THE DAY AFTER (ABC Television Movie)


5/10

1983

DIRECTOR: Nicholas Meyer

This seemed to me, to be one of the great overlooked anti-nuclear movies of the 1980’s. Overlooked by me, as this was such an influential movie that it supposedly encouraged President Reagan and his opposite number in Moscow to begin a reduction in Nuclear arms.

The two-hour film, focuses on the communities in or around Kansas City, and the vast mid western areas which housed hundreds of ICBM silos, most of which have been decommissioned by now. It portrays what the impact of a full nuclear exchange might have on the area, and in turn the country as a whole. As well as what the future might hold, bleak though it is.

Simply put, this is no Threads, made a year later by the BBC. The effects in this film are appalling, even by the standards of the day, with the mushroom clouds looking nothing short of embarrassing and the effects of people being vaporised left me thinking ‘how well they had tried, and  it is amiable that they would make the effort to show it’.

What what I thinking? This was a major 1980’s movie event, designed to show the world what would have happen if the lunacy was to continue. That it would be nothing short of Armageddon to deploy such weapons under any circumstances. I can see that at the time this would have been shocking, but as it clearly states itself in the epilogue’s title card, ‘the events portrayed in the movie probably would not be as bad as the real thing’, well there’s no doubt about that.

It struck me as being more like Earthquake with nukes than a realistic portrayal of a post-nuclear holocaust world. There would in real terms, be no hope for years. The generation who would be unlucky enough to survive such an event would most likely be dead within the decade and the next generation, what ever state they were in, would herald in a completely new future, almost alien and impossible to fully realise.

Threads is a much bleaker portrayal of these events, though still dated and flawed, but still employing superior effects to its U.S. cousin, given that one was  a major U.S. production that rocked the world, and the other was produced for BBC2, the latter is the one that disturbs, whilst the former is largely boring, melodramatic and offers too many stereotypical scenarios. Granted, the scene when a  committee are discussing restarting the farming communities, and that advice to clear the top five or six inches of top soil to decontaminate it in order to plant fresh crops is effectively untenable, was poignant and did hit home as to how futile their efforts might be.

I can see how horrific this would have looked in 1983, at a time when the cold war was white-hot, but so many other films have done more to portray a more terrifying image of this doom than this , such as WarGames, which primarily a family actioner, clearly demonstrates the futility of it all, without firing a shot, and images from films such as Terminator 2, which still carries a punch.

In summation: Bog standard acting, below par special effects, mediocre plotting and a soft approach to one of the most disturbing topics in cinema let this project down, leaving us with a film which is dated and who’s only real legacy being its impact of the politics of the day, and thank lord for that!

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