Half a century on, its impossible to grasp the full impact of the Soviet Unions Sputnik launch in the fall of 1957. Sure, the Cold War between the USSR and the U.S. was a source of concern to citizens of both countries, but congressmen and columnists raced to portray the satellites orbital path over the southwestern U.S. as a potential threat to our national security. The blatant way in which the politicians and the papers stampeded millions of Americans over the next six months, igniting a billion-dollar arms race, is downright shocking today. Shocking! Well, if youre too young to remember 9/11 and the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, that is. David Hoffmans fascinating documentary Sputnik Mania doesnt spell out the contemporary parallels, however, focusing instead on such odd bedfellows as President Dwight D. Eisenhower and German rocket scientist Werner von Braun (who switched his allegiance from the swastika to the stars-and-bars with nary a hiccup). A treasure chest of stunning archival footage, Sputnik Mania isnt a history lesson so much as a psychological evaluation of a nation suffering from temporary insanity. Its the perfect companion piece to Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
Fri., Sept. 26, 7 & 9:30 p.m.; Sat., Sept. 27, 2, 4:30, 7 & 9:30 p.m., 2008