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The Day After (with director Nicholas Meyer in person) at UW Cinematheque

October 7, 2022 @ 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

A promotional still of the Dahlberg family and their apocalypse stowaway (Steve Guttenberg, staring at the camera) in "The Day After."

A promotional still of the Dahlberg family and their apocalypse stowaway (Steve Guttenberg, staring at the camera) in “The Day After.”

Excerpt from Maxwell Courtright’s review: Director Nicholas Meyer appears here in person to introduce his 1983 TV disaster drama, which features a mix of notable actors of the time (Jason Robards, JoBeth Williams, and Steve Guttenberg) and local people cast for maximum Kansas-ness, certainly has the quality of something conceived more as a “special event” than a true film. Individual plot threads are played for their hyperbolic human drama while still paling in comparison to the completely blown-out existential stakes of nuclear war.

The Day After’s exposition sets up tourism ad-like idyllic images of rural Kansas and its everyday inhabitants—from the Dahlberg family preparing for their daughter Denise (Lori Lethin)’s wedding, to the students and professors at the University Of Kansas. When someone remarks that Kansas City is functionally “in the middle of nowhere” and not at risk of harm from the impending war between the U.S. and Soviets, John Lithgow’s grad student character responds (with classic Lithgow relish) that “there’s no nowhere anymore.” It’s a line that instills maximum terror in the American viewer-base who’d develop newfound fears of their hometowns no longer being safe from violence. Surely enough, war does break out, and the Kansas residents are sheltering, scavenging, and developing radiation sickness in short order. While it’s full of drama of the highest order, there’s a schematic quality about it in the logical playing-out of its horrors being the entire point.


October 7, 2022
7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
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UW Cinematheque
821 University Ave / 4070 Vilas Hall
Madison, WI 53706 United States
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(608) 262-3627

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