrates on one small community -- the effect on it of taking in evacuees from large cities, the lack of preparation and the hopelessness of trying to prepare.

Then comes the explosion. Not a direct hit, or there would be nothing to show. But close enough. There is the flash, light of such brilliance as to burn the retinas of your eyes. Then the blast that causes buildings to crumble. Then the fire storm that burns things and people and consumes all oxygen at its center.

THERE IS the aftermath -- 800 casualties for every doctor, people with more than 50% burns put in a holding section and left to die without drugs, the food shortages, the breakdown of law and order, the eventual lethargy.

And at moments when you start to believe that this hypothesizing may be a little far-fetched, the narrator reminds you that these were the consequences during and after bombings of Dresden, Hamburg and Hiroshima.

And most terrible of all, there are the children when it is over. The group stands there scared and in rags and as the interviewer asks them what they want to be when they grow up they whisper one after another:

"I don't want to be nothing."