“A Short Vision” by Joan and Peter Foldes

Today’s must-read/must-view history lesson: Conelrad (which covers the Atomic Bomb era of the 1950s) has posted a thorough history of A Short Vision, the acclaimed 1954 animated short by artists Peter and Joan Foldes.

The Conelrad post, by Bill Geerhart, essentially recounts the surprising U.S. reaction to this short, which was broadcast twice on the top-rated Ed Sullivan Show in 1956. The fact that a mainstream U.S. variety show ran this art-film-with-a-message in primetime is almost as shocking as the film itself.

Hungarian born Peter Foldes was a painter and experimental animator whose work won prizes at the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals. Foldes went on to create several pioneering computer animated films including NFB’s Hunger (the first CG short nominated for an Academy Award, in 1974). He passed away in 1977.

Watch the film (below), read the post. Still packs a strong punch.

(Thanks, Brenden Hyde)


  • GW

    That’s a beautiful short film. I didn’t find it as scary as those kids did in the 1950′s. I have to admit that I’m so used to strange art films that it hadn’t occurred to me that it was a nuclear story until after I read about it.

  • Yelt

    Nuclear war was in the front of everyone’s mind in that era. It’s amazing that Ed Sullivan, king of cutting down every performer’s act to shreds after dress rehearsals, let this film run in its entirety without even a break in the middle for a Pillsbury commercial.

  • http://www.highgate-cemetery.org Carl Marks

    Whoa…you mean one of the most famous scenes in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was ripped off from an animated film from 1954? Well, if you’re gonna steal, might as well steal the best part.

    ‘Cause the rest of the film was typical 1950s commie-symp pinko BS designed to weaken the will of the West.

    • http://www.frankpanucci.com Frank Panucci

      “Commie-symp pinko BS”? Last time I saw such a phrase was in a reprint of a 60-year-old issue of MAD MAGAZINE.

      The film has so little narrative content, I don’t know where you found any evocation of “pinko” sentiment.

      • Len Inn

        Why so quick to doubt the sincerity of film maker’s motives and pile on the puerile abuse Carl? What do you know that we don’t? Please share. Or is everyone who doesn’t share your worldview a fair target for simplistic BS? Sure Ed Sullivan was working to weaken the will of the West, but his primary waepon was the Beatles.

      • http://www.highgate-cemetery.org Carl Marks

        First, the “Commie-symp pinko” stuff was a cheerful salute to the era of the film, the “Duck and Cover” era that I grew up in.

        I believe that the filmmakers sincerely didn’t want to die in a nuclear war, because outside of United States Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, I never met anyone who did. The question is, what do you do to prevent such a thing? And what else did the filmmakers believe in?

        The conservative right (and cold-warrior Democrats like Truman and Kennedy) believed in pushing back against the Soviet threat. Reagan summed up this policy years later as “Peace through Strength.”

        The left, however, believed in rolling over for the Soviets — “Better Red than Dead” partly because, like me, they don’t like the idea of dying in atomic warfare. But mostly they agitated on behalf of the Soviets getting their way because they believed capitalist America was, prima facie, a force of evil in the world and the socialist USSR was, prima facie, a force of good, and the glorious future of all mankind.

        It’s very difficult to make a “pro-war” “peace through strength” film. It requires a thoughtful, dramatic argument about the necessity of something as terrible as war. But is extremely easy to make a film about the horrors and sorrows of war, simply by focusing on its horrors and sorrows. The left has been pushing this type of anti-war film since nearly the beginning of film itself, from “All Quiet on the Western Front” to modern films like “Redacted.”

        The left latched on to anti-war films with both hands and several toes, in every conceivable form, from the satire of Terry Southern and Kubrik to the horrific images of films like “A Short Vision” above.

        The purpose of the left’s use of anti-war films is to sap the resolve and moral purpose of America, making it easier for the left to triumph around the world. The left was never anti-war — they were just anti-America winning wars. The left was just fine with Ho Chi Minh waging war against South Vietnam and the soldiers of their own country, as long as Ho was winning. German Green Petra Kelly yammered incessantly against the West’s nuclear weapons and general war-mongering, yet was was strangely silent about the Soviet Union role in the cold war.

        I attended the anti-nuclear arms rally of 1982 in Central Park in NYC, along with a million other people. The crowd was full of anti-America sentiment, but nary a peep about our cold war enemies, who also had a few nuclear weapons of their own as I recall. The demand was for a complete unilateral disarmament by the United States. The Soviet Union? Not so much.

        Film, and especially animated film, during the existence of the USSR has long been used as pro-Soviet propaganda and “A Short Vision” reeks of it. If you don’t believe me, ask the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a leftist British group, which used the film a propaganda tool to promote the West’s disarmament against the Soviet threat. Plenty of marches by the group across London. Marches across Red Square? Not so much.

        But, really, the only astonishing thing about this film is the fact that I learned where Lucas and Spielberg ripped off a key bit for the Raiders ending. As piece of anti-war, pro-Soviet Commie-symp pinko propaganda from Europe? Par for the course.

        I’m sure Ed Sullivan had a fine time at Toot Shor’s that evening, after the (really big) show. Drinks all around from his liberal, New York theater and newspaper pals. Pats on the back. “Very brave, Ed. We’ve gotta wake up the country before it’s too late!”

        Don’t get me started on the Beatles.

      • Oliver

        Go back to John_Birch_Society.com.

      • Was My Face Red

        Fascinating reply. Cheers for taking the time to write it. But I was active in UK CND in the 80′s and we were totally against the soviet nukes too. A so-called ‘workers’ state boasting against it’s ability to wipe out billions of other workers? Disgusting. Unfortunately it was harder to get permission to march across Red Square and the train fares were prohibitive, so we had to start at home and hope our Russian equivelants joined in. No one had any illusions that a nuke free world would have been any more peaceful either. It was just that some weapons seemed too hideous and unhuman to just sit back and accept. We weren’t dupes. We were individuals. And if the soviets had invaded then the pinko pacifists I knew would have been the first people out on the streets sitting in front of their tanks.

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Still, think of it as a nice ride while it lasted.

      • Oliver

        If Kennedy was such a “Cold Warrior”, why’d he wuss out over Cuba?

      • Chris Sobieniak

        Touché!

      • Ernesto “Chuck” Guevara

        Poor old Soviet Union.

        Saved the world from Hitler, never launched a war of aggression against anyone, kept the world’s uber-rich in check by providing a non-capitalist option for the masses (and with that restraint now gone, look at how delightfully things are working out)–and now, a quarter century after its demise, the poor old thing’s corpse is still being pressed into service to meet the nefarious needs of the Right.

        Better a dead bogeyman to scare us into quiescence then no bogeyman at all, I guess.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    I first read about this short in the book ‘Science Fiction Movies’ by Philip Strick. A couple of stills showing the man turning into a skeleton were included which terrified me. (I was 10 at the time I first read it)
    Now that I’ve finally seen A Short Vision,I still find it pretty disturbing.

    You can definetly say that the Foldes’ were influenced by
    Edvard Munch and Francis Bacon in the design.

  • http://stanleystories.blogspot.com Frank Young

    This film has an odd resonance for me. I was recently in the hospital with appendicitis, and was given morphine. I had hallucinations, for several hours, that were EXACTLY LIKE the scenes of human faces melting away. They were in the same painterly style, same progression of lap dissolves–utterly identical!

    I had never seen, nor heard, of this film until this morning. There were my hallucinations, realized on film 55 years ago. This is gonna take some time to process…

    The CONELRAD site is a fascinating one. Thanks for this post.

  • http://www.frankpanucci.com Frank Panucci

    Even Scarlett Johansson was destroyed!

    For some reason, this film made me laugh, especially at the end.
    It’s like an old NATIONAL LAMPOON parody.

  • tomm

    fascinating thanks for posting

  • Jacob Zaborowski

    This was an engaging, well-paced, and galvanizing film. The artists that came to mind while watching this were Otto Dix, Egon Schiele, and Len Lye. Truly not to be forgotten.

  • http://altanimation.podomatic.com AltAnimationPodcast

    Wow, the tweening on that Hunger short is CRAZY! Wish flash could do that today…

    • Regina

      I found this site looking for an obituary of Peter Foldes, who I met in Paris in 1970. My memory and experience of him were of an artist searching for a way to express his innermost feelings. These included his experiences of the war, and the fears of violence, death and destruction that it engendered. Like any work of art, it speaks to the viewer in their own language. To quote Anais Nin, “we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” We all see what resonates with our own view of the universe, and project meaning which is consistent with our world perspective. I don’t remember much about Peter’s politics, only that he believed in peace, and that power tends to not only corrupt but foster denial. He introduced me to the difficulties of being objective about myself and seeing my own black holes of denial. Back to his obituary, if anyone knows the cause of his death, please post it. Thanks.

  • Mu

    Old voice recordings have always given me a case of the heebie jeebies.
    The explosion animation seems a little silly by today’s standards, but I can’t say no to stop motion decomposition.

  • Flint

    not funny with the sound off. automatically worthless.