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[VIDEO] Vintage Atomic Scare Film ‘One World or None’, 1946

A film from the Prelinger Archives showing the horrors of atomic warfare. Made only one year after the end of the Second World War, it is thought to be the first ‘atomic scare movie’, a genre which would flourish in the U.S. throughout the next decade.


Director: Film Publishers
Sponsor: National Committee on Atomic Information

One World or None established that throughout history, scientists from many nations have made great advances and discoveries and have shared that knowledge globally. The periodic table was developed by Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev, British scientist J. J. Thomson and his team discovered the principle of the electron, and German theorist Albert Einstein came up with the theory of relativityNuclear physics was a product of New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford‘s work on the atomic nucleus, Danish physicist Niels Bohr‘s identification of atomic structure and American physicist Carl David Anderson‘s discovery of the positron.

Other advances included English physicist James Chadwick discovering the neutron, while French scientists Irène Joliot-Curie and her husband Frédéric Joliot-Curie studied artificial radioactivity. Further nuclear research was carried out by Enrico Fermi, who transmuted uranium based on Japanese physicist Hantaro Nagaoka‘s theories on the atom. German scientist Otto Hahn derived barium from uranium, while uranium was split by Austrian-Swedish physicist Lise Meitner.

Knowledge about atomic energy was shared by all. The question remains, will the people of the earth use this powerful energy to benefit humanity? The first outward manifestation is the atom bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. Images of the city after the attack are startling.

Imagining the destruction inflicted in seconds on an American city. A metropolis such as New York City, Chicago or San Francisco would have its downtown core devastated by blast effects and radioactivity.

According to information provided by the Federation of American Scientists, the massive destructive power of the atom bomb is contrasted with earlier weapons of war. A Roman soldier’s lance would only kill one enemy, Napoleon‘s cannon perhaps a dozen, the “Big Bertha” cannon could kill up to 88, and the V-2 killed as many of 168 individuals on average, but the first atom bomb killed more than 100,000 at Hiroshima.

The atom bomb was delivered by aircraft which had a limited range, but new bombers have an intercontinental range. Imagine the frightening prospect if Japan and Germany had had the atom bomb during the war. Attacks by the Axis powers could have brought World War II to an end, as there would have been no defense against a V-2 rocket carrying an atom bomb. Even with the short range of the rocket, all of England could have been attacked from bases in France. While only in the blueprint stage, advanced rockets capable of crossing the Atlantic could have destroyed the U.S. Eastern seaboard cities. U-boats armed with atom bombs delivered by rockets could have threatened more of North America. Fifth column sabotage using atom bombs could devastate any U.S. center.

The answer to atomic warfare is to have the nations of the world unite under the United Nations framework to counter the weapons of mass destruction. Representative of the peoples of the world are asked to make laws to abolish war with the choice being clear: unite as one world confronting evil or face death.


Technical assistance on One World or None was provided by the Federation of American Scientists. The federation was founded in November 1945 by Manhattan Project scientists who helped construct the first atom bombs. Their credo was that all scientists, engineers, and other “technically-trained thinkers” have an ethical obligation to ensure the technological “fruits of their intellect and labor” are applied to the benefit of humanity.[3]

In early 1946, rebranded as the Federation of American Scientists, the organization took efforts to broaden and diversify its network of supporters to include all who want to reduce nuclear dangers and ultimately prevent global catastrophe.[3] In 1946, just months after atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the scientists who had developed nuclear technology came together to express their concerns and thoughts about the nuclear age they had unleashed through the release of a book, One World or None. The anthology of essays included contributions from Niels Bohr, Albert Einstein, and Robert Oppenheimer, among others. [4]

One World or None was critically reviewed in the New York Herald Tribune Book Review, March 17, 1946: “An illuminating, powerful, threatening and hopeful statement which will clarify a lot of confused thinking about atomic energy.” The original edition sold 100,000 copies.[4] Quickly rising to the top of The New York Times bestsellers‘ list, the book spawned the short film of the same name.[4]

Philip Ragan Productions was responsible for One World or None, using a mix of animation and live-action stock footage, including scenes from Hiroshima and the Nuremberg War Trials. Philip Ragan was a filmmaker from Philadelphia who specialized in cartoon animation. In 1941, Ragan was contracted by John Grierson at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) to complete a series of animated films for the National War Finance Committee promoting Victory War Bonds.[5] Between 1941 and 1945, Ragan produced 27 animated films for the NFB, many of them educational films[6]

Another connection to the NFB was composer Louis Applebaum, who composed approximately 250 film scores for the NFB between 1942 and 1960. He is also known for his work in Hollywood on Story of G.I. Joe (1945), Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947) and Lost Boundaries (1949).[7]


One World or None was produced for a theatrical market.[8] The film is widely considered the first postwar “atomic scare” film.[9][10] It later went into the public domain and is now preserved at the Prelinger Archives.[11]

Source: Wikipedia

See more vintage Atomic Americana at Scout Paget‘s YouTube channel

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