kindertrauma random header image

Traumafessions :: Reader Toonhead on The Day After

September 15th, 2010 by aunt john · 12 Comments

Dear Uncle L. and Aunt J.,

First of all, you have created a fabulous website. I would like to nominate this site for the “Most Addictive Webpage Ever Award,” and if such an award does not exist, it ought to! It is easy to tell that the folks that write in with contributions are dyed-in-the-wool film lovers. (Or possibly DIED-in-the-wool, considering the movies discussed…)

Anyway, my Kindertrauma is the one glaring omission to your movie list. I am referring to the T.V. movie, THE DAY AFTER. The movie features JASON ROBARDS, JOBETH WILLIAMS, JOHN LITHGOW, and totally eighties heartthrob STEVE GUTTENBERG.

When this was broadcast on ABC, I was in junior high school. The Powers That Be decided that all of the students at my school should watch this film so that we could hold a discussion on it in Social Studies the next day. Hey…watching a movie as homework, sounds great!

Well, not so great, after all.

Between shots of people being vaporized by the nuclear blast, a little boy being blinded, and the survivors slowly dying of radiation sickness, this was not a movie for a pre-teen with delicate sensibilities. Other scary films I had seen up to that point had caused oh, maybe a single sleepless night, but this one freaked me out for DAYS! I kept thinking about someone, somewhere, without warning, pushing a few buttons, and plunging the whole world into nuclear Armageddon. Mind you, I think if I would watch the whole movie again as an adult, it would have some Moments of Cheese. But I did pull up the clip of the nuclear strike in Kansas a short time ago, and it still gives me the shivers.

Tags: Traumafessions

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Amanda By NightNo Gravatar // Sep 15, 2010 at 9:20 am

    I could not bring myself to watch this film when it first aired. I was SO bugged out by the idea of it, that was enough to terrify me! Looking back on the anti-Russian 80s, I sometimes forget how scary a decade it could be. The gothy music of the 80s made a career out of it! 🙂

    A few years ago, TV Land did Movie of the Week Week and I taped most of them. The Day After played and I only watched it in bits. I just can’t seem to bring myself to the horror of it!

  • 2 Chuckles72No Gravatar // Sep 15, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I re-watched this again about a year ago.  I was stunned by how hellish the depiction of the attack was – the montage of the first explosions is unforgettable and is easily the most horrifying moments in made-for-tv film history.
    And at the end , they run a card stating that the horrible nightmare that we all just witnessed was a toned-down portrayal of what would likely happen in a full nuclear exchange and that the real outcome would likely be much, much worse!

  • 3 craigNo Gravatar // Sep 15, 2010 at 10:19 am

    You just jarred my memory of this one. I actually have a very strong kindertramatic memory of NOT having seen it. This came on TV when I was in the third grade, and there was a very dire warning put out to parents in the area to have their kids in bed before it aired. We were all sitting around as a family enjoying one of those super-artifical lemon flavored cakes (with that ridiculas super-lemony icing), when my mom folded up the table and annouced that we all had to hit the bed because she wanted to watch a movie about nuclear holocaust that we wouldn’t be able to see. Funny thing, because back in those days we’d already seen DEATHSHIP and SALOM’S LOT on TV, which my mother hadn’t objected to because they hadn’t come with an advanced parental warning.
    Thanks for resurrecting this memory. I can still taste the lemon cake in my mind.  And that sense of parental-lock defeat.

  • 4 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Sep 15, 2010 at 10:34 am

    I also have very clear memories of NOT watching it! (My parents watched it though). I went to a Catholic grammar school and the nuns used to try to tell us what to watch (a biggie they used to push was LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE, and I remember a kid I sat across from getting thrashed for referring to  the show as “LITTLE SKUNKS ON THE PRARIE”) and I remember them stressing how important it was that we watch this Made For TV Movie because we would be discussing it in school all week. I mumbled something along the lines of “yeah, go fuck yourself” and refused to watch it.. I didnt like that they thought they could tell me what to watch! they may have bossed my ass around from 8 – 3 but after that I was free to go home and rot my brain with THREES COMPANY and LOVE BOAT!

  • 5 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Sep 15, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I think the only nuclear holocaust imagery comparable to this film (outside the documentary footage of Hiroshima/Nagasaki) was the beginning of Terminator 2.  If there was any imagery that left an indelible mark it was the charred, huddled children being blown into dust by the secondary blast.
    But, as it so often is, reality is scarier than fantasy.  Few people know the Soviet nuclear arsenal was, and may still be, on a dead-hand system.  In the US, there is a definite chain of command with multiple safeguards, multiple lock-outs and multiple, simultaneous acknowledgments that must be met before launch critical status.  But in the Soviet Union, the missiles were set to launch every day unless a desist signal was entered.  Thus, if there was a surprise nuclear attack by the US on the Soviet Union that killed their command and control structure, a ‘dead-hand’ was set to launch the missiles automatically for retaliation.  This was one of the primary concerns of Y2k since many Soviet systems weren’t Y2K compliant.  What would happen if their systems froze when ‘dead-hand’ was initiated?
    Now just digest that.  Every day, while we were growing up, we were literally targeted for full-scale nuclear annihilation unless someone gave a stop order.  Every day, the Soviet Union planned to vaporize you unless someone pushed a button.

  • 6 PinchyNo Gravatar // Sep 15, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    For some reason, the “Powers that Be” at my middle school had us watch Threads which I guess was the BBC’s answer to The Day After, and I still find it pretty disturbing.  In typical BBC fashion, it makes up for its modest budget by being dark, gritty, and over the top.  Thankfully, the full version is available to watch in all its glory on YouTube.  Be sure to look out for the lady pissing her pants when the first mushroom cloud appears!

  • 7 aunt johnNo Gravatar // Sep 15, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    I’m part of the NOT being able to watch this movie club when it first aired; however I did have to sit through Threads in high school. Isn’t there a couple in that who are in the midst of doing it when the bomb hits and then you see them melted together?

  • 8 Rev. AustinNo Gravatar // Sep 16, 2010 at 5:37 am

    bdwilcox – that’s fascinating!  I love finding stuff out like that.
    I love this film, precisely because it’s so bleak haha they don’t make ’em like they used to!

  • 9 michaelNo Gravatar // Sep 16, 2010 at 9:38 am

    It doesn’t have anything to do with nuclear attack but I remember watching Gremlins in 5th grade class but the teacher shut it off half way through when they realized it wasn’t just about the cute creature on the poster.
    I remember telling that same teacher that I had just seen Videodrome and she seemed disturbed by that.

  • 10 bjkatcherNo Gravatar // Sep 19, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    I remember growing up in mid Missouri and my third grade teacher telling me how the Russians would nuke St. Louis and Kansas City and we’d all die of radiation poisoning. Day After was okay, ‘Threads’ was much more disturbing.

  • 11 Hail AntsNo Gravatar // Sep 25, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    I was 18 when The Day After ran. Seeing it now it looks pretty much the same: Rather cheesy, overly melodramatic, and with horrible SFX even for 1983! Besides all the obvious 50s nuke test footage it used footage from, what was that, Damnation Alley?! Didn’t give me nightmares, made me laugh. Just a lousy TV-movie.

  • 12 ScrewedUpTeenNo Gravatar // Jan 2, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    My friend made an Arthur YouTube Poop where the main character watches The Day After.

You must log in with your Kindertrauma account to post a comment: