40 Years Ago, Nuclear War Movie in Missouri Freaked Everyone Out
I remember watching this movie for the first time just like it was yesterday. It was a movie about nuclear war that featured a Missouri family and it completely freaked everyone out.
Hard to believe it's now been 40 years when The Day After debuted on TV. It aired on ABC the night of November 20, 1983 and it sent shockwaves (in a non-nuclear way) through pop culture at the time.
If you remember, the movie begins as international tensions are growing between the United States and what was then the Soviet Union about a dispute in West Germany. The focus was on a family in Harrisonville, Missouri, 40 miles southeast of Kansas City. The University of Kansas and a doctor in Kansas City played by Jason Robards was also a prominent part of The Day After.
The movie hit a crescendo of terror right after people in a grocery store learn that the Russians have just airburst a nuke over NATO troops in Germany. Shortly after that, the crowd at what I believe was a University of Kansas football game see nearby missiles launched. Nuclear war was on.
The Day After was so powerful (in a movie kind of way) that it even caused then President Reagan to change his view on nuclear policy according to Wikipedia. According to the TV ratings in November of 1983, over 100 million Americans watched it. That was the largest made-for-TV movie audience in history.
I remember being at the beginning of my senior year at Hannibal High School and our social studies class discussed it the next day. The special effects of the nukes being detonated were really impressive for that era. It made more than a few of us pay a lot more attention to the Cold War rhetoric between the US and Soviet Union for the next year or two for sure.
And to think it all began in the tiny town of Harrisonville, Missouri...the tiny movie town in the Show Me State that freaked everyone out when it went "boom" on TV...now nearly 40 years ago.