Film fans might recognize the name Peter Kuran thanks to his visual effects work on blockbusters like Star Wars, Robocop, and Drop Dead Fred. What some might not realize is he actually helmed a series of documentary films in the 90’s focusing on the history of nuclear weapons testing throughout the 40’s and 50’s. The first of his trilogy, ‘Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie’ was released in 1995 and had a huge impact on me. I remember seeing it multiple times on PBS (I think?), and was completely astonished by the ambitiously cinematic presentation and Kuran’s operatic use of music, stock footage, and CG recreations. It also didn’t hurt that William Shatner appears in ‘Rescue 911′ mode, narrating the picture. Seeing as Kuran comes from an effects background, there was a lot of care taken in restoring the previously classified footage featured in the film. This additional attention to the visuals makes for a vibrant and visceral experience that is both awesome and terrifying.
‘Trinity and Beyond’ spawned two lesser sequels, ‘Nukes in Space’ and ‘Atomic Journeys: Welcome to Ground Zero’, but it’s his original film that’s worth checking out. I never hear this film mentioned amongst some of the great contemporary documentaries, which is too bad. ‘Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie’ is personally an influential piece of filmmaking that presents its historical subject matter in an accessible and cinematic fashion. It’s one of the first documentaries I’d seen that truly felt like a “movie”. You can check it out in full at the top of this post or better yet, order the blu ray, which is totally worth your hard earned money.