Broken Arrow [1950]

Genre: Drama, Romance, Western
The U.S. government uses the phrase "broken arrow" to refer to an accident involving a nuclear weapon, and as Nuclear Rescue 911: Broken Arrows & Incidents makes chillingly clear, there have been many more such mishaps than the public realizes. Between 1950 and 1980, there were 32 accidents that involved a nuke, dire situations that featured crashing bombers, disappearing submarines, and even a deadly fiasco in Arkansas triggered when a hapless technician dropped a socket wrench down a missile silo. While some of these events were calamitous, none of them, thankfully, actually set off a nuclear explosion. This film, however, makes the point that some of these misfortunes came astonishingly close to wiping out millions of people. Using a combination of news footage and stock archival footage to portray real events, and a narration delivered by Adam West of Batman fame, the documentary is appropriately sober and tends not to be sensationalistic. Credibility is established by some interviews with participants in the various accidents, and a former Department of Energy spokesman appears throughout to provide details about particular events. An interesting DVD bonus item is an alarmingly upbeat 1950s vintage film short the U.S. Air Force made to showcase its safety procedures in handling nuclear weapons at the height of the cold war. -- Robert J. McNamara

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