"This Is Not A Test" is a film that is pretty bad from several different points-of-view, including the writing and the majority of the stiff-as-a-board acting we find throughout the movie. But I find myself not really caring about the film's numerous deficiencies and am, instead, drawn to this movie like a moth toward a flame each time I start watching it.
The first scene in "TINAT" takes place at 4:01 AM one very late night, as Del Oro County Deputy Sheriff Dan Colter (played with an eternal rigidity by Seamon Glass) gets word on his two-way police radio that nuclear missiles have been launched toward targets in the United States, and Colter has been instructed to set up a roadblock to keep any cars from proceeding toward the nearest town, which is a prime target for the incoming bombs.
The entire 72-minute film takes place during this one single night, with the various occupants of the vehicles being stopped by Colter's roadblock ending up huddling together in the trailer of a semi-truck just before the bombs arrive.
Everything about this movie spells "very low budget B flick", but, as I mentioned, there's something oddly compelling about it. I can't quite put my finger on the exact reason why I like this film so much -- I just do.
Perhaps it's the all-nighttime black-and-white photography found in "Test" that attracts me to it. Or maybe the fact that it was made in the early '60s (1962), which is a favorite era of mine for movies. Or perhaps it's the doomsday subject matter.
There's definitely a certain gloomy and "brooding" atmosphere that has been created for the movie that comes through on the screen (even though it seems to be a quickly-made, slap-and-dash type of motion picture). I can feel the tense "Bombs Are Coming" mood that exists here. So, on that "doom and gloom" level, I'd have to say this movie was a success indeed.
The secondary plot of an escaped killer on the loose in the nearby woods doesn't ring entirely true....but at least the filmmakers did make an attempt at "layering" the script to some extent, which is a good thing in my opinion.
Being released in 1962 probably meant that this drive-in movie (despite its minimal production values) packed a pretty good punch with movie-goers who saw it back then, because near the end of that same calendar year America came closer to experiencing a nuclear war than at any other time in memory, with the Cuban Missile Crisis grabbing U.S. headlines for 13 terrifying days in October 1962.
I previously owned a copy of "This Is Not A Test" on VHS videotape, and was pleased to finally get a chance to upgrade the film to the digital format when it was released on DVD in March of 2004 by Alpha Video.
When I compared the DVD version to my VHS edition, I found that the two were relatively comparable in video quality. The DVD wins the "PQ" race by just a wee bit, however (which I was glad to see), but the video quality still isn't going to win any prizes for crystal-clear picture. But at least it's in watchable condition here.
The topic of video quality for a movie like this one could bring up the question of -- Does this B-grade film even deserve a grade-A DVD transfer? I'm going to stay out of trouble by not answering that loaded question, however, and just say that I'm satisfied with the somewhat-fuzzy "drive-in" look that the movie possesses on this Digital Video Disc. ;)
The DVD offers up the same Full-Frame (1.33:1) screen shape as the VHS tape, which is possibly the original ratio for this film. But I really don't have the foggiest idea whether this movie was filmed in a Widescreen format or not.
This Alpha single-sided DVD contains just the movie, divided into six chapters (there's a Scene Index available on the disc). There is also a "Catalog" Sub-Menu, with photos provided of other Alpha DVD titles. A large number of different products are displayed in this Catalog section too. I've never even heard of most of these films in the Alpha DVD archives, but some of them are familiar titles; and many of these DVDs have very well-designed cover art too.
There's a 24-page booklet included with this disc as well, which serves as a mini-catalog of other Alpha Video titles available on DVD.