Copyright 1995 ABC-CLIO. This review was taken from the ABC-CLIO Video Rating Guide for Libraries on CD-ROM, a 5-year compilation of over 8900 video titles and reviews, 1990-1994. For information regarding order VRGL CD-ROM, contact: ABC-CLIO, P.O. Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911; 805-968-1911

This following text has been included in the UCB Media Resources Center Web site with the kind permission of the publishers.

How Well We Meant

  • Rating: ***
  • Audience: High School to Adult
  • Price: Public performance: $139.00
  • Date: Copyright 1983. Released 1989.
  • Descriptors: Manhattan Project. United States - History - 20th century. Atomic bomb.
  • Production Information: Live action. Produced by Sky Fabin. Color. 25 min.
  • Available from: Chip Taylor Communications 15 Spollett Dr. Derry, NH 03038 (603) 434-9262, (800) 876-CHIP
  • Cataloging: 355.0217 Atomic bomb
  • Print Entry #: 1:1941
  • Reviewer: George D. Mitchell

    This program records the remembrances and views of the work of perhaps a dozen of the scientists who worked on the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico, during World War II. As referenced in its title, these men still question whether it was really a good idea to develop the atomic bomb, considering that they, its creators, could not control its use.

    The format consists of reportage, commentary, and documentation, rather than discussion. Mood and tone are dispassionate, quiet, and matter-of-fact. The scientists' conclusions? Creating the bomb was right and necessary under the circumstances; they are glad it worked; using it succeeded in making the war significantly shorter; but their scientific knowledge was given away to people who did not understand what had been created.

    The occasion for gathering the material used in this film was a gathering of those scientists at Los Alamos in 1983, 40 years after the beginning of the project. It opens with a man singing, to piano accompaniment, a popular song from the 1940s, "'Til the End of Time," as we watch workers preparing to detonate the first atom bomb in the New Mexico desert. (However, to this reviewer it was not immediately clear what was going on.) The program continues as the scientists, their wives, and a secretary (each carefully subtitled) recall what it was like to come to a town that "didn't exist" and work in a place where the bomb, for security reasons, was called "the gadget." We see very impressive footage of the detonation and the casual wandering of the scientists through Hiroshima only days after its destruction. Then the scientists plead for reduction and ultimately for elimination of all nuclear weapons. Clearly, they are dismayed by the arms race. Throughout, various historical footage and graphics are intercut (sometimes not very smoothly) with segments of Nobel physicist I. I. Rabi's address to this group and clips from interviews with other scientists attending. The program ends with a repeat shot of the preparations for the first nuclear detonation and the end of the song, in an effort to express that human beings should begin to care more about each other.

    In viewing this video one must realize that events of recent times have only partially dated it. While the nuclear freeze and concerns about SDI are not so prominent in national thinking at this time, the issue of how to deal with the innovations of science in a political context remains important. Recommended as a discussion starter (the instructor might stop the program before Rabi's final pleading) in government, history, and philosophy classes, as well as with community and religious groups concerned about national policy questions.

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