The Day After – Blu-ray Review


Film Title: The Day After
Release Date: 1983
Runtime: 122 | 127 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Audio Formats: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 | 1.78:1 (Theatrical)
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Versions Available: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: 8/8/18
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Cast: Jason RobardsJoBeth WilliamsSteve GuttenbergJohn CullumJohn LithgowBibi BeschLori LethinAmy MadiganJeff EastGeorgann JohnsonWilliam Allen Young

the_day_after_24click to view a 1080p Blu-ray Screenshot

The Movie

The Day After was a made for TV movie that originally aired in November 1983 on the ABC television network. The film was directed by Nicholas Meyer, best known for “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982). The screenplay was written by  Edward Hume, best known for his writing on the TV movie “21 Hours at Munich” and the film “Two-Minute Warning” – both from 1976.

The film was set mostly around Kansas areas, and it was primarily shot there with cooperation from towns nearby. In fact, local Kansas residents also served as extras in the film. The plot here was about the threat of nuclear war breaking out, and involved first getting us familiar with a cast of characters for us to find relatable, as they were halfway through the film going to face a very serious change of life. What happens, no “spoilers” intended, is the cold war conflict going on at the time during the early 1980s has escalated to the point where ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missiles) are launched by one side.

The characters you will meet here include some who work at the Memorial General Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. The main character to the story is a doctor named “Russell Oakes” (Jason Robards), who meets with his daughter at a museum and makes his way home to his wife “Helen” (Georgann Johnson), where they will eventually see the news on television, much like the rest of the characters from the surrounding Kansas area.

The other spectrum of characters included some teenagers just starting at the local university. Two guys both starting out at the university and planning to work at the hospital are “Bruce Gallatin” (Jeff East) and “Stephen Klein” (Steve Guttenberg). These two medical students will have a connection aside from at college. Stephen just a modest single guy from Joplin, Missouri. Bruce is a rather cocky guy and is engaged to be married to a girl named “Denise Dahlberg” (Lori Lethin), who lives with her parents (The Dahlbergs) on their family farm. Denise’s father “Jim Dahlberg” (John Cullum) works hard to take care of his family and maintain his farm, and he is admittedly a simple man of sorts. Jim, just as the rest of the characters will learn while watching a television news report that there is an impending threat of war. The simple farmer is extremely worried by this news, and knows very little about nuclear bombs or radioactivity.

Meanwhile around the university campus you have some Science department folks, namely “Joe Huxley” (John Lithgow). Huxley is one of those most worried by this event as it unfolds first in news and then right before his very eyes. Back at the hospital where our leading character Russell Oakes works as a doctor, you have folks like nurse “Nancy Bauer” (JoBeth Williams), and Dr. Oakes coworker “Dr. Sam Hachiya” (Calvin Jung). There’s also the perspective of “Airman Billy McCoy” (William Allen Young), serving in the Air Force at a facility near the Kansas City area, who has to leave his wife behind to work his job during this. His story will also be something you get to follow. That’s what this movie is comprised of, a lot of stories of different types of people, and how this eventual nuclear war and the fallout will totally end some lives, and change every life of those who survive the initial blasts, and will continue to suffer from radiation exposure.

It’s been nearly 35 years since “The Day After” aired on ABC, leaving people thinking and some scared so badly ABC had actually set up a toll free (800 number) hotline. The TV movie was even directly followed by a special episode of “Viewpoint” hosted by Ted Koppel, that featured a panel with Carl Sagan, Henry Kissinger, and others discussing the movie, and mainly the threat of nuclear war. Sadly that TV special that followed is not found on here as a bonus material, but you can find it online.

I think that this film is relevant today just as much as it was in 1983, sadly. “M.A.D.” (mutually assured destruction) via nuclear war is a realistic threat we should not forget, and this TV movie should still serve as the cautionary tale that it was intended to be. It’s a depressing thing to see at times, but so is life in general. You don’t stop living it though, do you? No, you keep going because of man’s will to survive. I also feel perhaps this should be rewritten and remade, once again as a TV movie and aired on a major network.

Movie Rating: 4 (out of 5)

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Video Quality

This was originally a made for TV movie, so you get both the original TV Cut in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio (as it originally aired) and then a Theatrical Cut in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. “The Day After” was shot on 35MM film using Panavision cameras, according to the technical specifications page over at IMDb. Because this release includes both the original TV cut (broadcast) and a Theatrical cut (in different aspect and quality): I’ll be covering each version (disc) separately in terms of video quality, as well as offer up some specific scene comparisons via screenshots from the two sources. Below I shall start by offering up some of those screenshot comparisons between the two versions, to show you first the visual differences in quality, color, the amount of film grain, and visual improvement (found on the TV Cut).

So, take a look at the visual differences (below) between the two versions of the movie, presented on different Blu-ray Discs. Click on screenshots below to view a full version in a full 1920 x 1080 resolution, uncompressed in PNG image format. Also, you can find more near identical shots like these from both versions of the movie on its Blu-ray Screenshots for this release. Hopefully by looking at the difference in quality of these two versions you’ll learn to appreciate how at times impressive the TV cut can look, especially in comparison. That version obviously got way more attention, as I’ll discuss more further below.

TV vs. Theatrical Comparisons:

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TV Cut Video Quality:

This version, the TV Cut, is presented in the 1.33:1 (4×3) aspect ratio as it originally aired. There has been a considerable amount of work (perhaps a slight remastering or restoration) done on this, with a lot of visual imperfections cleaned up. However, this doesn’t have every little visual issue cleaned up entirely, as you’ll notice a decent amount of dirt, scratches, hairs and such on the film print has been left. There is one extremely healthy amount of film grain, that I found the be very pleasing. Only because of the use of stock footage near the midpoint of the movie I cannot say the film grain is totally consistent, but other than that it seems to be. The black level is solid, resulting in a sharper image. There’s a definite newfound amount of detail here,  especially in close-ups which can look somewhat impressive throughout. The color grading on this TV cut seems to be a bit more realistic, and (as one would expect it) delivers more accurate fleshtones as well.

Overall, this HD video presentation of the original TV cut of the film is for the most part solid, and at times impressive for a 1983 (made for) TV movie. The folks at Kino Lorber, in my opinion, have done this cautionary tale of a film visual justice on this cut.

Theatrical Cut Video Quality:

This version, the Theatrical Cut, of the originally made for TV movie, is presented in the 1.78:1 (16×9) aspect ratio: entirely filling your widescreen display. This comes from a very rough transfer that seems to have not been cleaned up too much, as it suffers from at times a bit excessive film grain, and lots of visual imperfections. By lots of visual imperfections I am referring to things such as scratches, dirt, hairs, and every so occasionally even damage to the 35MM film print. The black level for the most part is solid, but not entirely. The color here seems way off in comparison to the TV Cut of the film (pictured above) which looks much better.

All and all, the theatrical cut offers up an alright HD transfer and results in alright HD presentation, for being what should in all honesty be considered a bonus material. I’m thankful for being it being house on a separate Blu-ray Disc, to watch if you decide to. If that had not been done it would have made the quality of the TV cut suffer from compression, sharing a disc for two cuts of a film. That said, I think Kino Lorber made the right choice here with putting this cut on a separate disc, as well as in not focusing too much on this cut, and more focusing on the original TV cut getting a better visual presentation.

To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t find this at all to be appealing if it was the quality for the main (or in this case original) version of the movie, but that’s not the case. This Theatrical Cut is just an additional version of the movie, cropped from the original 1.33:1 aspect with an additional 7 minutes of scenes and editing changes. It wasn’t really worth the effort of fixing most of the problems visually for that reason, in my own personal opinion. This version is definitely worth watching, don’t get me wrong. So, I’m glad it is here for you to watch (so you choose to) after you’ve seen the original TV movie as intended (as the TV Cut). Still though, I think most people would rather see the other version (TV Cut) of the movie, and should opt for that version if they want to really experience it in superior video quality.

Overall Video Quality:

It’s obvious that the TV Cut (in 4×3) got the most attention here in it’s bit of remastering or perhaps slight restoration. The Theatrical Cut (in 16×9) comes in a very, very rough form with even more (at times excessive) film grain, lots of visual imperfections and damage such as hairs, scratches, and even one burn – I spotted. That theatrical version, in my own person opinion, should not be what I base my rating for the video quality on. Instead the rating should be based on the TV cut, as that was how this was originally aired. That all being said, the TV cut looks at times impressive for a 1983 made for TV movie, even if it had a bit larger budget for the time. It [the TV cut] has its share of visual imperfections but comes with a more healthy amount of visible film grain, although admittedly is not entirely consistent.

Just remember that “The Day After” was a TV movie, so we shouldn’t expect it to look breathtaking. I believe the Blu-ray debut offers a pretty near solid HD presentation (on the TV cut), earning it a 4 (out of 5) rating. The Theatrical cut is much more rough around the edges so-to-speak (as mentioned), and is really only worthy of about a 3 (out of 5) rating for video quality – although I’m not rating that version of the movie, just the TV cut. You should consider the Theatrical Cut included as a form of bonus material, as you’ll hear me discuss further a bit below.

Video Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)

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Audio Quality

Audio here is presented in DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio Stereo. It should be noted the film comes from a Mono source, as stated on IMDb‘s technical specifications page. In 1983, when this aired, most folks had a TV that only had a mono speaker anyway, so it made sense to not really waste time on making this into a stereo mix back then – would be my best guess. In fact, the first television show to ever be broadcast in stereo wouldn’t be until 1986 (reportedly the show “Alf”).

So, let’s take that all in and realize getting a stereo mix here is very reasonable. It would have made very little sense in trying to make a 5.1 surround mix for this. That being said, this mix doesn’t sound absolutely perfect, coming with a bit of hiss throughout. The sound mix also lacks real bass during the climactic action scenes near the latter half of the film. The sound can at times during action sound a tad bit flat in ways, but it still manages to get the job done. Dialogue is delivered distinct here, and never is overpowered by the sound effects or the original music by David Raksin. Raskin’s original music sounds pretty solid here throughout (despite the slight hiss during quieter moments).

All and all, the TV cut of the film comes with a pretty solid audio presentation that proves Stereo can do some things justice. There’s just so much you can work with when you only have a mono sound source. I think this sounds good enough  to leave those who saw it originally air somewhat impressed by the improvement in terms of sound quality, in comparison  to how they heard it back then. It’s been cleaned up some, but not totally. It has a few lackluster moments, as discussed. Still, it is a near solid audio mix for a 1983 TV movie. It sounds better than I expected it would.

Audio Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)

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Bonus Materials

Bonus materials on this release all are presented in 1080p HD video with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo sound – unless otherwise noted below. Bonus is split up between the two Blu-ray Discs as listed below.

  • Both the TV (Television) Cut (122 minutes in 1.33:1 aspect ratio) and the Theatrical Cut (127 minutes in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio) are included on separate  Blu-ray Discs. One should consider the option to watch the Theatrical Cut as a form of bonus material, of sorts. As mentioned that version of the movie offers different quality in its video presentation, whereas the TV Cut represents the original movie and received much more attention in terms of remastering and restoration efforts.

The TV Cut Blu-ray Disc includes the following bonus material:

  • Interview with star JoBeth Williams – “Shelter: Remembering The Day After (12:41 – HD) is NEW and was created specifically for this Blu-ray release. JoBeth talks about the paranoia going on during the early eighties and what all built up to a TV movie like this being made. Williams says that the choice to do this project came because of combination of wanting to work with Jason Robards and director Nicholas Meyer.
  • Interview with director Nicholas Meyer – “Silence In Heaven: Looking Back The Day After (28:06 – HD) is NEW and was created specifically for this Blu-ray release. This proves to be very informative, and gives a great glimpse into what all went into getting the film made, as well as the emotional turmoil it put the director through. He doesn’t mention it here, but it’s been reported that he suffered flu-like symptoms during the making of the film, that would later be attributed to a deep state of depression. He does mention that his analyst (therapist) suggested in ways he should do this film (after coming off making the second “Star Trek” motion picture) and how he now in some ways regrets taking that advice, making that choice. However, it’s obvious that Nicholas Meyer proves to be proud of this film and what it would serve as: a cautionary tale.

The Theatrical Cut Blu-ray Disc includes the following bonus material:

  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Lee Gambin and Comic Artist/Writer Tristan Jones – is only available on the Theatrical Cut of the film.

Overall the bonus materials here prove to be very informative, entertaining with two new featurettes (interviews) done specifically this year for the Blu-ray release, as well as the audio commentary (only on the theatrical cut). The real disappointments of sorts here of materials I found to be lacking were the audio commentary by Director Nicholas Meyer, originally found on the Laserdisc version of theatrical cut, as well as the special episode of ABC’s “Viewpoint” that aired immediately after this TV movie. That television special featured some very insightful discussion about the threat of a nuclear war, in reality. One last issue. It says on the back of the packaging that “Original Theatrical Trailers” are included. I could not find these trailers anywhere on either of the two discs. Perhaps this was a typo.

Bonus Materials Rating: 3 (out of 5)

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Closing Thoughts

“The Day After” was one very memorable, and popular TV movie. In fact it was one of the most popular made for TV movies of all-time. In November of 1983 ABC made this into one big event, that included a 800 number for those that panicked, and it even was directly followed by an hour and a half-long (commercial free) special edition episode of ABC’s “Viewpoint” hosted by Ted Koppel, which included a panel discussing the film, and possibility of nuclear war. This special sadly is not included here as a bonus material, but you can easily find it online by searching.

The video quality and audio quality here, on the TV cut, prove to be pretty solid and do this cautionary tale justice. The bonus materials are nice, considering I am rating the Theatrical Cut as part of them. There are a few things missing, that I felt should have been included (as mentioned), however due to copyright reasons and such, I’m sure that just wasn’t a possibility. Overall, this is a solid Blu-ray Disc release as part of the Kino Lorber Studio Classics line.

In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4 (out of 5) for video quality
4 (out of 5) for audio quality
3 (out of 5) for bonus materials

Overall Verdict:
Cautionary Tale Done Justice

Available As:

2018 Blu-ray Release

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