Atomic Kid, The

Tagged: Film

Film (1954). Mickey Rooney Productions/Republic Pictures. Produced by Rooney. Directed by Leslie H Martinson. Written by Blake Edwards, Benedict Freeman, and John Fenton Murray. Cast includes Whit Bissell, Elaine Devry (credited as Elaine Davis), Mickey Rooney and Robert Strauss. 86 minutes. Black and white.

A pair of uranium prospectors, Barnaby Waterberry (Rooney) and Stan Cooper (Strauss) are stranded in the Nevada desert when their vehicle breaks down. They stumble upon an empty house with a car parked in front. Not realizing this is an atomic-bomb test site and thinking they have found a major uranium deposit, Stan leaves Barnaby to guard their "claim" and drives away in time to avoid the nuclear explosion. Soldiers and Scientists are amazed that Barnaby survives the blast. They take him to a military hospital for tests; it proves that he has gained radioactive Superpowers which seem to do more or less what the scriptwriters wish them to. For some time he glows in the dark. Barnaby is romantically attracted to Nurse Audrey Nelson (Devry), and they sneak away to Las Vegas where his radioactivity helps them win big. Stan, meanwhile, has been signing various product and book deals for Barnaby ready to cash in on his friend's remarkable condition. A ring of communist spies are after Barnaby as well, of course, wishing to learn the secret of his survival; Barnaby uses his new powers to help the FBI break up the spy-ring. At the end, he and Audrey take a trip into the desert and, in a conclusion meant to be humorous, blunder on to another test site moments before the detonation of a hydrogen bomb.

In the mid-1950s, few people understood the terrible consequences of nuclear detonations: this sf comedy milks laughs from a situation devoid of real humour. Barnaby's impossible survival at ground zero is echoed by that of Indiana Jones in a similar situation in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). [GFi]

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