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The Red and the BlackAmerican Film Noir in the 1950s$
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Robert Miklitsch

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040689

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040689.001.0001

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“Black Film” and the Bomb

“Black Film” and the Bomb

Spies and “Cowboys,” Red Professors and Thieves

(p.109) 5 “Black Film” and the Bomb
The Red and the Black

Robert Miklitsch

University of Illinois Press

In the prototypical ‘50s nuclear noir, the protagonist is an elite scientist—a nuclear physicist, to be precise—who’s either overtly opposed to or intimately aligned with the nation state and its institutional agencies. Although the FBI, as in the anticommunist noir, is the dominant investigative figure in these espionage films, it’s dramatically subordinated to other, more pressing issues and agencies such as treason, homosexuality, and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) (in The Thief), Native Americans, national security, and the nuclear family (in The Atomic City), and bombshells, bikinis, and “B” movies (in Shack Out on 101). While City of Fear is not an atomic espionage film—call it a nuclear-epidemiological noir--the film’s representation of the LAPD and metropolitan Los Angeles as well as the rhetoric of disease and contamination, contagion and radioactivity, renders it a quintessential late ‘50s “B” noir.

Keywords:   Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), “B” movie, espionage, FBI, homosexuality, melodrama, national security, nation state, Native Americans, nuclear family, radioactivity, scientist, treason

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