A Day Called X: Nuclear doomsday comes to Portland in 1957 CBS TV movie

I've never considered Portland a dangerous place. But in the film A Day Called X, it becomes the most dangerous place on Earth one day in the mid-1950s.

The film was produced for broadcast on CBS and depicts as realistically as possible what might happen if Portland were to experience midcentury America's worst nightmare: the nuclear air-raid signal.

Glenn Ford's stern narration describes the all-American town ominously as having a population of 415,000, "more or less about the size of Hiroshima." Gulp.


While it looks like another piece of stodgy 1950s domestic propaganda, entertaining though those films often are, A Day Called X does have actual cinematic interest. It features, for instance, no actors at all, using instead the actual townspeople of Portland, playing their actual roles in a sort of dramatized documentary.


And Portland enthusiasts have recently rediscovered the film's value in its capturing of an era of the city rarely seen on film–apart from the low-budget noir Portland Expose, released the same year.


A Day Called X's depiction of preparedness for nuclear annihilation may, in fact, strike you as so realistic that, especially if you live in Portland, you might well start believing the missiles are really coming.


Fortunately, the producers have taken this possibility into consideration, so you have only to read the onscreen text displayed during particularly believable scenes for reassurance that "AN ATTACK IS NOT TAKING PLACE." Whew.

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