The Day After (1983)
The Day After was an effective way of instilling a sense of both fear and respect for nuclear war into the minds of the American people. By portraying realistic doomsday scenarios that are played out in the lives of relatable families in a small city not unlike any other we would find in America, this film contextualizes the events prior to, during, and immediately after nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia was unleashed onto our own soil.
Nuts and Bolts
The Day After was a film originally envisioned by Brandon Stoddard, president of ABC Motion Picture Division, who wanted to explore the effects of a nuclear exchange on United States ...view middle of the document...
The mushroom cloud was actually created by injecting oil-based paints and inks into a water tank and filmed at high speed. This footage was later optically treated to provide a more realistic effect. In addition to this, the filmmakers utilized extensive use of stock footage from declassified Department of Defense film libraries, such as the scene where army personnel were receiving information about a nuclear strike during a test drill.
August 16, 1982 began production on the film. Because this movie utilized real places and cities in the U.S., a lot of intervention and closures were required in order to use these places. In one scene that was later deleted from the final cut, the crew shot at a man’s farm that included setting his barn on fire. ABC offered no monetary compensation but did rebuild his barn. In the scene where people are panic-buying at the supermarket, the supermarket was closed to the public that day and they utilized only local extras. Unfortunately, some people did not get notice that the supermarket was closed and showed up to shop for groceries. It is reported that when they arrived, they saw the chaos and panicked calling 911. Local extras were paid $75 to shave their heads (to represent effects of radiation) and not bathe until filming concluded. Additional influence on the town included the spending that occurred due to ABC staff and crew being present – it is reported that ABC spent over $1 million in the town of Lawrence, stimulating their economy. For the site of demolition in Kansas City, ABC paid a local city to halt demolition of a former hospital for one month so they could have a realistic site to portray the destruction to infrastructure brought forth by the nuclear bomb’s detonation. The makeup they had to put on Roberts for the last scene took over three hours and drew much attention from onlookers. The filming of the hospital scenes, which was done in Los Angeles, California, was carefully filmed with several on-site doctors and scientists to validate the accuracy of conditions presented by the patients.
One major issue faced by the producers was the length of the film. Originally, it was a four-hour ordeal after they pieced together all the scenes they had. Nicholas Meyer, director of the film, wanted to make sure the movie was not an overly-dramatized Hollywood disaster film. After spending several months digging through nuclear research and filming realistic scenes portraying the effects of nuclear fallout, Meyer had created this lengthy, four-hour film. Many arguments ensued about what details were to be included versus cut from the final 127-minute broadcast.
The casting for this movie was different than most. Instead of hiring as many experienced actors as they can, Hume and Meyer made many trips to Kansas City in hopes they could find “real” midwesteners to play roles in the movie. The producers hired a local professor of theater and film at the University of Kansas to take the lead in casting people...