Sunday, 6 October 2013

Aint War Hell? - The Day After (ABC 1983)

The Day After is a 1983 American TV movie starring Steve Guttenberg, John Lithgow, Bibi Besch and a whole list of others Ive never heard of.

Again this film depicts the events leading up to, during, and after a global nuclear war circa the early 1980s, concentrating on the lives of a small group of people who live in and around the area of Kansas City.

Like both "The War Game" and "Threads", the build up to the war itself takes place off screen, this time round, the war is caused by a Soviet build up of troops in East Berlin, which quickly degenerates into a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, leading to open conflict  worldwide, and eventually the launch of ICBMs.

The characters followed throughout the main plot are as follows:-

Dr Oakes - a fairly affluent doctor at one of Kansas Citys main hospitals. At the time that the first Soviet missiles destroy the main bulk of the city, he is on his way to give a lecture at the university of Missouri but gets stuck on the road after the EMP effects of the first missiles knock his car out of commission. He returns to the hospital and spends several weeks struggling to treat survivors, before finally succumbing to the effects of radiation sickness. A poignant scene is where at the end of the film, he manages to return home to find his house has become a smoking crater, and the only remains of his family is his wife's smashed wristwatch.

The Dahlberg family - Farmers from rural Kansas. The Dahlbergs farm is surrounded by missile silos, and on the day of the war they are preparing for their eldest daughters wedding. When the war breaks out, they take shelter in their cellar, and are eventually joined by Stephen Klein.

Stephen Klein - A medical student on his way home when the war started. Stephen finds himself caught in the open as the bombs start falling and takes cover inside which saves his life. He makes his way on foot back to the city but stumbles across the Dahlberg house on his way there, where he becomes like a surrogate son to them. At the end of the film, Stephen is suffering from the early stages of radiation sickness but has formed a relationship of sorts with the Dahlbergs eldest daughter.

Professor Huxley - A teacher at the university of Missouri. Professor Huxley provides most of the films "science bits", as well as several healthy doses of cynicism throughout, especially over mankinds chances of long term survival.

The film is marked by several very harrowing scenes, including people being vaporised by the initial nuclear blast, piles of dead human and animal corpses, people descending into savagery and all the usual stuff youd expect form this type of film.
One bit that jumps out for me though, it one scene where, shortly after the war has ended, people gather in the ruins of a church near the Dahlbergs home to listen to a sermon given by a scarred and burned priest, who cannot even bring himself to complete it due to the absolute obvious fact that its words, in which he attempts to extoll gods glory by stating that the faithful will be protected, whilst standing in the burnt out rubble of his church surrounded by wounded and dying parishioners in a country which is now lying in ruins and packed stalked by death.

A caption at the end of the film states that the film is a work of fiction, but is based on fact, and that the film makers intentionally toned down the effects of a nuclear conflict in order to make the story more beleviable, and that they hoped it would give those in positions of power something to think about.

Oddly enough, it did, as President Reagan was said to have viewed the film and bore it in mind when he pursued nuclear disarmament talks in the late 1980s.

As for my opinion on this film, id have to say that its a pretty good one, although it sacrifices the harsh realities of "Threads" in order to make the film more viewable to family audiences.

If you want to watch this movie, click HERE

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