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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If one reads the background on the making of this movie they would know
it took a hatchet job before it could air. They did use footage from
actually nuclear explosions, but some they had to create because of the
government in the US and the censors. Things were different in the 80s
from what they allow now in the 21st Century. It was long enough
originally to be a miniseries. They didn't believe people could handle
the truth although they portrayed enough to cause many to be panicked.
The acting was very good and the impact as well. It would be nice if they could piece this together and rebroadcast it in total. It is a reality check for most these days. This is only a small part of what could happen if there was a nuclear war. It tries to show that in no uncertain terms should anyone contemplate nuclear war. These are not atomic weapons but much more than that. The Day After, we would be our own worst enemy. It would be survival of the fittest and the ones who prepared for the worst. The fact that this movie only has a rating of 7 is unconscionable. It should at least be at a 9. It wasn't the fault of those who wrote the script and produced this movie that the government and the sensors caused it to be edited the way it was. This is why there are varying running times because when released for public purchase, certain versions had different running lengths and some that went to other countries. This movie is well worth watching to get an idea of what would happen after the initial strike. It is well done and all involved did a great job of acting and showing the drastic affects of nuclear war and the subsequent nuclear winter and contamination. It is still apparent that many have no idea about the consequences of a nuclear attack or how to survive. I don't think that has changed since they made this movie. Everyone should watch this and quit looking for goofs because they had numerous advisers on every facet of the movie. The movie should leave most people in tears so be prepared.
The Day After sparked plenty of controversy in 1983 as it aired on ABC television. This film stars an all-star cast as Jason Robards, John Lithgow, John Cullum, Bibi Besch, Georgeann Johnson, Steve Guttenberg (probably his best performance to date), Jobeth Williams, and Amy Madigan. This is an ensemble piece with realistic special effects to show and detail the nuclear devastation following the missiles explosion in Kansas. The film spends the first hour like any other disaster film in preparing the main characters for the eventual loss of life later on in the film. When the nuclear missiles explode, it's horrifying but amazing even in 1983. Somehow the aftermath is equally devastating as everybody tries to rebuild or survive with low amounts of food, aid, and medical assistance. There are plenty of haunting images of mass graves, injured masses of people, and devastation all around. You wonder why you want to survive it all. This film reminds us how nuclear bombs can destroy and devastate people, animals, and the environment.
Please excuse the short nature of this review, I am attempting to be
I spent my teenage years in the 80s in North Dakota, not far from Minot Air Force Base (a major facility for launching B-52s over the North Pole to attack the USSR.) Nuclear war was a very real threat back then and I had a lot of nightmares about it.
When this movie was aired on ABC in the early-to-mid 80s, it was ALL that my classmates talked about for damn-near a month. It scared the excrement out of all of us, a visceral reaction which I recall to this day.
I purchased this movie on DVD quite a while ago, but have never watched it. However, I saw it again tonight on the SciFi channel and I'll admit that it still gives me chills. 20+ years have not taken the fright of the destruction of (two) civilizations. Yes, it uses a lot of stock footage (there aren't many nuclear silos that will launch their missiles for the benefit of a movie)...and yes, it uses a lot of unknown actors (some of which you *will* recognize...like Arliss Howard ('Cowboy' from 'Full Metal Jacket)) and some well-known actors. Despite the imperfect delivery, it still conveys the outright terror that grips an advanced society at the precipice of destruction. After that, it conveys the utter despair after the collapse of said advanced society.
We're not talking about 'Citizen Kane' here, but it still is an effective piece of cinema from a troubled era (well, all eras seem to be troubled...the 80s had their own troubles, as evidenced in this film.) Please watch it and think for yourself. Thank you for reading this review.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I first saw the movie around 1987 when it was first shown on German TV
(while at movie theaters across Germany, the movie had a "12" rating
and I was only 10 at the time). And I remember that even then, in 1987,
it sparked up quite a discussion the following day at school. I grew up
in the Hanover area, which is some 60 miles west of the former East
German border and cities like Helmstedt and Wolfsburg (in the movie,
they play a vital role in the prelude to the main standoff between the
U.S. and Russia). This made the whole scenario especially chilling for
"The Day After" is the definitive anti-war movie of the early 1980s. For the first time, the nuclear holocaust was not portrayed as some military think-tank scheme with a focus on rank-and-file leaders and the goings-on at the Oval Office. This film is about people like you and me and their everyday struggle in a world that all of a sudden offers nothing more to live for. Civilization is almost brought back to the stone age, there is death and destruction everywhere, and those who were spared by the nuclear fire are fading away as their health visibly deteriorates **spoiler alert** (perhaps the most disturbing scene is where a church community is gathered for service in a pretty much no longer existing church building and the pastor holds his sermon thanking the lord).
This is truly not a feel-good film to enjoy with a six pack while you are having your buddies over. It is a chilling account of what it could have been like had there really been a full-scale nuclear war between the two superpowers. But even today, with the Cold War long gone, this movie touches you and will send shivers down your spine not only during the scenes where the bombs go off. It does so because the different elements (plot, narration, acting and screenplay) go so well together.
The special effects in the scenes where the nuclear strike takes place, well, that's a different story. Naturally, they are 1983-style, when CGI was little more than three random letters of the alphabet. But this does not take away the film's credibility at all.
I bought the DVD because to me this film is a must-have for any collection of all-time movie classics. Sadly, I bought a shortened version that you can find in stores in Germany (and maybe in the U.S. as well or whatever your whereabouts). It only has 115 minutes (the original one is 126 minutes) with several not-so-unimportant scenes cut out. Not that I would really care for more on that, but the nuclear blast scenes have been edited as well. And then there's the virtually non-existent extra footage that you have really come to expect even for classic movies (am I right?). The DVD only features a few text files, mainly giving you the biographies/filmographies of the main actors.
Sound and image on the DVD are alright considering that we're talking about a 21-year-old made-for-TV film here. It comes with a 4:3 TV-format picture and with mono sound. The picture sometimes lacks contrast and sharpness. It all does have kind of a high-end VHS feel to it. Let us kindly overlook this fact.
So, all in all, the movie is a timeless classic that has not lost any of its authenticity over the past 21 years - if you want to buy/rent the DVD, however, make sure you get the original 126-minute version!
An excellent film, has some very powerful images, the young widow having her period in the sadly constructed "church". And the graphic effects simulating radiation sickness are intense to a disturbing point. People I know have said that this film would be great if it were redone today, well, I don't think anybody is going to steal any kind of a plot concerning the Cold War any more. Films like this one question everything we know. And it would take a much sicker person than the Hollywood type to rethink such a scary depiction. But we are built on originality. So I'm game for anyone willing to try. So long as Spielberg and numerous others keep their distance.
Having just seen this film, for the first time, and read much criticism of
it here, I have to say that whereas some of the criticism is justified, much
of it is not. Easily as scary, if not more so, in the attack scenes than its
UK counterpart "Threads", although with a somewhat weak aftermath which does
make it look more like a soap opera, it still portrays the subject matter
well. I have to say that the political plot appears rather confusing, but
these films are often that way to keep the viewer thinking.
I still say "Threads" is better, and "Testament" far more subtle, but this is incredibly worthy nonetheless.
I only wish I had seen this sooner, but it was very difficult to obtain in the UK.
The movie is designed as a vignette, to show the effects of a 1980s
war on a college town in Kansas, an area not on a primary-targets
Virtually all communication is cut off to the outside world, and except for a radio broadcast message from the US President, we have no idea how the rest of the world is faring, and since all relief efforts appear to be local, centered around the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence KS, we must assume the devastation is worldwide.
The timespan of the movie runs from a day or so before the disaster through several weeks in the various places where people take shelter, to a few weeks after the survivors emerge. The viewer sees things gradually getting worse.
We see humanity survive, but it doesn't look too good for humankind.
"Threads" was produced in the UK about the same time, the early 1980's being a time of high fear after Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech. The British movie was much more factual and documentary-like in it's production, and more graphic, but it ended on a more hopeful note. At the end of "Threads", some 15 years after the holocaust, there are people and a society of sorts.
"The Day After" does not end as hopefully.
This continues to be THE nuclear holocaust film. It does an amazing job of drawing the viewer in, getting the viewer to identify with the characters and then shattering the world those characters live in. It is supremely disturbing, as was intended, even nearly 20 years after it was made. I don't know that it's the sort of film one "recommends," but it is certainly an excellent film worthy of commendation for what it has achieved and continues to achieve. Many actors and film-makers talk about "changing the world," but it's rare that any of them can make a real claim to having done so. This is one of the rare instances where it's not hyperbole to say that it has.
The first half of the movie is way too long. All it establishes is that eastern Kansas has normal folks living their daily lives there. It is all quite well done, but contributes nothing. Most of it could have been shortened. Having been in the Army in 1961 when access to Berlin was closed by the Russians, this movie had some significance to me, but they overstated and belabored the issues. There was way too much of a soap opera taking up valuable screen time. Even when a plot, or at least a story line developed, things took way too long and there was way too much melodrama. This movie has very little content and only one message which took way too long to deliver.
Considering that this is a made-for-TV movie from 1983, this is still
one of the best nuclear disaster movies in existence and if only others
would see where it went right; consistent and factual drama! 'The Day
After' centres itself in rural America and tells a multi-narrative
story of several survivors including families and professionals in
physics and medicine as they try to get through the fallout in their
many scenarios, such as living in basements and working at a small-town
The cast is superb and this is also notably one of '80s favourite Steve Guttenberg's finest performances too, even next to the likes of Jason Robards and John Lithgow.
The effects are pretty dated, and that's fine considering the limitations of the time because it really does pull out all the stops. A little fake fire here and there is forgivable next to the awesome display of nuclear explosions and the devastation left behind.
Frankly, this movie was meant to scare and not just ordinary people but the government and military too. I think it did its job very well and it's still well worth the watch today.
After all, did you know that todays nuclear weapons are hundreds of times more destructive today as they were back then when they were still in the midst of the Cold War? The warning will always be relevant, no matter what the scientists say!
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