CONELRAD Atomic Hygiene: Cold War Short Subject Films

Gene Hackman makes a point in his role as a civil defense consultant in Community Shelter Planning (1966)


A couple of years after his scene stealing performance as the piggish Norman in Robert Rossen's LILITH (1964) and mere months before his first Academy Award-nominated role as Buck Barrow in Arthur Penn's BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967), Gene Hackman brought his considerable, Broadway-honed acting skills to a 16mm, 22 minute U.S. government Civil Defense instructional film dynamically entitled COMMUNITY SHELTER PLANNING (1966). When CONELRAD first learned of the existence of this film in 2000, we launched a no-holds-barred effort to locate it. After a six year search in which we annoyed scores of government archivists, public librarians and private film collectors, we are very pleased to announce that we have finally obtained a print of this elusive motion picture.

Unfortunately, our efforts to secure an interview with the film's star, Gene Hackman, were unsuccessful. Mr. Hackman's agent at Creative Artists Agency, Fred Specktor, dismissed our formal request for an interview by stating in a telephone call to editor Bill Geerhart, "Gene really doesn't have time for this. It was a long time ago and it doesn't really matter to him anymore. Thanks for your interest."

Regardless of whether Mr. Specktor's comments reflect the true sentiments of his client, we here at CONELRAD beg to differ with the assessment that this movie "doesn't really matter." Indeed, the film does matter and is an important work in two respects: It is a forgotten* snapshot from the formative years of a two-time Academy Award winning star widely considered to be one of the best actors of his generation. It is also a snapshot from the middle period of the Cold War illustrating the U.S. government's strategy of protecting its citizenry from fallout after a nuclear attack. Each is a fascinating and critical
historical record in its own unique way.

Read the full review here

Two video clips from COMMUNITY SHELTER PLANNING are available for viewing at our YouTube page or via the following links: Clip 1 -01:59, Clip 2 - 3:40

Office of Civil Defense title card in opening credits of Community Shelter Planning - 1966

22 min. / Color
U.S. Army Pictorial Center, Long Island, NY for the Office of Civil Defense Staff College, Battle Creek, Michigan
DOD CD 5-244
Filmed in Doylestown and Quakertown (Bucks County), PA in May of 1966
Written and Directed by Mark Isaacs
Cameraman: Paul Howells
Sound: Robert Lee
Starring: Paul McGrath (Bucks County Civil Defense Director Col. Lewis R. Stretch; Arnold Moss (Chairman of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners, J. Justus Bodley); Charles Mountain (Charlie Parker, Planning Board Director); Gene Hackman (Regional Field Officer).


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