Duck and Cover

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Moving Image:Duck and Cover
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Duck and Cover is a short film from 1951 released on 16mm. It is held in the Prelinger Archives collection.

This film, a combination of animated cartoon and live action, shows young children what to do in case of an atomic attack.

Duck and Cover
Produced byArcher Productions, Inc.
Animation byanimator
Archer Productions, Inc.
Distributed byArcher Productions, Inc.
Release date
Running time
ewid: 2500 | Fresh | || dopt: {{{dopt}}}
    The film opens with "Bert the Turtle" wobbling down the street and singing a song, "Duck and Cover."  When there is a bright flash, Bert immediately ducks into his shell covering.  The narrator explains that when there is a bright flash -- brighter than the sun -- children should follow Bert's example.  The film shifts to a classroom of first or second grade youngsters who are practicing what to do in the case of an atomic attack.
    The narrator explains that boys and girls should know what to do in case of an atomic attack just as they know what do do in case of a fire.  He explains that this new danger can cause several types of injury.  He tells them that it can knock them down or burn them.  As the youngsters listen, the narrator explains to them that many schools are talking about atomic attacks and that many youngsters and their teachers are learning the best ways of protection.  The rules which he explains are demonstrated by youngsters who are shown in the school yard, playing at home, and walking down the street.  The simple rule that they should be like Bert, who ducks and covers, is emphasized.  At school youngsters are shown getting under their desks and covering the backs of their necks, or going to a special area in the basement, where they lie down on their stomachs and put their hands over the back of their necks.  At home they get under the table or davenport.  On the street they fall down along the curb or get into the entrance of a building.
    The Civil Defense worker is shown as a helper who will answer their questions, tell them when the danger is over, and give them help.  The film ends by suggesting that, whether they are in the city or the country and whether they are at home or away, they must always be ready to duck and cover when there is an atomic explosion.  "Bert the Turtle" once again sings his song and shows how he, too, ducks and covers when there is a bright flash.

(Educational Screen, March 1952)

The widespread fear and suspicion with which many of us regard technology has little to do with the approaching millennium. It's actually been a long time in the making, and for us, one of its main enablers was civil defense. If A Is For Atom was produced to reassure us of the atom's essential goodness, Duck and Cover was made to frighten us. Produced for showing to schoolchildren, it presents the atomic bomb as a mysterious, frightening, and capricious force. Just five brief soundbites say it all: "You know how bad sunburn can be. The atomic bomb flash could burn you worse than a terrible sunburn, especially where you're not covered." "Always remember, the flash of an atomic bomb can come at any time, no matter where you may be." "Sometimes the bomb may explode without any warning." "Getting ready means we will all have to be able to take care of ourselves. A bomb might explode when there are no grownups near. Paul and Patty know this, and they're always ready to take care of themselves." "Sundays, holidays, vacation time...we must be ready every day, all the time, to do the right thing if the atomic bomb explodes." This is the original cut of Duck and Cover as it was released to schools. In 1982, segments of Duck and Cover were used in the documentary film Atomic Caf and edited into an original sequence together with footage from various other public and private sources. That version which most people think is the original one is actually the creation of co-directors Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader and Pierce Rafferty.