on April 15, 2008
That this devastating film is virtually never broadcast in the United States is tragic. That it has still not seen Region 1 DVD release is absolutely CRIMINAL.
In 1985 I gathered around the TV with some close friends to watch this film when it was aired by TBS. We had heard a lot of advance buzz about it and wondered what all the fuss was about. By the end the movie we were literally speechless. Bear in mind that this was still in the bad old days of the Cold War, and Ronald Reagan was making jokes about bombing the Soviet Union.
Well, the old Soviet Union may be history, but what used to be a warming relationship between the U.S. and Russia has more recently taken a turn for the worse. And then there are those off-again, on-again tensions between India and Pakistan. Just one nuclear weapon used offensively by some rogue nation or terrorist group anytime in the near future would be tremendously destabilizing for our entire world. THAT'S what make a movie like "Threads" worth seeing again ... and again.
Amazon should do everything in its power to convince the producers of this film to release it in Region 1 format.
on February 15, 2006
Saw this on PBS in 1983 and was terrified. The sheer graphic nature of the visual imagery remains burned into my brain -- burned people, wrecked houses, the utter hopelessness.
One of the things I remember best about this film was the bunker where the officials tried to cope with the disaster. That resonates with me today, because I am on the Emergency Operations Committee of the City of Newark, New Jersey. On 9/11, my post was at the Emergency Operations Center, working with other agencies: municipal, county, state, and federal. I had to prepare press releases and statements from the city to inform our residents on what to do and not do.
So if the bomb drops, that's where I'll be. And if the bomb drops, I'll be with those same folks, running out of food, water, power, and patience, while the world ends around me.
The officials try to figure out how to feed starving residents, and one wonders if his family has escaped the blast. He never finds out. I went through that myself...my wife was in New York on September 11, and I told her to get out, but didn't know if she'd made it. It was a chilling five hours. But she got out.
Thinking that day about "Threads," I saw myself in the same position as those city workers, studying a map, wondering if their families had survived, never finding out, and gradually being overwhelmed by the sheer hopelessness of the situation.
I remain haunted by the scene where British troops, long after the civilian government has collapsed, now little more than a uniformed mob, sift through the darkened bunker, finding everyone dead -- presumably from lack of food or radiation, or just exhaustion. The troops are only interested in food, and they sweep by the bodies, uncaring. I saw myself as one of the corpses lying on a desk in that scenario.
The final part of the picture, with Ruth and her daughter scrabbling at the diseased ground to farm, wrapped in rags, under a permanently gray sky, also haunts me. Below are spoilers, but at this point, I don't think I'm giving up the name of Orson Welles's sled.
Civilization had completely collapsed. Ruth's daughter's generation was growing up in a dreadful mix of ignorance and horror...knowing nothing but rubble, radiation, and death. With society and our social systems gone, they had no education.
I was struck by the scene where Ruth's daughter and her pals sit around a TV set, which is playing a tape, shucking corn (I think), and the tape is saying, "Cat...this is a skeleton of a cat." The TV was probably powered by a local power plant or batteries or some such, but there was no teacher. The kids were not interested in the tape.
That was what passed for education in the postwar world. No more Dickens, no more Michelangelo, no more Fermat. No universities, no high schools, no teachers. Learning had ended. Somehow, that upset the most...the idea that nuclear war would not only destroy humanity, but lobotomize the survivors.
When Ruth dies, Ruth's daughter takes her mother's bird book from her dead hands, incomprehendingly, and leaves her there. Quite probably she's never seen a bird. Family structure had broken down as well. That also resonated with me, because I thought about how important families and family rituals are in our civilized world. But in that environment, they meant nothing.
Ruth's daughter then meets and gets raped by some young men. One of the upsetting parts of this interchange was that neither party could speak properly. They were not only illiterate, but incoherent in speech...."Wozzat? Gizzum!" replacing the English language.
That was proved at the very end, when Ruth's daughter, pregnant, goes to what's left of a hospital, asking for help in delivering her baby.Actually, she yells at matron, "Babby! Come! Babby! Come!" I was struck by the idea of a woman in England -- birthplace of the language -- unable to say, "I'm having a baby, can you help me?"
I was equally struck that the cold matron, obviously older and still in possession of the English language, said, "You'll have to do it yourself, dear." There are no supplies left. Everyone is on their own.
And when Ruth delivers her daughter, it's deformed and stillborn. That's the final coda...the future of humanity. There isn't one.
And I hope that such is not the fate of my own beloved little daughter...to end up like Ruth's daughter.
Regrettably, "Threads" is presently unobtainable in the United States, and the only available DVDs are encoded for Europe. This is unfortunate, because "Threads" is one of the most plausible and realistic Nuclear Doomsday scenarios one is ever likely to find. This is a compelling story of what we all feared during the bad old days of the Cold War. A period of international tension and confrontation culminating in nuclear war and an unthinkable aftermath.
The film's realism is heightened by the use of actual British civil defense television clips which, in their dry pragmatism, convince the viewer that nuclear war is an all-too-real possibility.
What really distinguishes this piece, however, is its depiction of the aftermath of nuclear war. Human beings are reduced to a bare minimum standard of living in a harsh, agricultural existence in which survival is by no means assured. Society effectively ends, the ecosystems are hopelessly damaged, and the future, if there is one, is unspeakably bleak.
This is a powerful and depressing film, and its graphic depiction of the effects of nuclear war are not for the squeamish. I wish very much that this film would become available on DVD here in the States.
on September 14, 2005
"Threads" is a profoundly disturbing film of nuclear apocalypse that doesn't flinch from laying out the potential costs of the ultimate human stupidity. I was fortunate (I suppose) enough to see this British-made film on public television in the mid-1980's. Evidently, it has never been shown on television in the United States since. I have never forgotten it.
The theme of the film is, of course, World War III: the run-up to hostilities, the immediate impact of a nuclear attack on a the city of Sheffield, England, and its immediate environs, the after-effects of nuclear devastation on the survivors, and what "civilization" remains after the exchange of thermonuclear pleasantries.
The film is drama/documentary. There are "characters" whose fates we follow while a male voice-over that is not overly intrusive or dramatic narrates wider events and their significance. The casus belli is totally plausible (or was at the time): Iran is the focus of Soviet (remember those guys?)aggression. The rhetoric and the mobilization of military forces escalates and localized conflict begins. Meanwhile, life goes on in Sheffield, a town roughly the size Seattle and 4th or 5th largest city in the UK. No small potatoes. We're introduced to a young British couple who are expecting a baby and who are in the process of moving into a new apartment. We also meet a family living in a council townhouse: a mum and a dad, a gran and a young boy. (I recollect that this family was the pregnant woman's parents, etc.) As the conflict in the Persian Gulf heats up, people in pubs and homes, including our pregnant couple and the family, are glued to their TVs. Talking heads, "live and on the scene," describe events that are spiraling out of control. If you recall the Cuban Missile Crisis, you will probably also recall the ennervating sense of helplessness and doom that hung over everything as we faced down the Soviets. This sense of helplessness is well-captured in "Threads" -- the world as we know it, frozen in the headlights of impending catastrophe. We watch a nuclear detonation in the Persian Gulf "live" behind a TV reporter on a naval vessel. After that, it's a quick slide into a wider conflict. The Warsaw pact nukes a NATO military base near Sheffield, the mushroom cloud rising over a panicked populaton. Soon it's Sheffield's turn, as the belligerents up the ante to include civilian populations. Before the war is over, we're told by the voice-over, the UK will have absorbed 40 megatons, and more than 60% of the population will be dead or wishing they were. The effects of the attack on Sheffield, and its inhabitants is graphic and unsparing. The mum, the dad, the gran, the young boy, the husband, all perish from blast injuries, burns or radiation poisoning trapped in the wreckage of what little is left of the city. The pregnant woman survives (though clearly traumatized to her soul). Her baby is born in what's left of a barn (no Biblical reference intended, I'm sure), severely retarded from the effects of radiation.
Most of the "science" explaining the likely effects of nuclear blast, radiation, etc., comes through a calm, matter-of-factly delivered voice-over. You get the point, but you're not beaten over the head with gratuitous data.
Fast forward. The woman and her child have joined a group of other survivors. We see them hunched over crude farming implements, scraping the soild in a poisoned land, clothed in rags, bodies and eyes covered to prevent UV burns. The ozone layer has been burned off. We're informed that the population of the UK ten years after the war is equivalent to what it was in medieval times. No one's coming to save them. Who won the war? Does it matter? You're left to infer the fate of the rest of the world.
The only other film in this grim genre that even comes close to the impact of "Threads" is "The War Game" (another British docu-drama of a nuclear attack on London). Compared to "Threads," "On the Beach," "Alas, Babylon," "The Day After" are like "Gidget Goes Hawaiian." Think the threat of a nuclear wipe out is gone? Don't bet on it and Tom Cruise won't emerge from the rubble to start a new world order. If you can handle it, watch "Threads." Then commit yourself to peace.
Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)
It is probably not a coincidence that Richard Jackson (Tuesdays with Morrie)'s meditation on the aftereffects of nuclear war was the last major made-for-TV picture in the genre. This, especially in 1984, would be pretty hard to top. Definitely not a case of "seen one nuclear war movie, seen 'em all."
It is quite similar to others in some respects, though. The first half of the movie is spent building up an ensemble cast of your basic john q. publics for the viewers to get sentimental over. In general it works, because the faces (then, anyway) were less instantly recognizable to most than the casts of The Day After or Testament; they really could pass, for the most part, as your average everyday Briton rather than folks whose trailers cost more than your house. There isn't a main character to the film per se, but the events seem to focus more than most around Ruth (Karen Meagher, recently in Carrie's War and A Good Thief), whose main worries in life revolve around her boyfriend. You know, typical everyday stuff. And, of course, the news broadcasts in the backgrounds of most of the scenes increase in frenzy as the film progresses. First half, though, is Just Another Nuclear War Movie(TM).
Then (you can't really call this a spoiler) the bombs hit, and everything changes. It's this bit, and selected scenes afterwards, that make Threads such a memorable experience (and one that many still have nightmares about, even if they've never seen it after its first broadcast on BBC2 twenty years ago). To say that the images during and just after the war pushed the envelope of televised graphic violence would be understating the case by a country mile. Folks who don't go to R-rated movies because of the violence probably still haven't seen anything else of the likes of this to this day. It's still the outer boundaries of what one can get away with on television, mostly because no one hasn't even tried. The viewer is inundated with about ten minutes, give or take, of nonstop over-the-edge brutality. Jackson and scriptwriter Barry Hines (The Gamekeepr, A Kestrel for a Knave, et al.) obviously wanted to make sure you got the message. (One wonders how recently Steven Spielberg had seen this before he made Saving Private Ryan.)
But that's not the really hard part. Hold on to your seats, folks, because it gets worse.
The bombs dropping change the movie from an episode of Coronation Street into a faux documentary, complete with droning narrator (Waking Ned Devine's Paul Vaughn), charting humanity's fate in the months and years after the war. More disturbing than the outright violence is the chaos that reigns afterwards. A scene set in a makeshift surgery is quite literally painful to watch, while the establishment of martial law should do a fine job in inciting the viewer to a murderous rage. (In counterpoint, perhaps, to the amusing scenes of anti-nuclear protestors in the first half of the film; one wonders whether they were put there as part of the scenery, as a way to more blatantly convey the script's anti-war sentiment, or as a kick in the pants to the anti-nuke movement. Any of the three is quite possible. There is no ambivalence about the martial law officers at the beginning, though. They might as well be wearing pig masks.)
But the real twist of the knife comes only a few minutes before the end of the film, in the scene that stuck with me, albeit in revised form, since the first and only (until now) time I saw them film, twenty years ago. It's a perfectly calculated scene (to name it would provide too many spoilers regarding the second half of the film) ten years after the war, and it sets the film's tone of perfect despair; humanity, according to Jackson and Hines, will forever be humanity. None of this Day After-style pulling together in the face of crisis. It's a perfect ending to a film that's good in parts, bad in others, but worth watching if you've never seen it. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the anti-war sentiment here is overkill, but Jackson and Hines do overkill in the right way; they still let the images tell the story, however hyperbolic that story may be.
Not for the weak of stomach, even less for the weak of mind. ***
on June 1, 2009
It continues to baffle me that this, perhaps the greatest movie of all in the nuclear war and it's aftermath genre, is not available in the U.S.! There are so many mediocre or worse apocalyptic films out there; why not the best? At this time there are more quality British movies available in the U.S. than ever before. Consequently the void here in the states of this classic British offering, which tops even "Testament", or "The Day After", is even more puzzling. Realizing that this comment is far from new or unique, I still offer to the Amazon family of viewers as it reflects the ongoing frustrations of many movie mavens!
on January 27, 2007
This is absolutely the best (or worst depending on how you look at it) nuclear doomsday movie I have ever seen. Frighteningly real. I remember watching this for the first time when it first came out in 1984. I worked afternoons at a hospital and went up to the new father's lounge on the obstetrical floor. I was absolutely scared to death at the time. It is very realistic and actually probably how it would really happen.
on May 29, 2014
This film is shattering. A most grueling experience emotionally -- so perfectly done. It needs a proper release. Acting, writing, direction -- never a false moment. I forgot at times that I was watching a fictional account, which made it so much more terrrifying. There are some amazing details which have remained with me:
** Michael, too young to know about the sexual facts of life, plays with a toy fighter plane and an electronic toy which depicts invaders from the skies.
** His sister Alison vanishes from the film after the attack, but we are reminded of her character when we see a burning bicycle in those massive piles of burning buildings.
** The charred remains of a baby held in its traumatized mother's arms. The baby was burned to an almost unrecognizeable state, yet its clothes and blankets are intact. This indicates that the poor mother actually dressed and swaddled the burned corpse of her child.
** Ruth aging at least fifty years in the final few years of her life. Her pre-teen daughter doesn't have any emotion regarding her death and doesn't seem to be able to understand it.
** The brain and developmental damage of the second generation, clearly a result of radiation.
** My favorite irony occurs early in the film. Ruth and Jimmy's parents are meeting for dinner to discuss the pregnancy. Ruth's mother wishes it could be a happy occasion. Ruth declares that it is a happy one and that her mother is acting as though the pregnancy was "the end of the world." That child would end up being the hope of the future after the end of the world. Ruth and Jimmy's child not only has speech and learning defects, physically she can't bear a living child. It doesn't bode well for the world's future.
on April 12, 2010
Threads (1984) is indisputably the number one of all nuclear holocaust theme. This film illustrates realistic visuals and shocking chill effects through the whole effect of nuclear war experience and its aftermath. Unlike other hyperbolic nuclear war films such as Fail Safe, Testament and even, The Day After.
Threads is a docudrama film - a far more appalling than any horror film, combining a highly effective building tension as the military conflict leading to nuclear war escalates in the background via news reports as a backdrop to domestic scene-setting, a brutally realistic depiction of the devastation wreaked by the bomb itself, and the ultra-depressing reality of the following fifteen years as Britain returns to a medieval state.
You will never forget this film Threads because of these dreadful images and events on this film that would alter your mind for our fate of humanity and the nuclear holocaust. The chilling images on the list include:
* A woman wetting herself as she sees the mushroom cloud.
* Glass milk bottles melting in the heat of the blast.
* A catatonic woman cradling her dead baby.
* A man biting down on a rag as his leg is amputated with a saw without anesthetic.
* A couple gnawing at the raw flesh of a dead sheep.
* A woman bargained to sell her body in return for three dead rats.
* The same woman desperately smashing a tin of evaporated milk with a rock in the hope of getting it open and avoiding starvation.
* The education system ten years after the nuclear war consisting of no more than a grainy VHS tape of a school program and an erratic television.
* A generation of children with no hope who've never been taught to speak English properly and communicate at a level barely above grunting.
* A child born to a survivor of the nuclear war later giving birth herself to a hideously deformed stillborn baby.
It is definitely worth to keep this film for your personal film collection, especially for apocalypse fans.
Our big question: Why doesn't Amazon.com sell this DVD film Threads for USA format NTSC (Region 1)?
on April 8, 2012
I collect DVDs which project what may happen after a nuke attack.
This is a DVD projections what we may have to do to survive a nuke attack years later. this movie is shocking.
One warning: since this a region-2 DVD, you must have a region free DVD to watch it.
The lock is inside the DVD module itself.
1. You may purchase a region free player from Amazon.com for $30.
2. There are web sites showing how to hack most DVD players into region free. (There is no hacking on SONY players).
3. You can change the region code of the DVD module when playing in Windows. There is a countdown on how many times more the region can be changed. The DVD module locks up for good after the region is changed five times.