Wednesday, March 28, 2018

THREADS (1984) (Severin Blu-ray Review)

THREADS (1984) 
Label: Severin Films
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 117 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080P HD Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: Jim Latham
Cast: Karen Meagher, Reece Dinsdale, David Brierley, Rita May, Nicholas Lane, Jane Hazlegrove

Synopsis: In September 1984, it was aired on the BBC and shocked tens of millions of UK viewers. Four months later, it was broadcast in America and became the most watched basic cable program in history. After more than three decades, it remains one of the most acclaimed and shattering made-for-television movies of all time. Reece Dinsdale (Coronation Street), David Brierly (Doctor Who) and Karen Meagher (in a stunning debut performance) star in this “graphic and haunting” (People Magazine) docudrama about the effects of a nuclear attack on the working-class city of Sheffield, England as the fabric of society unravels. Directed by Mick Jackson (THE BODYGUARD, TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE) from a screenplay by novelist/playwright Barry Hines (Ken Loach’s KES) and nominated for seven BAFTA Awards, “the most terrifying and honest portrayal of nuclear war ever filmed” (The Guardian) has now been fully restored from a 2K scan for the first time ever.

In 1983 I was ten years old, I remember watching the made-for-TV nuclear-panic film The Day After (1983) when it aired on TV with my family, it was a sobering and frightening account of what would happen if a full-scale nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union happened in the heartland of the US. The damn thing terrified me, the Cold War was till in full effect and the threat of nuclear war seemed very possible, especially to a ten year old kid who watched the news every night. I remember the next evening during a particularly orange-ish looking sunset that an odd-shaped "cauliflower" cloud tinted red/orange by the sunset gave me a moment of heart-stopping pause, , I made sure to draw my mom's attention to it in hopes that she would dispel my fear of it being a nuclear bomb detonation at the nearby military base, and when she did just that I felt more at ease, but the TV-film was deeply unsettling to say the least. As unnerving as that TV film was at least I didn't see the British made TV-film Threads (1984) till just this week, if I had seen this bleak slice of no-hope for the future I might have sunk into a never-ending spiral of nuclear-fear.

Threads (1984) opens in Sheffield, England with a young couple sitting in their car on a hilltop overlooking their city, the couple are Ruth Beckett (Karen Meagher) and Jimmy Kemp (Reece Dinsdale), the car radio tells us of growing tension between NATO and Warsaw Pact, but the scene is all about cementing the love they have for one another. A month later the couple are making plans to marry after discovering she's pregnant, we join them as the two families meet and make plans for a wedding, in the background we hear continuing reports of rising tensions between the US and Russia over things happening in the Middle East. The threat is always simmering in the background and then as tensions rise things get even more dire, a nuclear weapon is detonated nearby, and the reality of a post-nuke world settles in real fast for the couple. 

The film spends a lot of time with our young couple before the bomb drops, though it is Ruth the film follows to a larger degree, in the post-nuke scenario we see her struggling with her difficult pregnancy, coping with the loss of her family and making her way through the irradiated rubble and destruction left behind in the aftermath. The film has a docudrama sort of narrative,  it's a bit cold and detached, but also engrossing and horrifying. We see the breakdown of society and how the government is largely helpless and ineffectual, still bickering over paperwork while the world crumbles around. The film takes us thirteen years into the future after the bomb, and spoiler alert, it's all harrowing and horrifying, with nuclear winter setting in the climate grows colder and even more inhospitable, taking us back to a middle ages sort of agrarian lifestyle. 

The scope of this one is mighty impressive, the scenes of destruction are powerful and the human drama cuts deep, anchored by Karen Meagher who gives a wonderfully human and desperate performance. The carnage is well-done, destroyed building in flames radiation sickness, there's charred bodies and disfiguring injuries, not to mention the desperation of scrounging for food and water in the aftermath, a scene of two people tearing at a raw sheep carcass for sustenance was stomach churning. Threads is nightmare fuel, not some faraway impossible nightmare either, this is an alarmingly accurate and not too-sensational representation of what we could expect if things ever go this far, and sadly we once again find ourselves uncomfortably close to the brink of nuclear doomsday. 

Audio/Video: Threads (1984) arrives on Blu-ray from Severin films with a new 2K scan, not sure what the source is but it's a little rough with damage and grit abounding, the grain is course as the film was shot on 16mm film. The image is flat and dingy looking, some of that is by design, it is an post-apocalyptic film after all, but there's definitely some issues with the source, the grain field varies quite a bit and detail fluctuates, but for a TV film from the 80's it looks pretty damn decent, if it was too spiffy looking it might take away from the gritty realism. The mono DTS-HD MA audio is anemic and unremarkable but dialogue is never hard to decipher, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras we get a very nice array, we begin with an audio commentary with Director Mick Jackson Moderated By Film Writer Kier-La Janisse and Severin Films’ David Gregory, I enjoyed the talk of the research that went into depicting the realistic outcome of a nuclear bomb drop, all of which makes for a disturbingly realistic film. There are also interviews with actress Karen Meagher (10 min), Director Of Photography Andrew Dunn (9 min) and Production Designer Christopher Robilliard (10 min), which speaks to the panicked-era in which this aired, how it was received and how they shot the film, achieving the look and aesthetic of a post-nuke world. My favorite of all the extras is a 30-minute interview with author Stephen Thrower, apparently taking a welcomed break from his day job as an avid Jess Franco/euro-sleaze commentator to speak about the film and the affect it had upon release, as usual a very astute and entertaining chat giving context to the film. The disc extras are finished up with a trailer and re-release trailer for the film. 

This single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork, the disc featuring the same artwork of a clock tower engulfed in a nuclear inferno. This version is the limited edition (of 3500) version with a lenticular slipcase, showing a tranquil park scene, when slightly titled it shows the nuclear inferno version of the scene in ruin. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Director Mick Jackson Moderated By Film Writer Kier-La Janisse and Severin Films’ David Gregory
- Audition For The Apocalypse: Interview With Actress Karen Meagher (10 min) 
- Shooting The Annihilation: Interview With Director Of Photography Andrew Dunn (9 min) 
- Destruction Designer: Interview With Production Designer Christopher Robilliard (10 min) 
- Interview With Film Writer Stephen Thrower (30 min) 
- US Trailer (2 min) 
- Re-Release Trailer ( 2 min) 

Threads (1984) goes several measures beyond it's US precursor The Day After (1983), creating a bleak and shattering image of a nuclear nightmare, a vision that still might well be a possibility considering the narcissistic maniacs who wield the nuclear power these days, this is still a valid warning of a possible apocalyptic future. The Blu-ray from Severin is not the most pristine presentation, but the film itself is disturbingly fascinating and loaded with some great extras, adding more dread to this already nightmare-fueled slice of nuclear panic. 

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