Last updated at 8:48 PM on 10th November 2011
Except, these movies – complete with cheesy special effects, dramatic music and a droll narrator – were classified intelligence briefings for President Ronald Reagan.
The agency began producing the briefings in 1981, suggesting they might be ‘helpful for Reagan’.
SCROLL DOWN FOR VIDEO
Great communicator: The CIA started making video briefings for President Ronald Reagan in 1981, saying they would be ‘helpful’
The videos cover a variety of pressing issues of the time, from a run-down of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan to a preview of Mr Reagan’s 1988 trip to Moscow – which included a weather report and a video montage of the Soviet capital.
‘Following the airport arrival, your motorcade will pass through the center of Moscow, a city of 8 million people that dominates the political and economic life of the Soviet Union,’ the video informed Mr Reagan.
The movies range of 7 to 20 minutes in length and contained mostly broad analysis and clear opinions of the subjects they tackled.
‘Socialist indoctrination, Soviet-style, is introduced early into a child’s education,’ reports the narrator in a video about propaganda in the Soviet Union.
Briefing: After watching the CIA video about the Soviet space program, Mr Reagan wrote, ‘They are much further ahead than most people realize’
These videos were ‘scene setters or advanced travelogues for presidential trips, including side travel by Mrs. Reagan,’ writes CIA historian Nick Dujmovic, who analyzed the reports.
The president’s morning
Ronald Regan kept rigidly to his daily schedule, including reviewing the President’s Daily Brief each morning, and checked off meetings and events as he moved through the day.
Here’s how other presidents organized the start of their day:
- Barack Obama arrives at the Oval Office about 9 a.m. after a workout, breakfast and seeing his children off to school.
- George W. Bush was an early-to-bed, early-to-rise president, usually making it in by 6:45 a.m.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt woke at 8 a.m. every day without an alarm but stayed up until midnight, reading government reports and writing.
- Abraham Lincoln woke and began work ‘before the humblest clerk on the national pay-rolls had eaten his breakfast.’
A briefing about the Soviet space program begins: ‘As it has evolved over the years, the Soviet space program might be described as something with a dual personality, a Jekyl and Hyde, so to speak. That is, it consists of two parts, one of which it is highly visible and acceptable to the world public, while the other moves in a sort of shadow land.’
Reagan apparently learned a lot from the video, writing a note in October 1982 saying: “Back at W.H. Saw a C.I.A. classified movie on Soviet Space Prog[ram]. They are much further ahead than most people realize and their main effort has been military.”
Another video talks about the succession of Soviet leadership after the abrupt death of Communist Party chairman Yuri Andropov in 1984. It discussed the ‘unlikely’ possibility that a man called Mikhail Gorbachev would rise to lead the Soviet Union.
However, Mr Duimovic warns the importance of the videos should not be over-stated. Reagan did not, despite popular myth, receive his daily intelligence briefing by video.
Basic information: The video produced before Mr Reagan’s summit in Moscow gives details like population and weather
Each video took a month to produce – including using stock footage, creating graphics and making special effects – like burning a picture of a former Afghan president to symbolize his assassination.
Like every president since John F. Kennedy, Mr Reagan received the President’s Daily Brief each morning, a type-written list of the most importance intelligence news of the day.
‘If Reagan had watched every video prepared for him during his presidency, he would have watched an average of one video every two months,’ he writes.
In reality, Mr Reagan read much more intelligence than he watched on video, Mr Duimovic said.