Dear Reader: Please not that this is a comparison that mainly concerns the different versions from a German perspective. The mentioned DVDs and other versions are often the German ones. However, there do exist several versions of "The Day After" and most likely the differences which are shown in this comparison can be found in the versions which have been released in your country in one way or another. Beside that, the intro offers a lot of general information about the movie itself and different versions from different countries. That’s why we decided to translate this comparison as well to give interested readers an impression.
As already mentioned in the previous comparison, there are different versions of "The Day After" available. Amongst other things, the reason for that were differences between studio and director, restrictions from the network plus an originally different design for the movie with a running time of more than 4 hrs. It was supposed to be a two-parter but it finally became a movie with a running time of approx. 2 hrs. followed by a discussion. For that matter 50% of the footage needed to be removed / was scratched from production schedule. If and when the 4 hour version (or at least the unknown footage, e.g. as deleted scenes on a future release) is going to released is unknown. Not even the 25th anniversairy in November 2008 was a reason for MGM or ABC to come up with a new release which is weird because those kinds of anniversairy are usually the perfect opportunity for a re-release of a classic.
There are five different versions availabe and two of them were officially released in the Western world: the first DVD Edition aka "Modern Version" and the DVD re-release which equals the first edition on VHS.
II. Modern Version (First DVD Edition)
After the breakup of the Sovjet Union and the official end of the cold war, the decision to edit a new, more modern version that lacks many scenes about the East/West conflict was made. Other scenes about that subject were recut. These alterations were a (imo pathetic) attempt to maintain currentness. But for some reason, lots of scenes that refer to the cold war are still in it. This version is the most common version and is being used for DVD releases and TV broadcasts. The following comparison is about this version.
An interesting fact is that this so-called Modern Version contains shorts scenes that aren't in the Uncut Version. The reason for that might be problems with the original material (like film tears) but there's at least one quite interesting scene that proves otherwise: there is one entire scene missing in the Uncut Version which is why that needs to be explained in particular.
III. Movie archeology
Here we have a shot of Dr. Oakes carrying a person to the hospital.The person's identity remains secret but hair and clothes don't allow any other explanation. It's actually quite annoying that the Special Uncut Version lacks the entire scene but it could be worse - except that this tiny scene does give a hint to the Original Version (4 hrs.).
Dr.Oakes carrying the person across post nuclear ruins also pops up earlier in the form of a distance shot of the main street of Lawrence - but it never was the director's or producer's intention that Dr. Oakes could be identified in the first place.
The reason becomes obvious when the order of the entire scene (Dr. Oakes walking across the ruins of Lawrence), which is equal in either of the versions btw, is being examined carefully.
Because this sdistance shot proves that recuts for the first release (US TV premiere in 1983) were made because the course of action is the same in any version:
First the distance shot of Lawrence in ruins (Dr.Oakes without jacket), then a cut to Dr. Oakes walking across the ruins (with jacket), then the shot in front of the hospital (Dr.Oakes without jacket) which is missing in the "Special Uncut Version" - an obvious hint to an altered order of the scenes. It would also make more sense to end a longer plot line (Dr. Oakes walking across the ruins, saving someone, taking him or her to a hospital) with a distance shot.
As already mentioned, that's quite a hint to the missing footage from the Original Version. What other reason could there be to shoot a scene with Dr. Oakes carrying a wounded person across the city without any explicit clue that it's Dr. Oakes (one can only see him from far away in the distance shot plus his back for a short period). That implies the scene of him walking across the ruins was originally much longer and the jacket is missing because he covers a dead bosy or sth. while he's taking someone to the hospital but that's just an assumption.
Different "Behind the Scenes" footage from the shooting in Lawrence contains unreleased footage of post nuclear Lawrence which supports that theory.
Last but not least I'd like to mention two short scenes I've found in the process of searching the internet that never came up in any version so far. The first scene shows Bruce, Denise Dahlberg's fiancé. There's a TV trailer from 1983 that shows him looking up the sky during the launch of the missiles.
Furthermore, I accidentally found the original speech of the President of the United States refering to Ronald Regan. That scene was re-dubbed for any following (English) versions.
Compared are the German DVD re-release, called "Special Uncut Version" in this comparison", and the First German DVD release, called "Modern Version".
Special Uncut Version
Running time: 115:13 minutes Rating: FSK 12
First German DVD release
Running time: 121:54 minutes Rating: FSK 12
Both versions are represented by the German DVD by Euro Video.
The "Special-Uncut-Version" lacks footage with a total length of 19 seconds.
0:00.16 First edition - missing textbox in the "Special Uncut Version".
0:08.03 Alternate shot: Instead of the newspaper report with the topic "President warns Sowjets!, the "Special Uncut Version" contains a further shot of the soldiers whereby the first edition contains the newspaper report.
0:08.56 Extended shot: When Nicky and Bruce are on their way to the church by bike, the "Special Uncut Version" lacks a short scene of them driving past Nicky's father.
0:24.58 When Mccoy sees his wife, he pauses for a second.
0:30.10 Missing shot of Dr. Oakes' son playing football.
0:39.43 Displaced audio track: during the panic buying in the supermarket, the audio track starts approx. 4 sec later.
0:43.29 Missing shot of a bomber taking off.
0:43.29 Missing shot of a field of flowers.
0:43.29 Missing shot of Dr.Oakes (please check the intro for more details).
1:53.20 The camera zooms out while Dr. Oakes is dying. Professor Huxley's voice from the off isn't audible before the transition.
1:53.31 The English text at the end of the movie has been replaced by two German textboxes in the "Special Uncut Version". The German textboxes are being displayed for a longer period which causes a differences of 51 sec but it's not going to be considered in the calculation.
Additional info: Due to the recut, particularly in the part before the atomic war, many originally displayed textboxes needed to be renewed. No difference in running time has been caused due to this.