Like a lot of people, I have a confused relationship with The Bomb. We all grew up with the Doomsday Machine, expected to be annihilated at any moment, were sometimes certain it was just about to happen; and we watched a metric ton of movies that featured The Bomb as either a central villain or the creator of the villain. In spite of its overshadowing practically every crisis throughout my life, I also have to admit a perverse fascination with the device's raw power; and just as my wife once had to physically drag me to shelter while I was raptly observing a nearby tornado, I have a vaguely self-destructive urge to actually witness a nuclear explosion - under test conditions, and from a safe distance, I hasten to add.
Special effects master Peter Kuran has given me the next best thing in his labor of love, Trinity and Beyond. Not satisfied with merely tracking down recently declassified test footage from all over the world (including Russia and Red China), Kuran also helped develop new film restoration techniques to digitally clean this aging footage to better-than-new, color-corrected glory. He then went on to film interviews with personalities such as Dr. Edward Teller ("The Father of the H-Bomb") and Dr. Frank Shelton, a "Nuclear Weaponeer" (a hell of a thing to be able to put on your resumé). Then he edited the entire thing together to produce a highly accurate and compelling history of The Most Destructive Weapon in the World.
Earlier films like The Atomic Café served to illuminate The Bomb's impact on everyday society (and caused me, with a shock, to realize to what extent I had been lied to, all my life), but Trinity and Beyond remains, to date, the best document on the device itself. At times, the film seems almost religious in its presentation - but when watching crystal clear footage of a blossoming sphere of plasma, the very air itself set afire, the only word in the English language to describe one's emotion is "awe".
The best film restoration in the universe stands for naught if the digital transfer is shoddy, and I am happy to relate that Goldhil Media has done the source material justice with a flawless product. The footage frequently caused me to gawp in amazement, and echo the singular log entry of the captain of the Enola Gay: "My God!"; the overall effect is enhanced by William Stromberg's reverent soundtrack, performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra. The score is affecting on a gut-level basis, and rendered beautifully in the 5.1 mix. It would not be out of place in a Lovecraft movie.
I'm not sure if the extras on the disc are truly lacking, or if they simply suffer by comparison with the feature (admittedly, this is a wonderful dilemma in which to find oneself). When Trinity in its VHS form was being hawked on late-night TV, a big selling point was the atomic footage presented in 3-D. This is included on the disc (along with the necessary glasses), but I have yet to see a convincing 3-D effect replicated on a home system. Your mileage may vary.
There are Biographies for Kuran, Stromberg, Teller and Shelton, and a brief presentation of an "Unedited Explosion", preserving the 30 second delay between the flash and the sound of the explosion (due to the distance the camera had to be set from Ground Zero). A Slide Show has many footage stills, some amazing, some simply mundane.
The best features are an isolated score option, which, unlike most discs with such an option, does not play the music with the associated movie sections, but instead acts like a CD; and Kuran's commentary track, which is full of interesting technical and historical details, and is one of the more satisfying commentary tracks I've heard of late.
Somebody besides me watches those documentaries on the Discovery and Learning Channels about tornadoes and the like. For those adventurous (some would say demented) souls, Trinity and Beyond is must viewing, and would make the perfect gift.
(My wife is reading this, right?)
Dr. Freex, 11/29/00