Uranium Boom (1956)

Film Title: Uranium Boomuranium-boom

Year: 1956

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Silent or Talkie: Talkie

Genre: Drama

Starring:

  • Dennis Morgan
  • William Talman
  • Patricia Medina
  • Philip Van Zandt

Review

The history of the Atomic Age is fairly well-known. To summarize, the United States witnessed a massive Uranium rush in the 1950s as prospectors labored to find stashes of it, particularly out west. After World War II was basically stifled by the use of an Atomic Bomb, nuclear energy became the wave of the future. This meant that anyone supplying the government with large amounts of Uranium, the cornerstone of nuclear energy, stood to become an overnight millionaire. Naturally, Hollywood would depict this turn in the country’s interests on the big screen. 1956’s Uranium Boom tells the story of two men looking for the ultimate score.

Brad Collins (Dennis Morgan) and Grady Mathews (William Talman) catch wind of a veritable Uranium treasure chest in the Colorado mountains. Both men show up the same area hotel to set up camp. The trouble is, there’s only one available room. Despite Grady being there first, Brad feels the room belongs to him. Within minutes, they come to blows in the hotel lobby. When an older gentleman checks out of his double room, Brad and Grady settle their dispute by agreeing to bunk together. Realizing their individual levels of knowledge, the men form a partnership and plan to tackle the prospecting as a duo. After spending over $700 on detection equipement and a jeep, they set out on their first trek and quickly encounter a strange man named Charlie (Philip Van Zandt) on the side of the road who claims to have an intricate knowledge of the mountains and where the biggest source of Uranium can be found. Brad and Grady are skeptical but take Charlie along for the ride. During the hunt, Grady talks about marrying his girlfriend as soon as he makes his fortune and can provide a stable life for her.

Weeks pass without much success, though Charlie continues to mention a big “yellow rock” that his father taught him about. This would of course be Uranium if such a rock existed. In their quest, the trio is accosted by other prospectors with guns who all but force them out of the area. When Charlie’s yellow rock tale becomes reality, Brad and Grady realize they’re going to be rich; and just as they saddle up to ride back into town and file their claim, the other prospectors sabotage their jeep. Charlie, however, stays one step ahead of the bandits and ruins their truck by draining the water from the radiator. All goes as planned, and Brad rolls into town to file the claim while Grady stays behind and guards the find.

As soon as the claim is filed in the nick of time, Brad is overjoyed leaving the claims office and meets Jean Williams (Patricia Medina), a girl trying to find a ride to the bus stop. A romance quickly develops throughout the day and Brad and Jean are married that evening. The next day, Brad returns with Jean to the mountains where Grady is waiting, and an emotional explosion takes place. Jean is the girl that Grady planned to marry. Now both men are at odds with each other, and Grady has his own plans for Brad.

It’s hard to watch this film and not think of 1948’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The foundation of both films is similar, and the inner turmoil between characters is also similar. What makes Uranium Boom different is that it was filmed while similar events were actually taking place in the country. We can almost feel the atomic craze coming through the screen; it’s very 1950s, very modern by 50s standards, and a good window into the way people were thinking.

On Video

The DVD release for Uranium Boom is bare bones, part of Sony’s on-demand initiative (no doubt to keep up with Warner Archive). If you just want to see the film, it will suffice, but not for anything beyond that. This probably wouldn’t warrant its own proper release, though if there is ever a “time capsule” collection, or a set highlighting different boom periods in United States history, I can see this one being included.

Conclusion

My only problem with Uranium Boom is the ending. It is an unlikely turn of events given the scenes that precede it. Truthfully, the ending put a comedic spin on the film, and by all accounts it isn’t a comedy. I’m not sure if the screenwriters needed a quick way to wrap everything up in a “feel good” manner or if they just slapped any ending together to put it to bed. Either way, it doesn’t really detract from the film overall, but it’s just a bit odd.

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