The Day After (1983)

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Released 5-Sep-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 121:48
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (65:14) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Nicholas Meyer
ABC Motion Pictures
MRA Entertainment
Starring Jason Robards
Jobeth Williams
Steve Guttenberg
John Cullum
John Lithgow
Bibi Besch
Lori Lethin
Amy Madigan
Jeff East
Georgann Johnson
William Allen Young
Calvin Jung
Lin McCarthy
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $9.95 Music David Raksin

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Day Before . . . The Day Of . . . The Day After

    Only two films have ever really made me cry. The first was ET - The Extra Terrestrial which I first saw as an impressionable 12 year old, although to be fair when I say cry it was more of a light misting of the eyes as Elliot and the withering ET battle to get the poor alien home. The second film to make me cry had a more profound effect. It actually caused me to burst into uncontrolled tears after viewing and endure several sleepless nights. That film was The Day After and it still ranks as one of the most effecting pieces of cinema that I have ever seen more than 20 years after it was made.

    I was in year nine at high school and for some reason one of the key subjects we were studying in social studies was all about the threat of nuclear war and what it would mean to mankind. As part of our studies we were sent on an excursion to the city to see this new film that was causing a bit of a stir around the world for its graphic depiction of what would happen should a nuclear holocaust occur. In the early 1980s the Cold War was still raging with both the United States and The Soviet Union in a never-ending competition to see who could accumulate the most nuclear warheads on their missiles and it seemed only a matter of time before one of them decided to use them. I can vividly remember being driven home by my dad after seeing this sitting in the car in complete silence looking up at the buildings of the CBD and wondering what would happen if a nuclear bomb was to land on my home town. That night I could not shake the feeling of impending doom from my mind and went to bed very upset. The fact that the US was run by a seemingly trigger happy former movie star (Ronald Reagan) and that my house was just a stone's throw from one of our country's major naval bases didn't help my emotional state.

    The absolute key strength of this film is the fact it pushes all the politics and virtually all military operations to the background and focuses on the effects a nuclear attack would have on the general populace of a small town in the middle of America. The film's characters represent a sample of American (or Western) life. There's a young family, a young bride-to-be, a uni student, a farmer, a doctor and an academic. The cast is all virtually unknown with only Jason Robards who plays the doctor lending some Hollywood cred. Much of the cast came from the real town of Lawrence in Kansas which further adds to the almost documentary and therefore realistic feel. The film also featured early roles for Steve Guttenberg as the uni student and John Lithgow as the academic.

    The film's first act depicts a normal life for all of these people. There are wedding plans and the first day of uni to attend, babies to deliver, crops to plant and operations to perform. But the television news reports soon advise that not all is well around the world. It seems the Soviets are mobilising their forces around West Germany and look like they might invade. It could only be a matter of time before the US comes to the rescue. But like everyone in the world, the citizens of Lawrence, Kansas think that surely it couldn't come down to using nuclear weapons.

    The situation gets rapidly out of hand and when it is confirmed that the Soviets have made their move the US springs into action. It isn't confirmed who fired first (apparently to gain US military approval and access to file vision, the film makers had to guarantee to show the Soviets firing first - something they refused to do), but the sight of Minuteman ICBM missiles launching from fields around Kansas City and heading towards Russia stops the local populace in their tracks before they realise they have about 30 minutes before the Soviet missiles hit back. Pandemonium ensues.

    The rest of the film deals with the aftermath of the nuclear attack. The death, the destruction, and the general breakdown of society as people scramble to survive and escape the devastating effects of the radioactive fallout.

    The film was originally made for television and shown in the US on 20 November 1983. Apparently more than half of the adult population at the time (more than 100 million people) tuned in and with no commercial breaks taken after the nuclear missiles hit the impact was to say the least devastating. The acting is at times a little wooden, the script a little sappy and the effects (especially the mushroom clouds) are very hokey, but this is a devastating and emotionally affecting film that is still highly recommend even after 20 years and much change to the political landscape of the world.

"Einstein said he didn't know how they would fight World War Three, but he knew how they would fight World War Four . . .

 . . . With sticks and stones."

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Transfer Quality


    With this film originally a made-for-television event in 1983, it's fairly obvious that we should expect a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. I do remember seeing this at the cinema back in early 1984 as part of a school trip but I was at an age when aspect ratios were the last thing on my mind and I simply cannot remember how it looked some 21 years ago.

    What we actually have here is a widescreen offering, framed at 1.78:1 but not enhanced for 16x9 displays. It would appear from a couple of scenes to be cropped from the original aspect, but there is nothing to really get in a boil over. It looks fine in a widescreen aspect ratio, but would have been nice if it was 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is just average in terms of clarity with a softness to many of the scenes and little in the way of fine detail. Shadow detail is not compromised and there is no edge enhancement present.

    There do not appear to be any glaring compression artefacts or film-to-video artefacts, but the same cannot be said for film artefacts which abound in all manner of shapes and sizes. The smaller ones can be ignored but a couple of the larger blotches do tend to distract.

    There are no subtitles.

    This is a dual layered disc with the layer change occurring at 65:14.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one audio soundtrack on this disc, this being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 channel effort that is almost certainly mono.

    This isn't a great soundtrack by any means, but it's on a par with what it would have sounded like when shown on television back in 1983. There is considerable harshness overall and the dynamic range is really quite lacking. It is quite thin with very little bottom end to talk of. The dialogue is moderately clear and mostly easily understood.

    There is no surround channel or subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Aside from a little menu audio there are no extras on this disc.

Main Menu Audio

    In a grab from the film, John Lithgow's character is calling out over the short wave radio "This is Lawrence, Kansas. Is there anybody there . . . Anybody at all.". It's quite chilling.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 disc is similar to the Region 4 in that it also features mono audio. It does feature a 1.33:1 aspect ratio video transfer which is presented in what would have been the original aspect when the movie was shown on television. But the Region 4 disc does not suffer due to the 1.78:1 aspect and at an RPI of $9.95 it's hard to go past the local product.


    The Day After is still a thought-provoking and often harrowing film dealing with the effects of a nuclear attack. With the film focussing on the lives of everyday people in a supposedly safe backwater Kansas town, you soon realise that nobody could survive a nuclear war. It didn't make me cry this time around, but the emotional effect is still strong.

    Originally made for TV, the video on this DVD is in a widescreen aspect ratio but is not 16x9 enhanced and it certainly is not the sharpest image going around. Film artefacts are the biggest problem.

    The sole soundtrack is fairly thin and quite bland. It is almost certainly a mono effort.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

Other Reviews
Michael D's Region 4 DVD Info Page - Gavin Bollard (bio - updated 9 Nov 2005)

Comments (Add)
Day After could've been more dramatic - Glimmer REPLY POSTED
Re:...could have been more dramatic - wolfgirv
"Testament" is the superior film -