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Testament
Testament
Actors: Jane Alexander, William Devane, Rossie Harris, Roxana Zal, Philip Anglim
Director: Lynne Littman
Genres: Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Military & War
PG     2004     1hr 29min

In TESTAMENT, an unexpected nuclear strike has occurred and no one knows who did it or why it happened. With her husband away on business, and now unable to be reached, Carol Weatherly must remain strong for the sake of h...  more »

     

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Movie Details

Actors: Jane Alexander, William Devane, Rossie Harris, Roxana Zal, Philip Anglim
Director: Lynne Littman
Creators: Andrea Asimow, Jonathan Bernstein, Lynne Littman, Gary Khammer, Jon Barbour, Carol Amen, John Sacret Young
Genres: Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Family Life, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Military & War
Studio: Paramount
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 12/07/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 29min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 18
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Displays the sometime power of an understatement
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 12/11/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Two anti-war films were released in 1983: The Day After and TESTAMENT. The former, released in the US as a made-for-TV movie, was visually sensational: missile launches, mushroom clouds, disfigured survivors, urban landscapes turned debris fields. However, the latter illustrates the notion that an understatement can sometimes be more compelling.

In TESTAMENT, Jane Alexander plays Carol Wetherly, the wife and mother of a 5-member family living in rural suburbia somewhere near Central California's Bay Area. Husband William Devane is off in San Francisco, never to return, the day the Soviet H-bomb falls upon it. Jane's character is left to manage alone the family's survival as their community, otherwise untouched directly by blast damage, copes with post-Holocaust disintegration. While some friends and neighbors leave the area for parts unknown, the Wetherlys remain.

TESTAMENT is not graphic in its depiction of nuclear war's devastation. What makes it absolutely compelling is the vision of a community, much like mine and possibly yours, and a particular family, everyday folks like you and me, facing the insidious effects of starvation and radiation sickness as they descend into the darkness necessarily to follow a nuclear exchange between superpowers. Ms. Alexander's performance is soul-wrenching and powerful, as when she cries out for God's damnation of those politicians that have reduced her world to an endless horror.

TESTAMENT is not a feel-good film, but certainly a great one. It's an exercise in bleak despair, and one which ultimately focuses on nothing more than the basic human instinct to survive - the final tribute to a species that has engineered the means for its own destruction."
The most disturbing film about surviving a nuclear holocaust
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 12/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Testament" is the most intimate and arguably the most disturbing of the films made in the early 1980s dealing with the aftermath of a nuclear war. "The Day After," which also aired in 1983, is the most obvious example, but there was also "Special Bulletin" (1983), the BBC-produced "Threads" (1984), the animated "When the Wind Blows" (1986), and a Soviet film the title of which escapes me at the moment. Unlike the rest of those films, there are no harrowing scenes of nuclear explosions or people ravaged by radiation sickness. In that regard, "Testament" is almost naive; radiation sickness is nothing more than dark shadows around the eyes of the characters. But this is not a movie about special effects; the nuclear war consists of nothing more than a bright light outside the window with telephones and televisions suddenly going dead (the film is set in Hamlin, a small California town not far from San Francisco, the obvious target). The rhyme and reason for the war is of no consequence in the final analysis. Instead, this is a story about facing the end of the world, recalling the film "On the Beach" (1959) more than any other work in this genre.Based on "The Last Testament" by Carol Amen, the "Testament" script is by John Sacret Young, who would later create the television series "China Beach," and offer many moments of subtle lyricism despite the subject matter. The focus is on the family of Carol Wetherly (Jane Alexnader), whose husband Tom (William Devane) went off to work that morning and never came back. The Wetherly's have three children, Brad (Rossie Harris), Mary Liz (Roxana Zal), and Scottie (Lukas Haas), and it is what happens to them after the bombs go after that affects us over the course of this 90-minute film. Death is inevitable in this film, and ultimately the question is how it should be faced. Director Lynne Littman provides scenes that become unforgettable because of their simple eloquence, most notable, one in which Carol finishes sewing up the shroud in which she has wrapped one of her children. This is one of the most upsetting films I have ever seen in my life. It took me a while to be able to watch it a second time, and that was because I was working on a presentation involving nuclear war films. But watching it again was so superflous because the film was seared into my mind after watching it the first time. Alexander's performance, as you would expect, is superb, but it is Zal (who was equally good in "Something About Amelia") who is the most poignant figure in the story. Only once does the film threaten to break away from its pedestrian boundaries, when the school kids put on a play about the "Pied Piper of Hamelin" (remember the town's name is Hamlin), but even here the anger is submerged in the sadness of the presentation. Watching "Testament" is a very upsetting experience because at the end it is impossible to avoid asking yourself a horrifying question...what would you do in Carol's place?"
The human element of nuclear war finally is addressed
Movie Mania | 04/27/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When I was 10, I first saw bits and pieces of this film, but my parents wouldn't let me watch the whole thing. When I was 14 (and again when I was 18), I watched "The Day After." Last year, I finally saw "Threads."This movie puts both of them to shame. "Threads" is unrelentently graphic, "The Day After" hammers you with its message about as subtly as a person with a baseball bat going "nuclear war is BAD! BAD BAD BAD!!!""Testament" puts the human elements back into the equation that nuclear war will become. After all is said and done with an attack (god forbid), the world will have to find a way to go on, or to make its way through the aftermath as best as possible. Jane Alexander shows us this journey through the eyes of a mother, heartsick and driven to the edge by the hopelessness around her.The film is sad, yes, but it also leaves a message of hope, such as it is: that most human beings will find a way to go, for as long as they can, remembering what once was and hoping for what will be again"
The Best Film About Nuclear War
Movie Mania | Southern Calfornia | 02/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Testament was a breakthrough movie for two reasons. It actually was commissioned as an episode of PBS's American Playhouse. When it was finished, PBS thought that it was too good for television and released it in movie theaters. It was a major hit and garnered Jane Alexander a Best Actress Oscar nomination (she should have won). The second breakthrough was the first film to deal with a nuclear attack from the survivor's point of view without saying who sent the missiles or bomb. All other films before that and even after assigned blame, this did not care what the cause was just the effect.

Hamelin, California is a small suburb of San Francisco. It is a typical small town of any large city. The Wetherly's are a typical suburban family with father Tom (William DeVane) and mother Carol (Jane Alexander). They have three children, the oldest Mary Liz (Roxana Zal), the middle child Brad (Brad Harris) and the baby Scottie (Lucas Haas). The family has their problems but nothing too crucial or untypical for suburban family. You might expect this to be a film about adultery or a family coping with loss. But this is a film about something more compelling.

The family is watching TV when an alert comes on just saying that nuclear bombs have been exploded on the east coast. Then a bright flash occurs. No one knows what happened for sure. The community is confused but everyone is okay. Then they go into survival mode.

Two weeks have past and those remaining try to restore normal life. But the fallout is starting to have its effects on the population. Survival turns to desperation then to despair. People continue to die. The first in the family to show signs is Scottie and he goes first. Larry, a neighbor kid that was staying with them is next. He is then followed Mary Liz.

Hiroshi's father leaves and Brad brings him home. Things are getting bleaker Carol is showing signs and so is Brad. They decide to end it but cannot carry it through. The film ends on Brad's birthday (2 months from the explosion) with a note of hope.

This is a film of little moments. When the family goes to get gas, Mike (Mako) tells them that it's free to regulars. Carol invites him and his son to dinner to repay. Mike tells he has been repaid many times by her family's kindness. The school play, The Pied Piper of Hamlin, is performed with all the children being taken away. There is a devastating scene where Mary Liz asks her mother about love knowing that she will never experience it.

I saw this in the theater and was blown away by this film and it is just a potent on television.

It's also interesting to see some early work by future stars like Kevin Costner and Rebecca DeMornay as newlyweds with a baby and Philip Anghlim, fresh off his Tony Award as the Elephant Man, as the pastor. William DeVane as the father had success in television movies in the 70's but would not gain fame until Knot's Landing a few years away.

And the film has character performances by some great older actors like Lilia Skala (Oscar nominee of Lilies of the Field), Leon Ames (Mr. Ed) and Mako (Oscar nominee for Sand Pebbles and founder of East/West Players).

By the way, The Day After got much more publicity when it aired on television but this film is 100 time better.

DVD EXTRAS:
Testament at 20 - Cast reunion of Lucas Hass, Roxanne Zal, Brad Harris with director Lynne Littman twenty years after making the film with interspersed with interviews with star Jane Alexander, featured actor Kevin Costner, writer John Sacret Young, cinematographer Steven Poster, composer James Horner and others. This is a making of film with a lookback. Many of these featurettes are made at the time of the movie and are just promotional material. Being made 20 years later and the cast is all alive, gives this more depth.

Testament: Nuclear Thoughts - This is a 13 minute anti nuclear short that, while provides food for thought, is so one sided that it loses credibility.

Timeline of the Nuclear Age - A three minute written essay on nuclear bombs from the early tests to 2004.
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