Blast from the Past: Cold War Comedy Starring Brendan Fraser and Alicia Silverstone

Hugh Wilson’s romantic comedy, Blast from the Past, stars Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken, and Sissy Spacek.

Calvin Webber (Walken) is an eccentric nuclear physicist, living during the Cold War. His extreme fear of a nuclear holocaust leads him to build an enormous fallout shelter beneath his suburban home.

One night, when he and his pregnant wife Helen (Sissy Spacek), are entertaining guests, a friend informs that John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev are  in a major conflict.  The family turns on their TV and watch the news in horror.

When the Cuban Missile Crisis begins, they ask their guests to leave, and they head down into the shelter. Meanwhile, a pilot is having problems with his plane; he is ordered to eject, believing his jet will crash into the Pacific Ocean. Just as the Webbers descend into the shelter, the plane veers off and crashes into the Webber home, leaving their friends and family to believe the family has died. The family, having seen the resulting fireball just as they lock themselves in their shelter, believe that the unthinkable has happened and that they are the sole survivors of a nuclear war. The locks on the shelter are set for 35 years and cannot be overridden by anyone inside or outside the shelter — for “their own protection” according to Calvin Webber.

A few days after the locks have been engaged, Mrs. Webber goes into labor and gives birth to a baby boy, whom they name Adam. During the roughly 35 years they are down in the shelter, the world above drastically changes, while the Webbers’ life remains frozen in 1962. Adam is taught in several languages, all school subjects, dance, boxing, and many other things. The family passes time watching black and white films and kinescopes of TV programs via a projector rigged to look like a television. Adam is given his father’s baseball card collection and in various companies. In the present, the timer on the locks releases, and Calvin decides to check out the surroundings above the shelter (in full protective gear), which has turned into a ghetto.

He mistakes this for a post-apocalyptic world and wants his wife and grown son (Brendan Fraser) to stay in hiding, but suffers from chest pain. Adam, who is naïve but well-educated, is sent for supplies and help.

Much of the humor in the film is derived from his being unaccustomed to the lifestyle of the present (such as using the term negro, and believing “shit” is a French compliment), believing “gay” means happy, and finding awe in simple things of the present. Early on, he meets Eve Vrustikoff (Alicia Silverstone) at a card store, where she works, and where he went to sell his father’s classic baseball cards. She stops the store owner from ripping Adam off and is immediately fired. Adam asks Eve to take him to the Holiday Inn, in exchange for a baseball card, worth $4,000. The next morning, at the Holiday Inn, Eve comes to give back the card to Adam, and after a brief conversation, Eve informs Adam that she has to look for a new job. In exchange for $1,000 a week, Adam asks Eve to work for him, she agrees to help him buy the supplies and his search for a “non-mutant wife from Pasadena.” Meanwhile, Adam meets Eve’s gay housemate and best friend, Troy (Dave Foley), who offers advice and commentary as Adam and Eve fall in love.

Adam continually impresses both Eve and Troy with his array of talents including an energetic swing dance that garners the attention of Eve’s rival, Sophie (Carmen Moré), who starts flirting with the naive Adam, making Eve jealous when he goes home with her. Adam returns later, having admitted to rejecting Sophie’s advances and tells Eve about his past.

The story scares Eve into thinking he is a sociopath and delusional and she contacts some mental health professionals to have him committed. They arrive at Eve’s house to take him into custody, but he escapes. After Adam is gone, Troy and Eve find that he has “millions upon millions, upon millions of dollars” worth of stocks, and the lifestyle they find he has been living seems straight out of the 1960s. Eventually, Eve finds Adam and the two make up, Adam finally introducing Eve to his sheltered parents.

At the end, Calvin and Helen move into a home at the surface that their son has had constructed with the wealth he has acquired from the stocks his father gave him. Only Calvin is informed that the catastrophe they went into seclusion for was in fact a plane crash, for fear Helen would be incredibly angry at her husband for her years of mistaken confinement. The film ends with Helen at peace with her newfound freedom from the shelter, Adam and Eve engaged to be married, while Calvin is certain that the “Commies” have faked the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The film, which opened on February 12, 1999, received mixed to negtative reviews from most critics.

Cast

Brendan Fraser as Adam Webber

Alicia Silverstone as Eve Vrustikoff

Christopher Walken as Calvin Webber

Sissy Spacek as Helen Webber

Dave Foley as Troy

Joey Slotnick as Soda Jerk / “Archbishop” Melcher

Dale Raoul as Mom

Rex Linn as Dave

Nathan Fillion as Cliff

Jenifer Lewis as Dr. Nina Aron

Hugh Wilson as Levy

John F. Kennedy (uncredited, archive footage) as Himself (reveals existence of Cuban missiles)

Fidel Castro (uncredited, archive footage) as Himself

Nikita Khrushchev (uncredited, archive footage) as Himself (shakes fist at the U.N.)