Rocket Attack U.S.A. (1959)
If you read the Holy Trinity review on this here site, you know Barry Mahon, the brilliant man who gifted us with Crazy Wild Crazy, Prostitutes Protective Society and the nudist-camp-set The Beast That Killed Women (all in 1965), was as versatile as he was talented. Thus it should come as no surprise he wowed the world with his shocking expose revealing how the diabolical Reds are plotting to kill your granny and eat the family pets--or was it the other way around?--RIGHT THIS MINUTE!
The Russians are bombing, the Russians are bombling!-->
Are you aware of what would happen if militaristic types ran the Russian government? Did you know that the Sputnik satellite was gathering weather info to help aim Soviet missiles at American targets? If you answered "No" to either of these questions, it is your duty to drop everything (unless you're a dishwasher), race to your local bijou and order the manager to run Rocket Attack U.S.A. "for national security reasons." In the unlikely event he should refuse to obey a direct command from a member of the movie-going public, he is probably a card-carrying Communist; so, it's okay to toss him over the balcony.
When General Watkins and his Defense Department staff in the "Central Intelligence Group" need inside info on the new Soviet satellite system, CIG bureau bigwig George White sends for John Manston (John McKay), genuine super-spy and defender of democracy.
Manston's mission starts with a sneaky chute drop into Moscow to meet a second cloak-and-daggerer amongst the staggerers at a quaint cafe. Misleading Manston is a master of diverse disguises. Why, the cagey KGB boys would never take a trenchcoat-clad Yank in midtown Moscow for a mole. His connection, Tannah (Monica Davis) is totally convincing, too. What could be less conspicuous than a cocktail waitressclothed in lengthy black formal wear, serving but a single customer before sneaking out the back way?
<--Two-thirds of the team saving the world. Feel secure now?
Temptress Tannah does her part to make the planet a happier place by, ahem, "entertaining" the raunchy-minded Russian Minister Of Defense, a nasty nogoodski who has a habit of blabbing state secrets after a few blasts from the Smirnoffs bottle. What she learns is some bad bad news for the folks back at Stateside. Seems the Soviets are planning to drop the Big One on the Big Apple, and its up to the massive task force of her, John and British agent Morris Steele to thwart the, uh…Rocket Attack on the U.S.A.
It is not M-O-M policy to dole out spoilers. Honoring that pledge, I will only add that the Yanks and Russians both decide to let the missiles fly; and, if you are wondering how well the cagey capitalist trio fares in their attempt to sabotage the enemy's efforts and make New York safe for eight-year-old Joey Ramone, the final frames of this moving monument to McCarthy mentality, displaying the graphic "We can not let this be…THE END," may provide a clue.
[What a mindset: We're all gonna die, so may as well take a couple million of them with us. Gee, Potsie, I guess the Fifties weren't such "happy days" after all.]
During an era when two-thirds of the citizenry feared a looming nuclear doom, it's reassuring to see Hollywood was ready to step in--and make matters even worse.
In movies--always an indisputably accurate portrayal of everyday life--you'll notice virtually every Cold-War-period home and office had a little hard-liquor-and-ice-bucket set; and tossing back two fingers of Scotch was an hourly ritual. Now you know why: Who needs a healthy liver when the Commies are ready to turn Hoboken into Hiroshima West?
(This bourbon brunch mentality may also explain why Dick Van Dyke fell over that damn ottoman every time he returned home.)
Just think about that. At a period when every stomach contained butterflies doing double-time, and panic-mongers were scampering around multiplying the tension, producers were somehow coaxing citizens to pay to have their nerves rattled even further! Call it "reverse escapist entertainment," if you'd like. I call it genius.
There are scads of "red scare" movies in circulation, but I chose Rocket Attack U.S.A. for how all-over-the-place it is (much like this review), as well as its uncompromising gloom. One minute, it's a character study; the next, an espionage flick; then we're back in urban America getting dating tips; this followed by...you get the idea. And no matter where the story takes us, every silver cloud has a dark lining.
Though bleakness reigns supreme and there's nearly as much narration as there is dialogue, that doesn't mean RA USA isn't without lively banter. Take, for instance, this passionate interlude between two marrieds who may very well live right down the block from Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Kramden.
WOMAN: So, if you want me to go out with you tonight, you gotta wear a tie. I'm tired of everyone thinkin' my husband's a bum.
MAN: I am a bum, except for one thing.
WOMAN: What's that?
MAN: I'm a rich bum. I got twenty bucks and I'll blow it all on you tonight.
WOMAN: Twenty bucks or not, you're gonna wear a tie.
MAN: Okay. I'll get a special one just for you...with a nude dame painted on it.
Of course, the picture's overall message remains as much in need of vigilant attention today as it did over a half-century ago. Yeah, the Soviet Union has reportedly disbanded. But that's what they said about Crosby, Stills & Nash; and, look at all the harm they've done individually and, upon their "unplanned reunions," collectively. Play that first Crosby solo album backwards and you'll hear "Go ahead, pull the label off that mattress."
While the Russkies are saying "Tank you for pooting Bairgair King in Red Square, Cawmrad," they are muttering "imperialist warmongering fool" under their breath. No sirree, the Reds aren't fooling anyone in this fallout shelter. Five'll get you four that glasnost was Russian code for "Operation: Trojan Horse."
Incredibly fascinating sidebar: You know how the Addams Family always had a footlocker full of cash for whichever zany projects they came up with? If you check your history books, there is considerable speculation the daughter of extremely wealthy Tsar Nicholas II was secretly spirited away and relocated under a false identity when revolutionaries ordered the execution of the ruler and his immediate kin.
Now take a good hard look at the photo of the Russian Defense Minister. Rotund, bald, nutty: Are our eyes deceiving us or is that not in fact UNCLE FESTER? Could it be the assumed alias of the slain noblemans daughter was actually Morticia Addams??? Hey, its no goofier than any of my other theories. I say the Helsinki with Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Putin and all the rest, the rightful ruler of what's left of that Republic is quite apparent: All hail President Pugsley!!!
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