Testament (1983).

The 1950’s and ’60’s brought many movies dealing with the effects of nuclear war and radiation. Godzilla, Split Second, Panic in the Year Zero, The Bedford Incident, Dr. Strangelove (one of my all-time favorite films) and many others. The 1980’s brought another wave, after the revanchist Reagan presidency, The Day After and Threads.

The classic film about the ELE effects of radiation that people usually bring up is On the Beach (1959), a very good film starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. Everyone should see it.

But the greatest film about no-holds-barred radioactive doom is Testament from 1983. It is available on Youtube in its entirety at this link, and in 6 parts in better quality at this link.

Testament makes On the Beach look like Mary Poppins. Not because it’s gory, not because of special effects, but because of its sheer wrenching emotional power. An ordinary American family living in California experiences a sudden and unexpected global nuclear war. The town they live in is too far away from San Francisco to receive blast damage, but the infrastructure is destroyed, and they await knowingly the effects of radiation to descend on their town.

It stars Jane Alexander in an Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated performance, William Devane, and a very young Kevin Costner. Lynne Littman directed it, and you can see the woman’s touch. Critics such as Gene Siskel panned this movie for being schmaltzy and maudlin, but I disagree strongly, this is very much in the spirit of classic filmmaking, the emotional touches are just right for a subject like this.

Carol Wetherly kisses the answering machine, after unexpectedly hearing a message from her departed husband. She sews a grave shroud for her oldest daughter. Everyone is sick or dying. Bodies are being burned because the cemetery is full.

The direction, script and acting here is uniformly excellent. Jane Alexander is a revelation. The elderly amateur radio operator who can no longer raise anybody. The Japanese boy with Down’s syndrome. How Carol couldn’t commit suicide. The simple love and courage to survive in the extremity of catastrophe. This is meant to be totally devastating, and it is, it will give you nightmares.

I’m living in this world already, and have BEEN living in this world for some time. So are other canaries like StillJill. Pundits and so-called “experts” are speaking soothing words, about how Fuku isn’t so bad… I am speaking, like Carol, with a voice torn out of my belly, “WHO DID THIS? GOD DAMN YOU”.

Instead of the doom taking a few weeks, it is taking a few years. My life is Testament in slow motion.

This movie made the grizzled and jaded old Bobby1 cry.

16 thoughts on “Testament (1983).

  1. It’s 8:31 PM and stilljill is embarking on the ‘testament’!

    What a privilege this is to have something ‘modeled’ to start wrapping our minds around what we are so very soon to face!

    Where will ‘we’ be when it’s our time? Are ‘we’ there yet? Are ‘we’ at least comfortable? These simple ‘creature comforts’ may well not be here at some point.

    We are so NOT alone! Take courage my friends! 🙂

  2. 10:06 PM,….changed my life! Deepened my heart center. Empowering! Many blessings Bobby1,…for unearthing this for us (me)! I shall try to be as brave as she was!

    Good night.

    • I have been putting off watching this movie again because it is sooooo intense.

      But don’t think I haven’t thought about this every day since March 11, 2011.

    by Helen Clarkson

    This is a lot like “Testament”. These are people living on an island off of New England when the bomb hits.



    “In the old days, men at arms were always sustained through the immoral act of killing by the thought that they were not fighting for themselves, but for their children. Today men ask their children to die for them.”

    “There is just one reason why a species becomes extinct: failure to adapt. Our Stone Age souls could not adapt to the God-like powers of atomic fission and fusion. Our collective reaction-time to new ideas was too slow for survival.”

    “Time is the great deceiver. The Garden of Eden story was not history, but prophecy. This was Eden and we didn’t know it. The atomic cloud is the angel with the flaming sword that will keep us out forever more. And the knowledge of good and evil was our downfall. We knew the difference and yet we chose evil.”

        • yeah , not so sure i’m up for that one this week. I was thinking of looking at The Day After from 1983. Shoot after today…talk to ya later bout that…

          • I saw that movie “The Day After” on TV in ’83.
            I had nightmares for weeks.
            Not a nice subject to “entertain” a child with.

            I thought the nightmare was all-but over in the mid-nineties. That was shortly after the time of a famous Dennis Hopper (paraphrased) “Flashback” quote: “Boy, i thought when we got out of the eighties that the nineties would make the sixties look like the fifties!” (IMDb blew it, i blew it, and so did the nineties.) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099581/

            Shame on me: the nightmare never really went away. It is just the fear for self that subsides, yet the fear for others screams much more immediately. For me, i could give a rat’s ass, if not for others.

              • What they don’t say on Wikipedia (after all it is generally the “victors” that have the luxury of rewriting history):

                Quote: “Federal authorities have always contended that Koresh and the Davidians set themselves aflame and that all the blame for the fiasco in Waco rests on them, not the government. But Eric R. Larsen, a Ph.D. chemist who has studied fire suppression and inhalable anesthestics for three decades, says there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the CS gas contributed to the fire. Larsen, who was in the courtroom last week but was not allowed to take the witness stand, says that methylene chloride, the dispersing agent used with the CS gas, was deadly by itself. Larsen, who volunteered to testify for the Davidians at no charge, submitted a sworn statement to the court that was not seen by the five members of the jury. In it, he says that CS dust would “pose the risk of a flash fire,” and also that methylene chloride is a “very potent, fast-acting inhalation general anesthesia agent — nearly on par with Halothane, the most potent agent currently used in surgical anesthesia.””

                “Invented in 1928, CS is called a “super tear gas” because it works instantaneously, causing burning eyes, coughing, breathing difficulty, stinging skin, and vomiting. CS — the common name for orthochlorbenzalmalononitrile — is a fine white powder, about the consistency of talcum powder, and it must be spread with some type of dispersing agent. But it has several nasty qualities, including its flammability. When burned, CS releases a deadly gas, hydrogen cyanide. And when methylene chloride — the dispersing agent of choice — is burned, it releases deadly hydrogen chloride and chlorine. Both chemicals, in turn, release large amounts of carbon monoxide. According to the Failure Analysis report, 44 of the 76 bodies recovered from Mount Carmel tested positive for cyanide. And according to the coroner’s report, a quarter of the deaths at Mount Carmel were caused by carbon monoxide asphyxiation, while another 27% died of smoke inhalation.”

                “And diplomats were worried because the Geneva Protocol of 1925 prohibited the use of “asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases” during wartime. In a 1971 memo to President Richard Nixon, Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird discussed the implications of using CS gas during operations in North Vietnam and Cambodia. The State Department, he wrote, had “reservations” that were based on “anticipated charges of ‘gas warfare’…” ”

                Quoted from: http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2000-07-07/77866/

                Methylene Chloride does make for an interesting solvent for “welding” some plastics like ABS. But i digress.

                That whole incident had me spooked out for the longest time, yet i couldn’t really put my finger on why until much later. 🙁

                • Speaking of gas warefare:

                  When will Russia (the US and India for that matter) complete destruction of chemical weapons, as per the Chemical Weapons Convention?
                  see: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chemical_Weapons_Convention&section=9#Progress_of_destruction

                  Quoted from above linked article in previous post:

                  “On Jan. 13, 1993, the United States and dozens of other countries signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, the most far-reaching treaty regarding prohibitions on the use of chemical weapons. The treaty bans the use of nerve agents, mustard gas, and other compounds, including tear gas, during wartime.

                  Three months and six days after the U.S. signed the convention, the FBI used CS on the Branch Davidians.”

                • Well, it would appear that i may have been wrong about Wikipedia:

                  Quote: “The Branch Davidians had given ominous warnings involving fire on several occasions.[90] This may or may not have been indicative of the Branch Davidians’ future actions, but was the basis for the conclusion of Congress that the fire was started by the Branch Davidians, “absent any other potential source of ignition.” This was prior to the FBI admission that pyrotechnics were used, but a yearlong investigation by the Office of the Special Counsel after that admission nonetheless reached the same conclusion, and no further congressional investigations followed. During a 1999 deposition for civil suits by Branch Davidian survivors, fire survivor Graeme Craddock was interviewed. He stated he saw some Branch Davidians moving about a dozen one gallon cans of fuel so they would not be run over by armored vehicles, heard talk of pouring fuel outside the building, and, after the fire had started, something that sounded like “light the fire” from another individual.[91] Professor Kenneth Newport’s book The Branch Davidians of Waco attempts to prove that starting the fire themselves was pre-planned and consistent with the Branch Davidians’ theology. He cites as evidence conversations the FBI recorded during the siege, testimonials of survivors Clive Doyle and Graeme Craddock, and the buying of diesel fuel one month before the start of the siege.[71]

                  Attorney General Reno had specifically directed that no pyrotechnic devices be used in the assault.[69] Between 1993 and 1999, FBI spokesmen denied (even under oath) the use of any sort of pyrotechnic devices during the assault; however, pyrotechnic Flite-Rite CS gas grenades had been found in the rubble immediately following the fire. In 1999, FBI spokesmen were forced to admit that they had used the grenades, however they claimed that these devices, which dispense CS gas through an internal burning process, had been used during an early morning attempt to penetrate a covered, water-filled construction pit 40 yards away,[69] and were not fired into the building itself. According to FBI claims, the fires started approximately three hours after the grenades had been fired.[69] When the FBI’s documents were turned over to Congress for an investigation in 1994, the page listing the use of the pyrotechnic devices was missing.[69] The failure for six years to disclose the use of pyrotechnics despite her specific directive led Reno to demand an investigation.[69] A senior FBI official told Newsweek that as many as 100 FBI agents had known about the use of pyrotechnics, but no one spoke up until 1999.[69] On May 12, less than a month after the incident, Texas state authorities bulldozed the site, rendering further gathering of forensic evidence impossible.”

                  Quoted from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waco_Siege

                  Ever tried lighting Diesel Fuel with a match? It donna work so well without a catalyst and/or volitizer and/or oxidizer. Even then, i would think it would most-likely only be the fumes that would ignite (excepting oxidizer).

                  * What a shitstorm. I wanna puke. So, “Duck and cover” doesn’t simply apply to nuclear defense, it seems to be official policy – like Macondo or Fuku. 🙁

                  Three years for one “follower” for “forcibly resisting arrest”.
                  That gives one pause too.

  4. ” Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)”
    or “Доктор Стрейнджлав, или Как я научился не волноваться и полюбил атомную бомбу” in Russian
    or “Docteur Folamour” in French Canadian
    or “Dr. Fantástico” in Brazil
    or “Dr. Insólito o cómo aprendí a no preocuparme y amar la bomba” in Mexico

    Also Known As: “A Delicate Balance of Terror” or “”

    by the late Stanley Kubrick

    I loved to hate the character portrayed by George C. Scott.

    strange name in Cast: Glenn Beck ??? OH THE UTTER WHORROR!!! oops wrong man. D’oh!

    Quote#1: “President Merkin Muffley: Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room. ”

    Quote#2: ” General “Buck” Turgidson: Mr. President, about, uh, 35 minutes ago, General Jack Ripper, the commanding general of, uh, Burpelson Air Force Base, issued an order to the 34 B-52’s of his Wing, which were airborne at the time as part of a special exercise we were holding called Operation Drop-Kick. Now, it appears that the order called for the planes to, uh, attack their targets inside Russia. The, uh, planes are fully armed with nuclear weapons with an average load of, um, 40 megatons each. Now, the central display of Russia will indicate the position of the planes. The triangles are their primary targets; the squares are their secondary targets. The aircraft will begin penetrating Russian radar cover within, uh, 25 minutes.

    President Merkin Muffley: General Turgidson, I find this very difficult to understand. I was under the impression that I was the only one in authority to order the use of nuclear weapons.

    General “Buck” Turgidson: That’s right, sir, you are the only person authorized to do so. And although I, uh, hate to judge before all the facts are in, it’s beginning to look like, uh, General Ripper exceeded his authority. ”

    Quote#3″ General “Buck” Turgidson: General Ripper called Strategic Air Command headquarters shortly after he issued the go code. I have a portion of the transcript of that conversation if you’d like me to to read it.

    President Merkin Muffley: Read it!

    General “Buck” Turgidson: Ahem… The Duty Officer asked General Ripper to confirm the fact that he *had* issued the go code, and he said, uh, “Yes gentlemen, they are on their way in, and no one can bring them back. For the sake of our country, and our way of life, I suggest you get the rest of SAC in after them. Otherwise, we will be totally destroyed by Red retaliation. Uh, my boys will give you the best kind of start, 1400 megatons worth, and you sure as hell won’t stop them now, uhuh. Uh, so let’s get going, there’s no other choice. God willing, we will prevail, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health, through the purity and essence of our natural… fluids. God bless you all” and he hung up.


    General “Buck” Turgidson: Uh, we’re, still trying to figure out the meaning of that last phrase, sir.

    President Merkin Muffley: There’s nothing to figure out, General Turgidson. This man is obviously a psychotic.

    General “Buck” Turgidson: We-he-ell, uh, I’d like to hold off judgement on a thing like that, sir, until all the facts are in.

    President Merkin Muffley: General Turgidson! When you instituted the human reliability tests, you *assured* me there was *no* possibility of such a thing *ever* occurring!

    General “Buck” Turgidson: Well, I, uh, don’t think it’s quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up, sir. ”

    Quote#4: “General Jack D. Ripper: Fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face. ”

    Quote#5: ” General Jack D. Ripper: Mandrake, do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk… ice cream. Ice cream, Mandrake, children’s ice cream.

    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: [very nervous] Lord, Jack.

    General Jack D. Ripper: You know when fluoridation first began?

    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: I… no, no. I don’t, Jack.

    General Jack D. Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty-six. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It’s incredibly obvious, isn’t it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That’s the way your hard-core Commie works.

    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Uh, Jack, Jack, listen… tell me, tell me, Jack. When did you first… become… well, develop this theory?

    General Jack D. Ripper: [somewhat embarassed] Well, I, uh… I… I… first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love.

    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Hmm.

    General Jack D. Ripper: Yes, a uh, a profound sense of fatigue… a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I… I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence.

    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Hmm.

    General Jack D. Ripper: I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women uh… women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I, uh… I do not avoid women, Mandrake.

    Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: No.

    General Jack D. Ripper: But I… I do deny them my essence. ”

    Quoted from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/ & http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/quotes?ref_=tt_ql_3

    THE LIE (imho): Quote#6: ” President Merkin Muffley: You mean people could actually stay down there for a hundred years?

    Dr. Strangelove: It would not be difficult, Mein Führer. Nuclear reactors could – heh, I’m sorry, Mr. President – nuclear reactors could provide power almost indefinitely.”

    Did anybody say “ultimate heat sink”?

    I wonder if in two weeks, we will start to see “Americathon” come to reality?

    Quote: “Storyline: In the not too distant future, the United States government is virtually bankrupt and in danger of being foreclosed on by a group of Native Americans, now owners of the massive Nike Corporation. A desperate President decides to make a last-ditch effort to save the country… by raising money with a telethon!”

    • Beware Americathon on veoh, just in case.

      I have only one link from veoh.com, yet it is just loaded with javascript.
      AND it wants a person to install what i assume is a dubious-at-best video plugin.

      ah crap. sorry to mention that movie, it sucked anyway.

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