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|Written by||Barry Hines|
|Directed by||Mick Jackson|
|Executive producer(s)||Graham Massey|
|Running time||112 minutes|
|Original release||23 September 1984|
Threads is a 1984 British apocalyptic war drama television film jointly produced by the BBC, Nine Network and Western-World Television Inc. Written by Barry Hines, and directed and produced by Mick Jackson, it is a dramatic account of nuclear war and its effects on the city of Sheffield in Northern England. The plot centres on two families as a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union erupts. As the nuclear exchange between NATO and the Warsaw Pact begins, the film depicts the medical, economic, social and environmental consequences of nuclear war.
Shot on a budget of £400,000, the film was the first of its kind to depict a nuclear winter. It has been called "a film which comes closest to representing the full horror of nuclear war and its aftermath, as well as the catastrophic impact that the event would have on human culture."It has been compared to the earlier programme The War Game produced in Britain in the 1960s and its contemporary counterpart The Day After , a 1983 ABC television film depicting a similar scenario in the United States. It was nominated for seven BAFTA awards in 1985 and won for Best Single Drama, Best Design, Best Film Cameraman and Best Film Editor.
Young Sheffield residents Ruth Beckett and Jimmy Kemp plan to marry due to her unplanned pregnancy. As tensions between the US and the Soviet Union in Iran escalate, the Home Office directs Sheffield City Council to assemble an emergency operations team, which establishes itself in a makeshift bomb shelter in the basement of the town hall. After an ignored US ultimatum to the Soviets results in a brief tactical nuclear skirmish, Britain experiences fear, looting and rioting. "Subversives" including peace activists and some trade unionists are arrested and interned under the Emergency Powers Act.
Attack Warning Red is transmitted and Sheffield town hall staff react with "action, confusion and slight panic."Amidst panic, a nuclear warhead air bursts high over the North Sea, producing an electromagnetic pulse; most electrical systems throughout the UK and northwestern Europe are destroyed. The first missile salvos hit NATO targets, including nearby RAF Finningley. Although the city is not yet heavily damaged, chaos reigns in the streets. Jimmy is last seen running from his stalled car to reach Ruth. Sheffield is targeted by a one-megaton warhead which air bursts directly above the Tinsley Viaduct. Strategic targets, including steel and chemical factories in the Midlands, are the primary targets. Two thirds of all UK homes are destroyed, and immediate deaths range between 12 and 30 million. Of 3,000 megatons total, about 210 fall on the UK.
Sheffield Town Hall is destroyed and traps the city's emergency operations team. They attempt to coordinate the city's emergency and relief efforts through their few remaining short wave radios. Nuclear fallout from a ground burst at Crewe descends upon Sheffield. Jimmy's mother succumbs to radiation sickness and severe burns after being caught by the Tinsley Viaduct explosion. Jimmy's father searches for food and water. Fallout prevents the remaining functioning civil authorities from fighting fires or rescuing those trapped under debris. Ruth leaves her parents and grandmother in their basement, making her way to the Sheffield Royal Infirmary, where there is no electricity, running water, sanitation, or supplies. While she is absent, looters kill her parents and are executed.
By June, soldiers dig to the town hall basement but find the emergency staff have suffocated. Without the manpower or fuel to bury or burn the dead, an epidemic of communicable diseases spreads. The government authorizes capital punishment, and special courts execute criminals. The only viable currency becomes food, given as a reward for work or withheld as punishment. The millions of tons of soot, smoke and dust in the upper atmosphere trigger a nuclear winter. By July, without running water, electricity, or basic sanitation, Sheffield becomes uninhabitable. Ruth and thousands of other survivors defy official orders and leave the city. Many survivors die of radiation poisoning. Low-flying government light aircraft order them to return home. In Buxton, the police assign Ruth to a house. Once the policeman leaves, the home owner evicts her at gunpoint. At an outdoor soup kitchen, Ruth meets Bob, a pre-war acquaintance of Jimmy's. Ruth and Bob travel together, surviving on scavenged food, including the raw carcasses of radiation poisoned livestock.
In September, Ruth partakes in the yearly harvest, accomplished using the last remaining petrol and raw human labour, but the nuclear winter keeps yields low. Ruth gives birth to her child in an abandoned barn. The army relies on rifles and tear gas for control.
Millions of people around the Northern Hemisphere have died due to radiation, fallout, starvation, exposure or the nuclear strikes. Sunlight returns, but food remains scarce due to the lack of equipment, fertilizers, and fuel. Damage to the ozone layer intensifies ultraviolet radiation, increasing cataracts and cancer.
Ten years later, Britain's population has fallen to medieval levels of about 4 to 11 million people. Survivors work the fields using primitive hand-held farming tools. Few children have been born or raised since the attack. They speak broken English due to poor education and the breakdown of family life. Prematurely aged and blind with cataracts, Ruth collapses in a field and dies, survived by her 10-year-old daughter Jane. The country begins to recover, resuming coal mining, producing limited electricity, and using steam power. The population continues to live in near-barbaric squalor.
Three years after Ruth's death, Jane and two boys are caught stealing food. One boy is shot in the ensuing confusion. Jane wrestles for the food with the other boy and they have sex; while Hines' published script does not describe this as rape,it has been widely interpreted as such. Pregnant, Jane finds a makeshift hospital, gives birth to a child which is depicted as not crying nor moving (the implication being of a stillbirth), and screams as she sees it; again, while Hines' script does not describe the child as mutated, this interpretation is widespread.
Although Jackson initially considered casting actors from Coronation Street , he later decided to take a neorealist approach, and opted to cast relatively unknown actors in order to heighten the film's impact through the use of characters the audience could relate to.
Threads was first commissioned (under the working title Beyond Armageddon) by the Director-General of the BBC Alasdair Milne, after he watched the 1965 drama-documentary The War Game , which had not been shown on the BBC when it was made, due to pressure from the Wilson government, although it had had a limited release in cinemas.Mick Jackson was hired to direct the film, as he had previously worked in the area of nuclear apocalypse in 1982, producing the BBC Q.E.D. documentary A Guide to Armageddon. This was considered a breakthrough at the time, considering the previous banning of The War Game, which BBC staff believed would have resulted in mass suicides if aired. Jackson subsequently travelled around the UK and the US, consulting leading scientists, psychologists, doctors, defence specialists and strategic experts in order to create the most realistic depiction of nuclear war possible for his next film. Jackson consulted various sources in his research, including the 1983 Science article Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions, penned by Carl Sagan and James B. Pollack. Details of a possible attack scenario and the extent of the damage were derived from Doomsday, Britain after Nuclear Attack (1983), while the ineffective post-war plans of the UK government came from Duncan Campbell's 1982 exposé War Plan UK. In portraying the psychological damage suffered by survivors, Jackson took inspiration from the behaviour of the Hibakusha and Magnus Clarke's 1982 book Nuclear Destruction of Britain. Sheffield was chosen as the main location partly because of its "nuclear-free zone" policy that made the council sympathetic to the local filming and partly because it seemed likely that the USSR would strike an industrial city in the centre of the country.
Jackson hired Barry Hines to write the script because of his political awareness. The relationship between the two was strained on several occasions, as Hines spent much of his time on set, and apparently disliked Jackson on account of his middle class upbringing.They also disagreed about Paul Vaughan's narration, which Hines felt was detrimental to the drama. As part of their research, the two spent a week at the Home Office training centre for "official survivors" in Easingwold which, according to Hines, showed just "how disorganised [post-war reconstruction] would be."
Auditions were advertised in The Star ,and took place in the ballroom of Sheffield City Hall, where 1,100 candidates turned up. Extras were chosen on the basis of height and age, and were all told to look "miserable" and to wear ragged clothes; the majority were CND supporters. The makeup for extras playing third degree burn victims consisted of Rice Krispies and tomato ketchup. The scenes taking place six weeks after the attack were shot at Curbar Edge in the Peak District National Park, though because weather conditions were considered too fine to pass off as a nuclear winter, stage snow had to be spread around the rocks and heather, and cameramen installed light filters on their equipment to block out the sunlight.
In order for the horror of Threads to work, Jackson made an effort to leave some things unseen: "to let images and emotion happen in people’s minds, [o]r rather in the extensions of their imaginations."He later recalled that while BBC productions would usually be followed by phone calls of congratulations from friends or colleagues immediately after airing, no such calls came after the first screening of Threads. Jackson later "realised...that people had just sat there thinking about it, in many cases not sleeping or being able to talk." He stated that he had it on good authority that Ronald Reagan watched the film when it aired in the US. Along with Hines, Jackson also received a letter of praise from Labour leader Neil Kinnock, stating "[t]he dangers of complacency are much greater than any risks of knowledge.".
Professor Andrew Bartlett of UCLA
Threads was a co-production of the BBC, Nine Network Australia and Western-World Television, Inc. It was first broadcast on BBC Two on 23 September 1984 at 9:30 pm, and achieved the highest ratings on the channel (6.9 million) of the week.It was repeated on BBC One on 1 August 1985 as part of a week of programmes marking the fortieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which also saw the first television screening of The War Game (which had been deemed too disturbing for television in the 20 years since it had been made). Threads was not shown again on British screens until the digital channel BBC Four broadcast it in October 2003. It was also shown on UKTV Documentary in September 2004 and was repeated in April 2005.
Threads was broadcast in the United States on cable network Superstation TBS on 13 January 1985,with Ted Turner presenting the introduction. This was followed by a panel discussion on nuclear war. It was also shown in syndication to local commercial stations and, later, on many PBS stations. In Canada, Threads was broadcast on CKVU in Vancouver and CKND in Winnipeg, while in Australia it was shown on the Nine Network on 19 June 1985. Unusually for a commercial network, it broadcast the film without commercial breaks.
Threads was originally released by BBC Video (on VHS and, for a very short period, Betamax) in 1987 in the United Kingdom. The play was re-released on both VHS and DVD in 2000 on the Revelation label, followed by a new DVD edition in 2005. Due to licensing difficulties the 1987 release replaced Chuck Berry's recording of his song "Johnny B. Goode" with an alternative recording of the song. In all these cases, the original music over the opening narration was removed, again due to licensing problems; this was an extract from the Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss, performed by the Dresden State Opera Orchestra, conducted by Rudolf Kempe (HMV ASD 3173).
In January 2018, journalist and nuclear threat expert Julie McDowall led a distributed viewing of the film, encouraging the audience to share their reactions on Twitter under the hashtag #threaddread, as part of a campaign to ask the BBC to show the movie for the first time since 2003.
On 13 February 2018, Threads was released by Severin Films on Blu-Ray in the United States. The programme was scanned in 2K from a broadcast print for this release, including extras such as an audio commentary with Director Mick Jackson and interviews with actress Karen Meagher, Director Of Photography Andrew Dunn, Production Designer Christopher Robilliard and film writer Stephen Thrower.This is also the first home video release in which the extract from the Alpine Symphony remains intact.
On 9 April 2018, Simply Media released a Special Edition DVD in the UK, featuring a different 2K scan, restored and remastered from the original BBC 16mm CRI prints, which Severin did not have access to. This also featured the original music, for the first time on home video in the UK. Whereas the previous releases had no extra features, the Special Edition included commentaries and associated documentaries.
Threads was not widely reviewed, but the critics who reviewed it gave generally positive reviews.John J. O'Connor of The New York Times wrote that the film "is not a balanced discussion about the pros and cons of nuclear armaments. It is a candidly biased warning. And it is, as calculated, unsettlingly powerful." Rick Groen of The Globe and Mail wrote that "[t]he British crew here, headed by writer Barry Hines and producer/director Mick Jackson, accomplish what would seem to be an impossible task: depicting the carnage without distancing the viewer, without once letting him retreat behind the safe wall of fictitious play. Formidable and foreboding, Threads leaves nothing to our imagination, and Nothingness to our conscience." In his movie guide, Leonard Maltin gave the film a rating of three stars (out of a possible four). He called Threads "Britain's answer to The Day After" and wrote that the film was "unrelentingly graphic and grim, sobering, and shattering, as it should be."
Retrospective reviews have been very positive. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 92 based on 5 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called it a "masterpiece", writing: "It wasn’t until I saw Threads that I found that something on screen could make me break out in a cold, shivering sweat and keep me in that condition for 20 minutes, followed by weeks of depression and anxiety." Sam Toy of Empire gave the film a perfect score, writing that "this British work of (technically) science fiction teaches an unforgettable lesson in true horror" and went on to praise its ability "to create an almost impossible illusion on clearly paltry funds." Jonathan Hatfull of SciFiNow gave a perfect score to the remastered DVD of the film. "No one ever forgets the experience of watching Threads. [...It] is arguably the most devastating piece of television ever produced. It’s perfectly crafted, totally human and so completely harrowing you’ll think that you’ll probably never want to watch it again." He praised the pacing and Hines' "impeccable" screenplay and described its portrayal of the "immediate effects" of the bombing as "jaw-dropping [...] watching the survivors in the days and weeks to come is heart-breaking."
The film was nominated for seven BAFTA awards in 1985. It won for Best Single Drama, Best Design, Best Film Cameraman and Best Film Editor. Its other nominations were for Best Costume Design, Best Make-Up, and Best Film Sound.
The Day After is an American television film that first aired on November 20, 1983 on the ABC television network. More than 100 million people, in nearly 39 million households, watched the program during its initial broadcast. With a 46 rating and a 62% share of the viewing audience during its initial broadcast, it was the seventh-highest-rated non-sports show up to that time and set a record as the highest-rated television film in history—a record it still held as recently as a 2009 report.
The War Game is a 1966 blend of television drama and documentary, that depicts a nuclear war. Written, directed and produced by Peter Watkins for the BBC, it caused dismay within the BBC and also within government, and was subsequently withdrawn before the provisional screening date of 7 October 1965. The corporation said that "the effect of the film has been judged by the BBC to be too horrifying for the medium of broadcasting. It will, however, be shown to invited audiences..."
Nuclear fallout, or fallout, is the residual radioactive material propelled into the upper atmosphere following a nuclear blast, so called because it "falls out" of the sky after the explosion and the shock wave have passed. It commonly refers to the radioactive dust and ash created when a nuclear weapon explodes. The amount and spread of fallout is a product of the size of the weapon and the altitude at which it is detonated. Fallout may get entrained with the products of a pyrocumulus cloud and fall as black rain. This radioactive dust, usually consisting of fission products mixed with bystanding atoms that are neutron-activated by exposure, is a form of radioactive contamination.
Spandau Ballet were an English new wave band formed in Islington, London, in 1979. Inspired by the capital's post-punk underground dance scene, they emerged at the start of the 1980s as the house band for the Blitz Kids, playing "White European Dance Music" as "The Applause" for this new club culture's audience. They became one of the most successful groups of the New Romantic era of British pop and were part of the Second British Invasion of the Billboard Top 40 in the 1980s, selling 25 million albums and having 23 hit singles worldwide. The band have had eight UK top 10 albums, including three greatest hits compilations and an album of re-recorded material. Their musical influences ranged from punk rock and soul music to the American crooners Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.
Fallout is a series of post-apocalyptic role-playing video games created by Interplay Entertainment. The series is set during the 22nd and 23rd centuries, and its atompunk retrofuturistic setting and art work are influenced by the post-war culture of 1950s America, with its combination of hope for the promises of technology and the lurking fear of nuclear annihilation. A forerunner for Fallout is Wasteland, a 1988 game developed by Interplay Productions to which the series is regarded as a spiritual successor.
Protect and Survive was a public information series on civil defence produced by the British government during the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is intended to inform British citizens on how to protect themselves during a nuclear attack, and consists of a mixture of pamphlets, radio broadcasts, and public information films. The series had originally been intended for distribution only in the event of dire national emergency, but provoked such intense public interest that the pamphlets were authorised for general release.
Gary James Kemp is an English singer, songwriter, musician and actor, best known as the lead guitarist, backing vocalist, and principal songwriter for the new wave band Spandau Ballet.
"Duck and cover" is a method of personal protection against the effects of a nuclear explosion. Ducking and covering is useful at conferring a degree of protection to personnel situated outside the radius of the nuclear fireball but still within sufficient range of the nuclear explosion that standing upright and uncovered is likely to cause serious injury or death. In the most literal interpretation, the focus of the maneuver is primarily on protective actions one can take during the first few crucial seconds-to-minutes after the event, while the film by the same name and a full encompassing of the advice, also caters to providing protection up to weeks after the event.
Since their public debut in August 1945, nuclear weapons and their potential effects have been a recurring motif in popular culture, to the extent that the decades of the Cold War are often referred to as the "atomic age".
When the Wind Blows is a 1982 graphic novel, by British artist Raymond Briggs, that shows a nuclear attack on Britain by the Soviet Union from the viewpoint of a retired couple, Jim and Hilda Bloggs. The book was later made into an animated film.
Melvin Barry Hines, FRSL was an English author, playwright, screenwriter and amateur footballer. His novels and screenplays explore the political and economic struggles of working-class Northern England, particularly in his native West Riding/South Yorkshire.
The Royal Infirmary was a hospital in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
Karen Meagher, formerly Karen Lloyd, is an actress born in Rock Ferry, Birkenhead in Cheshire. Her family are originally from North Wales and what is now the Merseyside area.
When the Wind Blows is a 1986 British animated disaster film directed by Jimmy Murakami based on Raymond Briggs' comic book of the same name. The film stars the voices of John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft as the two main characters and was scored by Roger Waters. The film accounts a rural English couple's attempt to survive a nearby nuclear attack and maintain a sense of normality in the subsequent fallout.
Mick Jackson is an English film director and television producer. Between 1973 and 1987, Jackson directed many documentary and drama productions for BBC TV and Channel 4. Relocating to Hollywood, he directed feature films, including The Bodyguard starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. In 2010, Jackson won an Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special for the dramatised biographical TV film Temple Grandin.
Q.E.D. was the name of a strand of BBC popular science documentary films which aired in the United Kingdom from 1982 to 1999.
You've Been Trumped is a 2011 documentary by British filmmaker Anthony Baxter. The film documents the construction of a luxury golf course on a beach in Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, by developer Donald Trump and the subsequent struggles between the locals, Donald Trump, and Scottish legal and governmental authorities.
Fallout 4 is a post-nuclear apocalyptic action role-playing game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is the fifth major installment in the Fallout series and was released worldwide on November 10, 2015, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game is set within an open world post-apocalyptic environment that encompasses the city of Boston and the surrounding Massachusetts region known as "The Commonwealth". The main story takes place in the year 2287, ten years after the events of Fallout 3 and 210 years after "The Great War", which caused catastrophic nuclear devastation across the United States.
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