Tuesday, January 10, 2012


The Day After and The Day After Tomorrow

Roland Emmerich, the director of doomsday movies, gave us two epic adventures about global catastrophes – The Day After Tomorrow in 2004 and 2012 in 2009. While one is about the devastating impact of global warming where everything freezes to subzero and the earth is threatened by a second ice age, the other is about the cataclysmic solar storms that trigger volcanoes and earthquakes, wreaking terrible havoc on the planet. Big blockbusters, bombastic words. The only way to describe Emmerich’s mega-scale films that also include The Independence Day (1996), Godzilla (1998) and 10,000 BC (2008).

Emmerich has probably envisioned the destruction of earth and humankind by aliens, man, monster and nature more than any other director and at the pace he is churning out apocalyptic films, we will have a few more by 2020. I hope he does, so far they have been exciting and nerve wracking.

However, long before climatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid) tried in vain to convince a stubborn US vice president of an unprecedented climate change and the coming of a new ice age in The Day After Tomorrow, university science professor Dr. Russell Oakes (Jason Robards) walked the lone and barren path through the death streets of Kansas City in the aftermath of a devastating Soviet nuclear missile strike in The Day After (1983). The catastrophes pictured in both the films were manmade and, in spite of the twenty-one year timeline between the two, continue to pose a real threat even today.

The Day After, an American television film directed by Nicholas Meyer, was shot on a small budget and more like a reality biopic in the backdrop of the Cold War between the US and the USSR. I’d like to think that, at some point, the film brought the nuclear posturing Americans and the Soviets to the negotiating table.

The film, with its frightening portrayal of a nuclear bomb-hit city and the trail of radioactive destruction in its wake, did well at the global box office, including India. I saw the film alone in a theatre called Eros, one of the finest in south Bombay at the time, and recall being awed by the mushroom cloud on 70 mm.

The final scene in The Day After will forever stay with me: Dr. Oakes making his way through the burning and dying city, to see his home one last time, and Joe Huxley (John Lithgow) talking to a radio without hope, “Hello? This is Lawrence, Lawrence, Kansas. Is anybody there? Anybody? Anybody at all…” This is just about all I can remember about The Day After. How terrifying can that be!

For Tuesday's Forgotten and Overlooked films, go to Todd Mason's blog at www.socialistjazz.blogspot.com


  1. THe Day after was really strong. Some of those scenes have stayed with me a long time.

  2. I saw two of these films, Prashant. THE DAY AFTER with Jake Gyllenhaal and THE AFTER TOMORROW with Jason Robards. I think those were the titles. Or maybe it's the other way around. Confusing.

    Anyway, I know what you mean about scenes staying with you...

    In the newer film I hated the scenes in the library when they're forced to burn classic books for warmth. Oh boy, did that bother me.
    But really what else could they do?

    I love the kid who wouldn't burn the Guttenberg Bible. Not because of religion, but because of it's cultural heritage.

  3. I remember the storm of controversy that greeted the original screening of THE DAY AFTER in 1983 which now seems extraordinary. Fascinating idea to compare it with the fairly asinine Emmerich movie, which was, before a gazillion re-writes, originally a remake of WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE would you believe!

    Nicely done sir!

  4. It was, Charles, and depressing too. But I remember the film made quite an impact in India, especially as it came out at a time when President Reagan was holding arms control talks with the Soviets and deploying Pershing-II missiles in West Germany at the same time.

  5. Yvette, you're right, it's the other way around. I remember very little about THE DAY AFTER except for that last scene where the old man is walking through the street. I had forgotten all about this film till I saw THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW last week.

  6. Thanks, Sergio! I didn't know Emmerich's film was originally a remake of WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE. The film was rather silly, I agree, especially the part where Quaid goes out to find his son when the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is going under and actually succeeds in finding him and his friends in a museum. Now that was far-fetched.

  7. I just can't watch this sort of movie. I dream about it every night.

  8. Patti, hopefully doomsday scenarios will remain only on celluloid. And they all end happily!