This whole ‘ask people what they want me to review for Christmas’ has already bitten me in the ass because the only responses that I’ve had were from my Dad and my brother who both wanted me to do ‘Threads’. They know perfectly well that ‘Threads’ is a Christmas film in the same way that Rylan Clarke is good at singing. They don’t actually want me to review it, they’re just winding me up but, they will keep mentioning it until I do it so… here we go. Wish me luck.
I have only seen ‘Threads’ once and I vowed never to watch it again and that it still the case, but the events of the film are so harrowing that they tend to stick in your memory.
‘Threads’ is a TV movie from 1984 which graphically depicts a dramatized version of what would happen if there was an all-out nuclear war.
Before I talk about the plot, I want to give some background and therefore, some context.
I was born in 1994 so the Cold War had been officially over for three years however, the 80’s was the height of the Cold War and the inhabitants of the 1980’s were living in constant terror that each day would be their last and at any moment, their buttocks would be blasted off in a great big nuclear explosion.
All through the 80’s, there were public information films and Panorama documentaries on what would happen if the country was nuked. Printed flyers were passed out to show people how to make their own nuclear shelter and even what to do if you’re caught outside when the bomb hits. ‘Duck and Cover’, remember that? Should have been ‘Duck, cover, then kiss your arse goodbye’ because honestly, who wants to survive a nuclear holocaust? There’s only a very slim chance that the events of the Fallout games would actually happen in real life. I’m pretty good at the games but same rules don’t apply in real life.
America had already had a crack at the ‘what would happen if we got nuked’ storyline with ‘The Day After’ in 1983 which was a TV movie starring Steve Guttenberg and from what I remember, it was similar to ‘Threads’ except the ending held a small amount of hope.
Another similar film to ‘Threads’ was released in 1966, courtesy of the BBC and it was called ‘The War Game’ which centred around the before, during and after events of a nuclear attack on Britain. This was presumably released when the world was first worrying about nuclear war and then that went away only to return in the 80’s.
Just to be clear, I do hate ‘Threads’ but not because it’s a bad film. I can’t even say it’s a good film because I don’t enjoy watching it. But not because it’s bad. Because it’s not bad, it’s very well made but I don’t think it was made for people to enjoy it. It’s difficult to explain. I don’t like it because it’s one of my three biggest fears; Nuclear War, an impromptu Asteroid Strike and being trapped in a room where nothing but Taylor Swift’s music plays on a loop. All these things bring forth the fear of God whom I don’t believe in. I don’t like looking at mushroom clouds, I don’t seek it out as entertainment.
I’ll tell you what sparked this fear. I once found and then stupidly watched the ‘Emergency Broadcast System/Red Alert/ You’re all going to die’ warning for a nuclear attack on YouTube. I watched it and it frightened the shit out of me. Obviously, it wasn’t real, it was a clip on YouTube but if it was real, that warning inspires more terror than a warning and doesn’t offer any helpful information whatsoever. OK, so an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile is heading our way… what am I meant to do with that information? OK, take shelter but what kind shelter? Above ground? That seems pretty pointless. Below ground? Basements may be common in America but in England, not many houses have basements.
Actually, ‘who wants to survive a nuclear holocaust?’ is a question that ‘Threads’ answers neatly and the answer is still literally no one. Which I suppose brings me to the plot.
‘Threads’ centres around a young girl, Ruth (Karen Meagher) who is pregnant with her first baby with her fiancée, Jimmy (Reece Dinsdale) and living happily in Sheffield, England in anticipation for their upcoming wedding and the birth of their child. All the perfect groundwork for things to get well and truly fucked.
Unfortunately for them, ‘fuckery’ is right around the corner as tensions between the US and the Soviet Union in Iran begin to rise and the UK starts preparing for the worst. The specifics are too complicated to go into because it involves Politics and is therefore impenetrable, but the worst happens. In the worst way. And it’s up to the common folk to deal with it.
Interestingly, this film was directed by Mick Jackson who had done a ‘nuclear war’ type thing for the BBC before which was the Q.E.D. Documentary, ‘A Guide to Armageddon’ in 1982 which depicted what would happen if a one megaton nuclear bomb hit London. So, Jackson already had some knowledge about Nuclear War but nevertheless travelled both the UK and the US and consulted experts, scientists, doctors and defence specialists in an attempt to get as accurate a depiction of Nuclear War and the aftermath as possible. And he certainly did that.
I know what you want. You want me to talk about the misery, don’t you? About why this film is so horrible? All right then. Here are the worst bits. This gets dark so you have been warned.
So, five minutes of happy families and BAM! Country gets nuked. Sheffield is strategically targeted because it’s an industrial city and is hit with a one megaton warhead which destroys the city. Having fun so far?
Jimmy is caught outside when the blast-wave hits, so we never see him again, but Ruth survives with her parents and grandmother in the shelter that they made for themselves in the basement. In the space of what seems like a few minutes, 3000 megatons are exchanged between the superpowers and 210 megatons fall on the UK which results in two thirds of all homes destroyed and casualties in the millions. That’s only from the initial exchange, the worst is yet to come.
Days after the attack, Ruth leaves the ‘safety’ of the basement and wanders the radiation-soaked streets as the dazed and injured survivors also have a walk around. Ruth discovers the extent of the damage as burned body after charred corpse is panned across, including a woman holding a dead baby.
With no running water, electricity, food or basic amenities and oh yeah, covered with so much radiation that it glows in the dark, Ruth and some other survivors leave Sheffield and she ends up in Buxton, 20 miles away. Ruth enters a hospital where they are forced to use primitive means of treating injuries. And by that I mean, cue the footage of screaming people, a lot of restraints, blood and saws.
A few months go by and the country is in the bounds of a nuclear winter. Ruth is heavily pregnant and gives birth to her baby, alone and with no help, limited knowledge of how to deliver a baby and no equipment which is observed when she has to chew through the umbilical cord. Miraculously, the baby survives and is in fact healthy. Ruth names her baby daughter, Jane.
Time then jumps 10 years and things are still shitty. The population has fallen to 4 – 11 million people and although the sun has returned, significant damage to the ozone layer causes ultraviolet radiation from the sun to seep through, increasing the risk of cataracts and cancer. Ruth suffers from both of these and dies with her 10-year-old daughter, Jane by her side.
Over the next three years, something of a civilization has returned. Of course, it’s still not very good. People are forced to work in difficult conditions with primitive tools to farm for sickly crops, but electricity has returned in a limited sense using steam power.
Jane ends up having sex with a boy (there’s some debate about whether or not she was raped although the script does not describe the encounter as rape, but it’s assumed that she was raped) and gets pregnant. Nine months later, Jane arrives a makeshift hospital, but her language skills are so poor due to lack of an education that she only knows a few words and can barely communicate. Nevertheless, the staff help her, and she gives birth to a stillborn baby. She is handed her child and as she looks inside the blanket, the screen cuts to black before she screams in horror.
You can see why this film was made? None of this is positive and yet are a direct result of people fucking around with dangerous stuff. Is it worth it?
But then again, this is the exact reason why an all-out nuclear war between the superpowers is most unlikely. It’s M.A.D. or Mutually Assured Destruction.
My stance on the whole ‘nuclear weapons’ thing is that I don’t want anyone, including us, to have them but then again, I don’t want us to be the first to give them up and no one will be the first to give them up. Either everyone has them or no one has them because if everyone has them then we might as well not have them because no one will use them. We’re essentially holding each other hostage at this point.
But then again, if we achieve a world in which all the world’s leaders stands at the edge of a massive ditch and chucks all their nukes inside, all it would take is for someone to mix up their own nuke, doesn’t have to be an ICBM and take the world hostage in some kind of weird ‘James Bond’ scenario. So maybe it is a good idea to have them. I don’t know anymore.
‘Threads’ was hailed for it’s realistic depiction of something horrible and critics and audiences retrospectively think it’s good. Millions watched it and absorbed the message that we all knew anyway (Nuclear War is bad) and Mick Jackson even received a letter of praise from the leader of the Labour Party at the time, Neil Kinnock.
The film was nominated for seven BAFTA’s and won four awards out of the seven nominations. In 2018, ‘Threads’ was released on Blu-Ray with its footage scanned in 2K from a broadcast print and also includes commentaries from the director and interviews with the cast.
I don’t know what else to say. Except, I’m pretty certain that the only thing to take away from this film is that there’s no point in surviving a nuclear war.
Anymore Christmas recommendations?
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I’m still hunting for Christmas recommendations for the first of December. Pop the name of the film you want me to review in the comments below and I’ll make a note of it and you’ll see the review on this site at some point in December. Thanks a lot!
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