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Catching The Cold War: The Culture of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Posted November 28, 2011 to photo album "Catching The Cold War: The Culture of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"

The Cold War paranoia that permeates TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY was a focus of a series of fascinating books and films created in post-war Europe and America.

Taking the Temperature of Cold War Culture
The Moral Quagmire: THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD
Potential Fallout: FAIL SAFE
Paranoia Pulp: KISS ME DEADLY
Sex and the Soviet: From Russia with Love
Peace in a Pod: INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS
Cold War Campaign: THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
At Long Last: POINT OF ORDER
Cold War On The Rocks: TOPAZ
Cold War Meltdown: THE FOURTH PROTOCOL
The Cold War Capsized: THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER
At Long Last: POINT OF ORDER

At Long Last: POINT OF ORDER

Before YouTube, before reality TV and before CSPAN, there was POINT OF ORDER, Emile d’Antonio’s 1964 documentary about the Congressional hearings concerning Senator Joe McCarthy a decade prior. During the 1940s and ‘50s, McCarthy monopolized the media with his warnings of the “Red Menace” — communists embedded in schools, factories, and Hollywood. The hearings, which ostensibly looked at political favoritism related to McCarthy’s office, Army service, and a young aide to McCarthy ally Roy Cohn, took place at a time in which the Senator’s power was beginning to fade. McCarthy relished the opportunity to use the televised hearings to demagogue to the American people, but he was undone by Joseph Welch, the Army’s Attorney General, who nailed the Senator with a question that has echoed through American politics since: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

In 1962, experimental filmmaker Emile d’Antonio licensed the footage from ABC, pared the 200 hours down to just over 90 minutes, and through his artful editing, gave the hearings pace and dramatic structure. But while the film doesn’t use scoring, voiceover, or other devices of contemporary political documentary, don’t call it cinema verité. Said d’Antonio in an interview, “POINT OF ORDER was made out of absolute junk, in junky kinescope. But it was the first time that anybody had taken a complete hearing and made something more real out of it than the reality, because the reality of it wasn’t very real. It ended with a whimper, a gavel bang, and everybody went away looking a little odd and not knowing what happened. I don’t believe in cinema verité.”