Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Destruction of Humanity Greatest Hits

I saw The Day After on the Sci-Fi channel over Thanksgiving weekend. For those of you too young to remember 1983, The Day After was a TV movie famous for its graphic (by the standards of the time) depiction of a full-scale nuclear war. I watched the first hour of it last weekend not because I cared about the movie itself, but because I wanted to watch the part where the missiles land in Kansas, fake-looking mushroom clouds cover the horizon and cutting-edge special effects technology from 1983 shows how a nuclear bomb turns people into X-rays before they disintegrate into individual atoms.

I read once that the movie was significant because, of all the TV depictions of nuclear war, this was the first to show people at ground zero instead of focusing on distant mushroom clouds, and wide-eyed guys in military command centers telling their superior officers “Sir, the missiles have destroyed Washington.” No, The Day After showed people either bursting into flame or vaporizing before they could. However, you first have to sit through an hour of character development. And I did, only to discover that Sci-Fi cut out all the X-ray parts. You don't see any living things directly killed by the nukes.

Which makes most of the beginning of the movie pointless, of course: the rationale behind showing us the farmer, his wife and their young children was to make us feel bad when they turn into X-rays.

But Sci-Fi cut out all the horrifying bits except the part where Steve Guttenberg survives. What a cheat! Luckily, I found the unedited clip on YouTube. Too bad I didn’t think to look there before I wasted an hour on the movie.

So here’s a business idea: since most disaster movies make you sit through several hours of bad plot just to reach a minute or two (at best) of world-shattering special effects, why not put out a greatest-hits DVD showing nothing but disaster porn money shots? With none of the boring disaster foreplay and disaster dirty talk. Comets and asteroids crashing into the earth, the Yellowstone supervolcano obliterating the western United States, mega-tsunamis crashing against all shores of the world ocean . . . I’m telling you, this would sell.


Blogger David Macharelli said...

I saw this movie when I was nine years old. Every plane passing overhead had me nervous. I don't think I slept well again until Rocky IV came out.

6:46 AM  
Anonymous A Moose said...

For those of you too young to remember 1983 and when I was nine years old

Oh god I feel old.......

6:59 AM  
Blogger Anne O'Neimaus said...

It actually does sound like an idea with potential. Could work for almost any genre (gunfight scenes from westerns, sex scenes from porn, etc.).

I don't know how you would deal with the copyright/royalties issues, since you wouldn't want to pay full-fare for only a few minutes of scores of flicks. I'm sure an enterprising soul could work something out, however.

I think there are compilations of movie trailers, which are almost the same thing - most of the "good parts" of a movie end up in the advertising trailers.

7:25 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

The pilot for ``Get Smart'' vaporized the villain just like that in 1965.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

I had no idea that Sci-Fi did such heavy editing on its movies .. what a load of crap!

1:25 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

A friend of mine works for Sci-Fi, and said that he didn't know about the cuts, but that was probably what they got from the syndicator.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Windypundit said...

"It actually does sound like an idea with potential. Could work for almost any genre (gunfight scenes from westerns, sex scenes from porn, etc.)."

As usual, the porn industry is way way way ahead of everyone else. They've had 4-hour all-money-shot tapes for years.

(Word gets around, guys talk, you hear things...)

4:52 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

If you want real graphic nuclear horror, I recommend a British flick called "Threads." It makes The Day After look like Sesame Street.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Kitty said...

I was, ahem, in college when this aired the first time. A bunch of us got together and watched it. It was, actually, quite terrifying at the time, but the Soviet Union was still a big deal then. Breshnev died earlier that year, and we all thought Andropov and Reagan were both lunatics who'd get us all killed. I remember many discussions about how the U.S. was going to something called 'lauch on warning' in which control of the missles was given to a computer that would launch at the first warning of a strike and not wait for confirmation. Back then, green block letters on a black screen was really high tech, and even word processors weren't common, so the thought that our lives depended on software was enough to keep our teeth rattling.

8:03 PM  

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