• When The Wind Blows

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: November 11, 2014
    Director: Jimmy Murakami
    Cast: John Mills, Peggy Ashcroft
    Year: 1986
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Film:

    Sometime back in the mid to late '80's, when watching television was still regarded as somewhat of a family event and you could plan out your evenings by paging through what we called a "TV Guide", my stepfather announced that we would be gathering in front of the TV that night to watch an animated film called "When The Wind Blows". This was a little bit odd, to say the least, as my old stepdad was known to have remarked that, "Cartoons cause your brain to shut itself down and operate at a lower capacity." or some other such nonsense. To this day, I don't know why he decided that we should watch the film, but to say that it left an impression would be an understatement.

    Based on Raymond Briggs' graphic novel of the same name, When The Wind Blows tells the story of James and Hilda, an elderly couple living in a nice little house in the British countryside outside of London. Though they are not stupid by any means, they definitely live what could be defined as a simple life in their golden years, with the transistor radio in the kitchen and the local newspaper being the main sources of excitement. Both forms of media have been focusing a whole lot on the "International Situation", however, and Jim's concern regarding "Preemptive Strikes" has convinced him to pick up some information pamphlets supplied by "The Powers That Be". After all, he says, it is the correct thing to do.

    Following the instructions in the pamphlet, Jim throws their uncomplicated lifestyle into a bit of a spin, removing the doors from the house to make a lean-to shelter (the "Inner Core"), buttressing it with Hilda's nice cushions, and painting the windows white to block out the radiation. Other preparatory tasks involve not being dressed in patterned clothes, and having paper sacks handy to wear. While Jim naively follows the instructions laid out by "The Powers That Be" to the letter, Hilda's main concern seems to be that he put the screws for the doors into a plastic bag so that they can be reattached after the bombs have been dropped. Neither of them seem too terribly worried about the impending attack, as they fondly remember the blackouts and the bomb shelters of World War II London, convinced that one war is the same as the next. And when the Russian "Preemptive Strike" finally does occur, they are completely unaware that they would have been better off not surviving.

    Needless to say, When The Wind Blows is not a pro-war film. Seeing it at 12 years old with the entire family was a jarring event, which led to a few nights of restless sleep. "Why didn't the white paint stop the radiation?" "What would you do if you actually really wanted to survive?" were the kinds of questions that James and Hilda might have asked if they'd seen the film, and my stepfather's straight-forward answer; "Nowhere. Everyone will die. The lucky ones will be incinerated immediately." was about as black and white as it gets, hammering home the horror of nuclear destruction. Viewing the film again a number of years later, the naivety of the protagonists is what makes it so effective; that even though we now know what the full impact of the consequences will be, unlike Jim and Hilda, the danger of such an event is still a very real threat. That innocence is also effective in making Jim and Hilda so very endearing as the survivors, as we helplessly watch them experience the events of the film with nothing but the best intentions.

    Directed by Jimmy Murakami, When The Wind Blows was fairly advanced for a "cartoon" at the time of release, mixing live action and sets with animated characters to give it a look that was definitely different and somewhat perplexing, in that the brain doesn't fully register what it's seeing during certain scenes, relating to the confusion experienced by the characters. The soundtrack is also cutting edge (again, for the time), mixing David Bowie, Squeeze, and Roger Waters and The Bleeding Heart Band, a rather unlikely collection of music for an animated film. And the closing credits track by Waters, "Folded Flags" is a kick in the stomach after the events of the movie, with morse code spelling out M-A-D (Mutually Assured Destruction) as it fades to black.

    I'm not going to lie, I cried in 1987, I cried in 2014, and I'll probably cry again the next time I see it. When The Wind Blows is a fascinating achievement in filmmaking, and one that remains timeless almost 30 years after its creation.


    When The Wind Blows comes to blu-ray from Twilight Time in limited edition of 3,000 units, with a 1.33:1 transfer, preserving its original aspect ration. The picture is wonderful, managing to balance the advantage of high-definition with the....cottagey feel of the film, which is to say that though the transfer is more or less clear an sharp, it manages to come across as warm and soft. There is grain-a-plenty here, and there is some stock footage that looks downright ugly...but that works for the film. There don't appear to be any issues with compressions or other artifacts.

    I found the DTS-HD MA 2.0 track to be just slightly off-kilter, with sound effects and score mixed a bit higher than the dialogue, not helped too much by the soft-spoken nature of the characters. While this slight change in volume fitted perfectly during the scenes involving the attack, it threw me just a little bit throughout the rest of the film. However, it's certainly not a glaringly obvious jump, and your results may vary. There is no hiss or distortion present that I could detect.

    The big extra feature on this disc, at least the one that most seem to be talking about, is "Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien" (1:17:39) a documentary that was thankfully made about the director back in 2010 (Murakami died in February of this year). Murakami, based in Ireland at the time of the documentary, talks intimately about his experiences as an American-born citizen of Japanese descent during World War II, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Regarded as a "Non-Alien", which was basically the government's way of stripping his rights as a citizen away, Jimmy and his family were placed in a concentration camp in California, which obviously had a hand in shaping his country and the world. This beautifully shot film also looks at Jimmy's life in films, with Jimmy himself supplying most of the information. It is worth noting that this supplement is also in 1080p, with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track.

    The Wind And The Bomb (24:19) is a "vintage" featurette from 1986, documenting the film's genesis as Raymond Brigg's graphic novel. Briggs makes an appearance here as his background as a children's writer is discussed, and producer John Coates and Jimmy Murakami are also present, talking about how the film took shape and the techniques used to create it.

    Interview With Raymond Briggs (13:49) retreads some of the information found in the previous featurette, but also puts focus on character development in his stories and how his parents influenced his work.

    There are also two alternate audio tracks for the film. First up is an Isolated Music and Effects Track, which is quite nice if that's your thing. The second track is a commentary featuring First Assistant Editor Joe Fordham, and Twilight Time's (and Film Historian) Nick Redman. Fordham covers quite a bit of information regarding the making and editing of the film, as well as working with Murakami and the musical contributions to the film. Fortunately, Fordham also has a fair bit of knowledge on the set building and technical aspects of the animation, and the two keep up a lively conversation for the majority of the running time.

    Rounding out the extra features are a Twilight Time catalogue, and a case insert with an essay by writer Julie Kirgo.

    The Final Word:

    When The Wind Blows is a sad and wonderful film that still remains powerful and relevant all of these years later. I shudder to use the word "heartwarming", but it's the very description of this work, and a beautiful example of how stunning an animated film can be. Definitely recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screencaps!

    Comments 5 Comments
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      This and PLAGUE DOGS traumatised me as a child, when they were first released. (I seem to vividly remember my parents picking up a similar leaflet to the protagonists of this film, from the local library, with advise as to how to survive an atomic bomb.) I still have Raymond Briggs' comic somewhere, I think. It's a shame this one is often forgotten whilst the adaptation of THE SNOWMAN (as good as it is) has its profile kept high by annual repeats - at least in the UK (I don't know if the same is true in the US, for example).
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I'd actually never heard of SNOWMAN until i watched the docs on this disc.
    1. Paul L's Avatar
      Paul L -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mark Tolch View Post
      I'd actually never heard of SNOWMAN until i watched the docs on this disc.
      It's an annual favourite over here, shown every Christmas. Try to check it out, Mark: it's a great little film. (I'm sure it's viewable online.) There's a sequel of sorts too, THE SNOWMAN AND THE SNOWDOG, which is equally good (imo).
    1. sukebanboy's Avatar
      sukebanboy -
      This one traumatised me too as a child!!

      The ending is unbelievably effective...dont want to give any spoilers, but things dont go as they should!

      I never knew about the SNOWMAN sequel...will have to check that one out!
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Yeah, thanks for the heads up, Paul, I'll check it out!