“Things could always be worse.” Whether it’s the political state of things, the rise of Neo-Nazism, or the environmental damage being wreaked on the planet, the Universal Credit system or any other personal or societal turmoil facing us, there’s always Threads to put things into perspective.
That’s not to diminish how serious the real issues in the world are, of course. But this particular part-documentary part-harrowing drama, set in the days before a nuclear apocalypse hits the UK and the fallout thereafter, is a stark reminder of how close humanity came to the brink of a self-made extinction in the face of the Cold War. Arguments happening in a political sphere out of our control threatened the safety of billions of people, itself a terrifying concept, but director Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard, Volcano) and writer Barry Hines (Kes) capture the visceral threat and how ill-prepared we were.
Scenes of ordinary Yorkshire families putting mattresses against the windows and doors as the country anticipated armageddon, or the sudden switch from walking through the streets on the way home from work, to complete obliteration and the ensuing panic, still retain their emotional power. The presentation of these stories in such a matter-of-fact way imbues them with a sense of believability. Normal everyday people who are working on their car in the garage one minute, and blown to smithereens the next, is utterly terrifying because it could happen. Or, more prominently at the time of its original release in summer 1984, it was likely to happen.
It begins with a working class couple in Sheffield at the beginning of their life together. By the time the film’s iconic closing scene rolls around – set in a not-too-distant future where the illiterate, decaying, crumbling remnants of what was once British community still just about survive – the struggles of a couple just wanting to move in together seems completely ridiculous. Again, Threads draws you back to the concept of perspective.
Jackson thoroughly researched the topic to make the consequences of nuclear war as realistic as possible. Every second feels real and in this restoration thanks in part to the meticulous investigations that Jackson made when making his film. The documentary-style format makes you feel voyeuristic as you peer into these people’s lives and the unimaginably horrific mess that it has become; but this helps to establish your role in the story. You become an accessory to the crimes being committed for not acting to prevent them, just sitting idly by, watching from the sofa as everything unfolds. It’s an uneasy feeling and at the time of its original broadcast had an insurmountable impact on viewers. It highlighted not just how terrible the reality of nuclear war was, but emphasised how much could be done if everyone rallied together against the impending armageddon.
Not only is it an incredibly moving looks incredible too. On the 2k remaster of his most-frightening BBC movie, replete with a director-approved widescreen edition, Jackson called it “a terrific job”. He added: “If anything, I think it’s better than the original, in many, many ways. I’m very impressed by how careful and sensitive you’ve been in your choices, shot by shot. This is a terrific achievement and I wholeheartedly endorse it.”
READ MORE: Stephen King’s Castle Rock – First Look
The special features on the remaster also includes audio commentaries with lead actress Karen Meagher (UK exclusive) and director Mick Jackson as well as documentaries Shooting the Annihilation, Auditioning for the Apocalypse, Destruction Designer, Stephen Thrower on Threads. All in all, it’s a must-own purchase for anyone who hasn’t already seen Threads. It’s the perfect way to see one of the most distressing yet essential movies in British cinematic history.
The BAFTA-winning Threads: Remastered is out now for the first time on Blu-Ray from Simply Media.