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Depress-A-Thon: Threads Double Repost by Jamie

Well, unfortunately there was just too much to get on with at work last night for me to find a spare moment to finish writing the list of my favourite Sci-fi villains. I did manage to get half of it done and plan to have it up tomorrow. Instead it’s time for another repost in the Depress-A-Thon, this time dedicated to the film which truly scarred my soul, ‘Threads’. I’ve decided to stick the two occasions which I’ve written about ‘Threads’ together since the original review was a little shorter than I remembered.

So included below is the part the bit I wrote about Threads for my top 10 Post-Apocalyptic Films List (Which can be found here: Part 1, Part 2) and, after the video, the original review entitled “Threads: The Single Most Depressing Thing Man Kind Has Ever Put To Film.” Enjoy.

1. Threads

Cause Of Apocalypse: Nuclear War.

Yes, for number one I’m going a little obscure. It’s a made for TV British film that I’ve reviewed before and it’s truly fucking chilling. The acting is corny, it’s incredibly 80s, scratch that, it’s incredibly Northern England 80s and it’s a little slow to start but fuck, after the bombs drop, it’s just… Wow.

This film portrays what life would have been like if the US and Russia had decided to launch nukes at each other and what would have happened had England been completely ravaged by nuclear bombs. I’m sure that a few of the things that are described aren’t considered exactly scientifically accurate these days but I’m also sure that it’s still as close as I’ll ever see a film get to the truth.

This film essentially put me into a sort of mini-depression after watching it. It made me feel doomed, as though at any moment the world could come crashing to a halt if a small group of people wished it so. Keep in mind that the Cold War had been over for some time at this point. Seriously though, there doesn’t need to be a cold war for it to happen anyway. All it takes is a few buttons being pushed and then Boom. Life as we know it will be over. The lucky ones will die in the initial attacks. Oh, god. It’s happening again. Just thinking about this fucking film is bringing it all back. What the fuck is the point?

Still, if you feel that happiness is a commodity that you just don’t need in your life anymore, I heartily recommend ‘Threads‘. It’s incredible and horrifying. Oh god, why? Why?

Threads: The Single Most Depressing Thing Man Kind Has Ever Put To Film.

I love post-apocalyptic films and games. Despite the harsh existence that the people living in the post nuclear war landscape have to eke out, they always seem fun, especially something like Mad Max 3: Beyond Thunderdome or Fallout 3. So I decided to buy and watch the DVD of the BBC’s 1984 nuclear war drama, Threads. Spoilers ahead.

The synopsis promised a realistic look at what would happen if Britain were suddenly struck by nuclear weapons launched by then biggest threat to the Western World, the Soviet Union. I know what the effects of a massive nuclear launch would be, so I wasn’t expecting to be shocked by anything on screen. How wrong I was.

Let me start off by saying never ever watch Threads. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a brilliantly made drama, especially for the time it was made but if you ever want the possibility of happiness to be present in your life ever again, then you really should watch a Mad Max movie instead. Seriously, I think I may have killed joy by viewing this.

The story follows two families in Sheffield, one working class and one middle class. The two families are linked by the fact that the son of the working class family has gotten the daughter of the middle class family pregnant and they have become engaged to be wed. The first forty-five minutes follows their everyday lives whilst highlighting the fact that tension between the US and the Soviet Union are growing due to military movements by both sides in the Middle East.

The film is also interspersed with narration and text that highlights the fact that Sheffield would be a prime target for nuclear strike due to it’s economic value as a producer of steel and chemicals and it’s proximity to a US Air Force base. These little pieces of information continue to mount the tension as relations between the US and the Soviet Union continue to become increasingly strained.

Then the main event occurs. Britain is essentially nuke raped by the Commies. Sheffield itself is devastated, with buildings being flattened and bodies turned to ash in seconds and the pregnant girl‘s fiancée is killed. There are some who have built shelters but the film makes it perfectly clear that the radiation will destroy those peoples futures. Hooray!

The film then follows what happens to the survivors during the years following the nuclear strike. Nuclear winter sets in meaning that during the day illumination remains at twilight levels. This, compounded by massive radiation contamination of the earth, makes the growth of crops increasingly difficult. The ozone layer is massively depleted allowing increased ultra-violet exposure resulting in more instances of skin cancer, premature aging and cataracts and the population of Britain dwindles to medieval levels.

Children are being born more frequently with physical and mental mutations and even those who are born normal have no education and speak broken English. Their parents generally die before the children are able to take care of themselves and are many of them scamper through the ruined cities, trying to scavenge for food and clothing whilst avoiding the gunshots of people who shoot looters on sight.

I’ve pretty much avoided any major plot points of the story because, despite what I said earlier, I think it’s worth a watch. For a made for TV British production it’s all pretty good. The acting and special effects are a little dated but bearable. In fact the only things that don’t really hold up are the fashions and the haircuts. So yes, I’d highly recommend it. But if you do watch it, be warned. Once you watch something, you can’t unwatch it. I spent the day after viewing this film wandering around in a kind of daze, not entirely sure what the point in doing anything was.

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The Depress-A-Thon: When The Wind Blows by Jamie

The Cold War era was a great time for depressing media. The nuclear threat cast it’s long, dark shadow all across the globe as the threat of complete destruction was, for one of the first times in human history, very real. From the 50s you had the awesome nuclear safety videos telling people what to do in case of a bomb being dropped such as the infamous ‘Duck and Cover’ which seemed to serve no purpose other than ensuring you died looking like an idiot.

It was this era that gave rise to some of the great post-apocalyptic films as well. ‘Mad Max’, ‘Planet Of The Apes’ and ‘Terminator’ all owe something to growing fear over the complete annihilation of mankind but these films weren’t particularly true to life and largely dealt with the consequences of the apocalypse rather than the apocalypse itself. It is those films which deal with an actual nuclear attack and it’s consequences that are truly the most terrifying and depressing, things like ‘The Day After’, ‘Threads’ and the subject of today’s review ‘When The Wind Blows’.(Spoilers Ahead)

The film is an animated feature and if you’ve ever seen the charming, though also ultimately rather depressing, children’s Christmas film ‘The Snowman’ then the animation style should be rather familiar to you. The story follows Jim (John Mills) and Hilda Bloggs (Peggy Ashcroft), a retired couple living in a remote cottage somewhere in rural Sussex. Jim has become increasingly worried about the possibility of a nuclear strike against Britain and so has decided to follow governmental guidelines and build himself a bomb shelter out a few doors. Hilda is less concerned but indulges Jim in his paranoia, helping him when she can as long as doing so doesn’t interfere with her daily chores.

Both members of the Bloggs family are generally quite optimistic about what would happen if the bomb were to fall. Both grew up during the blitz and have fond memories of nights spent in Anderson Shelter’s and communities coming together to help each other in times of need. Jim in particular is incredibly trusting in the government and it’s ability to continue running the country in a forthright and proper manner should war break out. Neither of them seem to fully understand just exactly what a nuclear attack would mean for them and the people of Britain.

Jim finishes his shelter and, with Hilda’s help, begins to stock it with everything they need to survive the 48 weeks (which Jim later realises is actually 48 hours, a mistake made by his misreading of the official governmental pamphlet) he believes they are required to stay within the shelter to bypass the fallout from the bomb. Suddenly an announcement comes over the radio. The unthinkable has happened. The bomb is on its way. Jim and Hilda scramble to get into their homemade shelter and the explosion rocks their cottage.

The rest of the film deals with the aftermath of the bomb and the effect it has on Jima and Hilda as they re-emerge from their shelter. They find a world in which the countryside they live in is practically entirely dead, their water supply is cut off and even the milk and postmen haven’t managed to make their daily rounds.

Of course Jim isn’t too worried. He theorises that there are bound to be delays during the emergency period that immediately follows the bomb. He’s also adamant that the government are working as quickly as possible to sort everything out and get all of the countries basic infrastructure up and running again. He’s also sure that emergency medical teams will be making the rounds as well, checking up on people, which is a good thing because it seems as though the shock of the bomb is having detrimental effects on both his and Hilda’s health. Jim, it seems, is completely ignorant of the effects of prolonged exposure to radiation.

As the days pass, Jim and Hilda succumb more and more to the effects of radiation poisoning and help still doesn’t seem to becoming. Eventually they decide to crawl back into their shelter, just in case a second bomb is dropped. The film ends with the couple praying before it fades to black.

All in all the film is a stark look at just what effects the bomb would have on people who are in regions that lay outside a major target such as London. There’s would be a slow, agonising death brought on by exposure to the radioactive fallout. Despite this the film is actually quite comical in nature, with much of the comedy coming from Jim’s adherence to the governmental outlines, the couples quintessential Britishness and the couples general ignorance about the consequences of a nuclear attack. There impression of what will happen is coloured by their experiences during the blitz and they expect much the same will happen this time. Of course, it’s this ignorance of the consequences which ultimately spells Jim and Hilda’s doom.

It’s a poignant, funny yet ultimately depressing film that I really do recommend. If there’s one criticism I can make it’s that there are occasional trippy little musical sequences, in particular during a scene where Hilda is hanging up her washing whilst Jim builds his shelter, which seem to serve no purpose and really just doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. Otherwise it’s another excellent example of a brilliantly depressing film based on events which, at the time of it’s production, seemed all too possible. Four pints out of five. Laterz.




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