A nice quiet rural elementary school on the outskirts of the countryside was busy just having a normal day. At the back of the Principal’s sat a device. It featured four different alphabet codes. One had suddenly lit-up and started emitted a dreadful high-pitched tone. Soon the Principal is calmly trying to decipher the code. Three teachers look on. “What does the Y symbol mean Mr Calkins?” one asked as he skimmed through the manual. With a slight baffled break in his voice he calmly says “Nuclear missile attack in one hour!“.
Now this was the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The air raid warning alarm system had been fitted as a precautionary measure. They would have weekly drills to evacuate the building and decide the next course of action. This would require lining up in the playground alongside their assigned teacher and therefore return to class when the test threat was over. However, this time it seemed real. With no response from constant phone calls to verify the warning threat, the Principal had no other choice but to send the children home. Each teacher would walk their class across the countryside roads as they passed each pupils homestead.
Tagline – Powerful! Fascinating! Startling! A Shocker!
Time was ticking. How much time had passed already? Fifteen minutes? Twenty minutes? Mrs Andrews (Nancy Marchand) the math teacher had wore the wrong shoes today. She was in heels and her feet where gonna hurt. It didn’t matter. She was broken. You could see on her face the realisation that she and everyone around her was likely to be vaporised in forty odd minutes. She looked straight forward and marched on ahead with the ten or so children of varying ages following behind. They knew the threat. The constant drills and radio reports had embedded the terrifying thought of death by bombs and explosions. They chatted among themselves. Who’s had a bomb shelter? A cellar or a basement. Would the basement be deep enough to withstand the blast? Who was home to tell, to warn? As they passed by their homes they would run with their imagination running wild. Fear and adrenaline racing.
Back at the school the heavily pregnant secretary Betty (Kathryn Hays) wanders the art class in a daze of confusion. Her perfect dreams of starting a family was soon to be wiped from the earth in a flash. The thought of such destruction was inconceivable. Meanwhile the dinner-lady Mrs Maxton (Jane Connell) was tasked with filling water canisters with one of the young students left behind. Confused by all the jars of water, why, he inquisitively asked. Back in his office, Principal John tried to keep it together, constantly trying to get through on the phone. Surely someone should know something? The clock is ticking! If you were to look at your watch, now maybe twenty five minutes to destruction? What would you do?
This is a terrifying somber paced melodrama. You ponder the horrific situation with them. Each kid runs off to tell their family of the incoming bombs. Petrified out of their young minds. Wishing to save their loved ones. There’s been no announcement on the radio, every one is oblivious to possible destruction. The kids sing songs as they walk the path of the unknown. Mrs Andrews is at the end, she is beside herself. Imminent death is just moments away? Tick tick tick…
Ladybug Ladybug fly away home,
Your house is on fire,
Your children shall burn!
Imagine if that actual happened? Shocking as it might sound, it has, and on way to many occasions. Ladybug Ladybug is said to have been inspired by the real events in an article that had appeared in a magazine publication called McCall’s the year before the film. Astonishingly it’s horrifying to remember back to one that only happened very recently!
In 2018 the island of Hawaii was thrown into unnecessary pure terror when a text message was received by many warning of an immediate missile attack! WTF! For real! A false missile alert sent across the island by television and radio broadcasts to messages sent to directly to mobile phones. The alert advised residents to seek shelter, and concluded: “This is not a drill“. It wasn’t until thirty eight minutes later that the threat was deemed false! 38 minutes of blind panic.
What Ladybug Ladybug does so well is the portrayal of the stressful blind paranoia and psychological effects heightened by the constant threat of all out nuclear war of the Cold War. An unseen enemy always looming ready to start the destruction of the world. The young cast are fantastic with their innocent wide eyed imagination of the terror they are about to face. Writer and director couple Frank and Eleanor Perry really get the most out of their inexperienced cast which includes film debuts from William Daniels who will be know to millions as the voice of the electronic talking car KITT the buddy to David Hasselhoff in the TV cult classic Knight Rider. Also the actress playing the Math Teacher on the long walk is Nancy Marchand who would become Livia the mother to the one and only Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini).
Ladybug Ladybug has become the fourth film I’ve reviewed from the work of Frank and Eleanor Perry’s which included their debut film, the psychological drama, David and Lisa (1962) The holiday vacation drama Last Summer (1969) and best of all, in my honest opinion, The Swimmer (1968) with Burt Lancaster. There remains two I need to see before they parted ways from each other, Trilogy (1969) and Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970). The duo were so very talented together, that’s for sure.
Ladybug Ladybug is on YouTube here to stream at time of writing if you wanted to see it.
So remember to use the wise words of Bert the Turtle and DUCK and COVER as it will help save you when the nuclear blast hits!!!!! DOH!
All the best and happy viewing hehe.