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Author Topic: Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)  (Read 3853 times)

Mark GW

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Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)
« on: 04 Oct 2010 - 18:53 »

Probably the grimmist drama ever to appear on British Television.  This is the viewing experience equivalent of being punched in the stomach and kicked in the nuts.  If the soapy, well-intentioned, but flawed, US TV movie nuclear holocaust grimfest 'The Day After' was responsible for Ronald Reagan to reconsider the US nuclear arms policy then Threads would've had him personally disassembling the entire NATO stockpile and pledging his allegiance to Satan.

Superbly scripted by Barry Hines.  The story intertwines the experiences of two Sheffield families and the council chief executive officer (responsible for organising civil defence matters) with some stark scientific  and military factual information presented as stark narration and typesetted on-screen captions.

While the story unfolds snippets from News reports and newspaper headlines tell of an escalating conflict between the US and Soviet forces in the Middle East.  The general populance believes that the situation will blow over and the unthinkable won't happen.  The sense of impending doom is so palpable.

The Protect and Survive public information films, voiced by Barrett homes helicopter cheerleader Patrick Allen,  bring a chilling reminder of how unprepared we were and how downright useless these instructions were to anyone living in an urban area.  Some of these 'sick joke' information films can be seen in the essential Network DVD 'Charley Says'.

About the only laugh to be had during this whole drama is the Trade Union Leader calling for a General Strike in protest of the US and Soviet Union stance in the conflict.  Yes, that would really make them think again.  Even the absurdities are convincing.

What unfolds is an incredibly bleak and pessimistic outlook of the after effects of a nuclear war, and so it bloody well should be.  If anyone ever needed convincing that a nuclear war was winnable or even survivable then they need to watch this before being slapped around the chops a few times.  It also serves as a reminder to anyone who lived and/or grew up in the 80s the very real threat that nuclear annhilation presented to you in everyday life.  They really were grim at times.

The more recent BBC DVD is an improvement over the artifact ridden release by Meridian Entertainment and is the one to go for.
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R-T-C Tim

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Re: Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)
« Reply #1 on: 01 Nov 2010 - 16:16 »

I saw this a while ago, I remember it being superb for the most part, the build up was very cleverly done with news stations reporting events that would lead to war, but just being ignored by most people.

The only flaw I felt was in the post-apoc scenes when it jumps forward many years. I felt that these were rather too pessimistic or at least too simplistic. With the major powers gone, there would have been a major shift in the world politic. The idea that the future would just be an old woman scratching at the ground in Sheffield simply didn't work for me, mankind has survived many challenges before, like the Black Death. They should have either stopped the film before they starting jumping forward like that, or dedicated more time to exploring the possibilities.
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Mark GW

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Re: Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)
« Reply #2 on: 04 Nov 2010 - 16:30 »

Hmm, you raise some interesting points Tim.

I wonder if the mindset of the programme makers was to put over the argument to the powers that be and the watching audience that there would be no winners in a nuclear war.  An important point was made here to show that the effects on subsequent generations would be far reaching.  Not just emotionally and economically, but biologically too.  Sterile and mutated inhabitants, people dying at a young age.  At least during the Black Death, the population would be able to reproduce and slowly recover.  There's a distinct possibility here that the human population would never recover from this needless catastrophe.

During the 80s, there was probably enough nuclear weapons to have totally obliterated the planet, so this was not necessarily the worst case scenario.  Mind you, didn't Hollywood cover this in Beneath The Planet of the Apes. :-)

It would be interesting to know if additional scenes were written or planned but dropped for time or aesthetical reasons.  I seem to remember hearing rumours that the final shot at the end of the drama was toned down and was alot more graphic.
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Filmbar70

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Re: Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)
« Reply #3 on: 05 Nov 2010 - 00:47 »

Utterly brilliant piece of programming - gave me more nightmares than all the other films on this site combined! Re the shift forward in time - well, this renders the work science fiction (and, by association, more abstract - which maybe more comforting for some viewers) and therefore dilutes the immediate concerns somewhat. However, personally I like it. 'Threads' is science fiction (and very British science fiction at that), which, at its best, does provide us with nightmares... How do folk think this compares with Meyer's The Day After?
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Mark GW

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Re: Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)
« Reply #4 on: 07 Nov 2010 - 16:31 »

Calling it science fiction is a bit harsh, as it really doesn't do justice to the huge amount of research that went into the programme that gives it a such an amazing documentary feel.  Cosmologist Carl Sagan is in the credits, I've always wondered what his input was.

'The Day After' was a worthy but flawed effort which tended to drift towards a soap opera/potboiler mentality, perhaps pandering a bit too much towards Hollywood style mainstream.  The absence of a nuclear winter style aftermath is a big omission too.  Threads knocks it into a cocked hat.

The War Game suffers slightly from the same omission but can be forgiven by the fact it was made 20 years earlier and makes up for it by the sheer power of its delivery as a stark black and white documentary.  The equal of Threads.

When The Wind Blows is superb and I've yet to see Testament.
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R-T-C Tim

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Re: Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)
« Reply #5 on: 08 Nov 2010 - 09:07 »

How do folk think this compares with Meyer's The Day After?

From what I remember, the American production very quickly moved into a cinematic 'post-apocalypse' environment, the sort you might expect in the years beyond. It never had that incredibly realistic feel in the days after which is what made 'Threads' seem so real. Of course as Brits, 'Threads' will always seem more 'real' to us. Interesting to know what an American viewer would make of the two films.

Calling it science fiction is a bit harsh, as it really doesn't do justice to the huge amount of research that went into the programme that gives it a such an amazing documentary feel.

I think we should just be thankful that it was fiction!
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Filmbar70

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Re: Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)
« Reply #6 on: 08 Nov 2010 - 17:30 »

Hi - Mark, 'proper' science fiction should always be incredibly well researched - but, yeah, point taken  ;D
I supposed the styles adopted by each film are correctly tailored for the specific territory. Us Brits are more used to the gritty / docu-drama style of storytelling, whereas America has more of a history of the soap opera / melodramatic form. Both succeed in their agenda relevant to the country - that agenda being to scare the living crap out of us!
Yeah - would like to testament...
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Mark GW

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Re: Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)
« Reply #7 on: 09 Nov 2010 - 14:20 »

I remember the first time they repeated Threads on the BBC.  It was 1985 and they had a nuclear holocaust themed week for the 40th Anniversary of Hiroshima on BBC2.  I remember them showing Threads, The War Game, and some Japanese nuclear explosion simulations.  It all ended with a political debate featuring some politicians from the UK, US and Soviet Union.  All I can remember about this debate was the Soviet person calling Threads overtly pessimistic!

Talking about the War Game someone once told me that Peter Watkins planned to make a follow up to it, and had gone as far as getting volunteers for a scene of mass carnage on Parker's Piece in Cambridge!  Anyone know anything more about this.
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bruce holecheck

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Re: Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)
« Reply #8 on: 06 Nov 2012 - 18:46 »

Anyone able to scan the UK VHS?  I'm working on an Archives entry and am unable to find a quality image.
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bruce holecheck

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Re: Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)
« Reply #9 on: 07 Nov 2012 - 02:08 »

VHS Archives entry up!  Still looking for the UK sleeve, along with any others I don't have.

http://bruceholecheck.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-vhs-archives-mick-jacksons-threads.html
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Longsden

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Re: Threads (Mick Jackson, 1984)
« Reply #10 on: 07 Nov 2012 - 08:11 »

Still bums me out thinking about it
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