In 1952, Columbia Pictures put out a movie about the Russians invading the United States titled “Invasion U.S.A.” While the movie primarily is set in Manhattan, there is a heavy focus on Hoover Dam.
Staring Peggy Castle and Gerald Mohr, the movie centers around people from different walks of life at a bar watching as a Soviet “red attack” takes over the national news. The main characters are a television news personality, a New York socialite, an industrialist and a rancher from Arizona. The movie follows each bar patron returning to his or her life and how they handle the attack. “Invasion U.S.A.” is a reflection of how each class of people is impacted by the destruction of life as they knew it.
The Arizona rancher heads back home and, as he is about to pass through Boulder City, the then-named Boulder Dam is hit by a nuclear missile. This part of the movie’s plot, however, presents one of the more noticeable hiccups in film history. According to IMDb.com, “Invasion U.S.A.” shows Boulder City as a flat, wide farm community that is actually situated downriver from Hoover Dam. When the dam is hit by the Soviet missile, Boulder City ends up being flooded by water and the town is sunk, a casualty of an international attack.
In reality, Boulder City sits seven miles away from Hoover Dam and 1,300 feet above the elevation of the dam. I’m not clear if this movie mistake is a result of poor research done by the writer, Franz Schulz, or if the writer purposely moved Boulder City for dramatic effect. Either way, it’s a heavy thought to think what could happen to any city positioned near a dam given a natural disaster or act of war, which is one of the many reasons this movie terrified its audiences.
Schulz was an emigrant born in Prague. He seemed to have a charmed early life. His family was wealthy. He graduated from college and then had a safe stint in the army. After an honorable discharge, he moved to Germany, working as a journalist before diving into the film industry, where he had sudden success.
In 1933, Schulz lost his film career after the Third Reich forced him to flee Germany. Through no fault of his own, he had to reinvent his life again and in another country. He first went to England, where he had some success. Then, he made his way to the United States. “Invasion U.S.A” may have been Schulz’s tribute to his own displacement out of Germany or it may have only been his way of simply profiting on the cultural fear of the Russians taking over American. Either way, the movie was a success. It cost a little over a $100,000 to make and it made a little over $1 million.
“Invasion U.S.A” is my Throwback Thursday recommendation today for two reasons. The movie has great footage and references to Boulder Dam and Boulder City, even if the references are geographically wrong. The movie also plays to our fears and our security as individuals and as a society, which makes us think about not only what could happen in our lives, but what our responses to change, even disaster, may look like. If you can find the 2009 special DVD edition of this movie, it is worthy buying as it features two Civil Defense audio recordings from 1965 that are related to the movie’s subject matter.
What we fear the most is often the thing we need to face and overcome. We can become paralyzed by our fears. We can become weary of others based on stereotypes. It’s a new year, which means it is a time for new beginnings. Whatever fear you’re facing today, don’t think about how to flee or just survive it. Instead, like writer Schulz, figure out a way to face fear by reinventing your response.
Tanya Vece is a ghostwriter and independent marketing specialist. She can be reached on Instagram @TanyaLVece.