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The Day After
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Includes both the 122-minute TV cut (1.33:1) and the 127-minute theatrical cut (1.78:1) – Both cuts newly mastered in HD! The countdown has begun! Against the real-life backdrop of the US deployment of WMDs in Europe during the escalating Cold War, this dramatically involving and agonizingly graphic film about nuclear holocaust detonated a direct hit into the heartland of America, becoming the most watched TV movie of all time. Starring Jason Robards (Cabo Blanco), JoBeth Williams (American Dreamer), Steve Guttenberg (The Bedroom Window) and John Lithgow (The Manhattan Project), this controversial, potent drama remains one of the most talked-about programs in history. When Cold War tensions reach the ultimate boiling point, the inhabitants of a small town in Kansas learn – along with the rest of America – that they have less than 30 minutes before 300 Soviet warheads begin to appear overhead! Can anyone survive this ultimate nightmare... or the nuclear winter that is sure to follow? Top-notch direction by Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Company Business), from a teleplay by Edward Hume (Two-Minute Warning, 21 Hours at Munich).
-Includes both Original 122-Minute TV Cut (1.33:1) and the 127-Minute Theatrical Cut (1.78:1)
-Interview with star JoBeth Williams
-Interview with director Nicholas Meyer
-Audio Commentary by Film Historian Lee Gambin and Comic Artist/Writer Tristan Jones
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After seeing someone's comments about "Threads" I purchased that movie and watched it. They are correct, everything I thought was missing from this DVD is on there. I must have watched the 2 movies shown back to back, Threads being first, then The Day After. I am changing my review to just The Day After, giving it 5 stars.
An aggressive Soviet leadership decides to start a military buildup in East Germany in the hopes of forcing the U.S., France & Britain to withdraw from West Berlin (this was 6 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall). The Unites States does not back down and the Soviet Union responds with a blockade of West Berlin followed by an invasion through the Fulda Gap into what was then West Germany. As the Soviet Union defies the United States and even the United Nations, things rapidly escalate. The film, in a manner similar to 'Threads', follows different families, including that of U.S. Air Force serviceman Billy McCoy (William Allen Young), the Dahlbergs - a farming family outside Kansas City, including Jim Dahlberg (John Cullum) and his wife Eva (Bibi Besch), whose daughter Denise (Lori Lethin) is about to be married. Much of the story centers around Dr. Russell Oakes (the late Jason Robards) who is teaching medical courses at the nearby University of Kansas. These people go about their business, not entirely unaware of what is happening in Germany, until 1 day the order is given to launch the Minuteman Missiles - including those from the nearby Whiteman Air Force Base - at the Soviet Union. A strategic attack from the Soviet Union follows, as Soviet ICBMs hit Kansas City twice. Now, these people face the horrific, radioactive aftermath of 'The Day After'.
This film is genuinely frightening, but still less so than its UK counterpart 'Threads' which saw a release the following year on the BBC. Much of the attack/nuclear blast footage supposedly has come from old Department of Defense test footage though I am not sure if this is the case. While the film does not try to hide the devastating effects of not only the main nuclear attack but also the fallout & disease that would surely follow, it doesn't go as far as 'Threads', which depicted a nuclear winter and went several years into the future (probably due to timeline issues). It does realistically depict the grim nature of total devastation and the realization that things will never be as they were. Characters die off from radiation poisoning in a realistic time frame and the effects of radiation are shown very well.
Not as great a nuclear film as 'Threads' but still worth it. 2 versions are available here; the TV version & Theatrical cut. My personal preference is the Theatrical cut because not only is it slightly longer but also starts off better, with the SAC 'Looking Glass' Boeing 707 command post plane taking off. While that was going on the General aboard the plane was being briefed on placement of nuclear submarines as well as the location of the President, Vice President & U.S. military commanding officers overseas - a very realistic way to start.
Recommended for those following Cold War history. In fact this should be required viewing for high school students who are studying that period. Even the late Ronald Reagan watched this film at its initial release and was said to have been affected by it.
There is a denominator commentary in the film that addresses our capacity to block out reminders of our mortality.The movie does not and nor should it apologize for its transparency of just how people are : sheeple . We witness the simplified bubble-like existance of Lawrence, Kansas, in seemingly mass denial that the unthinkable could happen literally in their back yard and why not literally since a missile silo is twenty yards to the right of the barn.But maybe Im being a bit harsh here. Maybe denial is the best coping mechanism when you live yards away from a live round underground missile silo currently being checked...twice.
The story doesn't build with predictable speeches from brooding academics or senior cynics sitting on porches sipping cider. We get the story the way jaded America gets it : news flashes and testing signals from the emergency broadcasting system on TV screens in the backgrounds of various living rooms of the characters and they treat it as an afterthought...as we do. But select characters heard the breaking news about soviets closing in on Berlin and moiled over a mounting nuclear strike but not where they couldn't retreat to the comfort of the conventional wisdom of " ...or maybe they will contain it" and use those symphony tickets.
But not the audience. The director keeps the TV loud enough in the background where we can hear and discern the urgency while the girls argue over who hid the birth control pills. There was a scene where little kids were watching TV where a reporter described missiles being air-burst over "advancing soviet troops" as they showed American air force pilots running to their bombers and what were their parents doing? Walked right by the TV to go have sex! The movie explores motivations in how the mind copes with the inevitable by instinctively retreating to primal appetites like food and sex which illustrates mans deeper instinctive longing to be told what to do when a crisis hits. The whole essence of our faith in warning systems and voices over speakers telling where to hide and where to meet rides on it...that cocoon of cynical co-dependency finally fails in the face of a power that is sovereign and absolute in its destruction.
And this was pretty much how the film revealed the story to us in the first hour...through news flashes and speculative conversations between the jaded and the seasoned everywhere from barbershops to university cafeteria to country kitchens prepping for life's rare highlight: the daughter's wedding.
The second hour was not just a storm cloud of Iconic images and sounds of a population caught unprepared, it was an in your face frontal assault against our sensibilities.
1)The sounds we cherish like the quiet cornfields and rustling wheat violated by the unnerving radio squawking of " We want to confirm...is this an exercise...negative..repeat..negative. Roger copy...this is not an exercise!"
2) Downtown shoppers running in a panic horrified at the thought of not enough room in the shelters intercut with Eve setting the table while worrying is there enough potato salad for the guests. ...and then the blood scream as her husband snatches her from making the beds and carries her to the basement...she knows its over.
3) The little boy in the backyard frozen with his mouth gaped open watching a missile emerge out of that fenced off sandbox yards away his parked bicycle.
4) The disembodied voice in the chaotic supermarket yelling, "just get the canned goods...the batteries."
5) Dr. Oats listening to emergency broadcast instructions while driving alone on the expressway as gridlock clogs the opposite direction.
6) Doctors rush into the hospital courtyard to see missile trails overhead.
7) A football game in a sold out stadium. The players stop. No movement in the stands as three white smoke trails arc the sky.
Intimacy. Innocence. Healing. The winning touchdown replaced with the touch down of an ICBM in twenty minutes. All society signposts vaporized.
We are left with a slow disintegration of relationships for the rest of the film. No feel good bonding here. Again, the script doesn't let you exhale. The special effects were more implied than absolute.They didn't have to be absolute because it fit the movie's gritty saturated look of once vibrant colored reds and golds of a Kansas countryside seared into the dirty white ashen gray of an impending nuclear winter that could last six years. The director lingers the camera on scenes of suffering to where its uncomfortable and sometimes excruciating to watch. Self preservation runs amok. Man has thrown his two babies of moral and ethical facilities out with the bath water of commonsense. The rest is anarchy, sticks, and stones.
"Is there anybody there...anybody at all." The Professor asks over the CB radio as the movie ends. The film doesn't answer that question. It just takes its place as one of the great movie lines that addresses when man makes eye contact with the insurmountable...and it doesn't blink. Its been thirty years since "The Day After". The question remains unanswered.