• Threads

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: February 13th, 2018.
    Director: Mick Jackson
    Cast: Karen Meagher, Reece Dinsdale, David Brierly, Harry Beety, Henry Moxon, June Broughton, Rita May
    Year: 1984
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    The Movie:

    When you think of made for TV movies you tend to think of corny films, typically made for commercial purposes without much going on in the way of artistic ambition or message. Threads, directed by Mick Jackson in 1984 and broadcast originally by the BBC (and then Turner later in the United States) is one of the more obvious exceptions to that cliché. It’s also one of the most harrowing and depressing film’s you’re ever likely to see.

    Set in the English city of Sheffield, the film introduces us to two teenagers, Ruth (Karen Meagher) and Jimmy (Reece Dinsdale). Despite the protests of their parents, when they learn Ruth is pregnant they decide to keep the baby and tie the knot. Young love can conquer all, right? As they go about trying to plan their new life together and arranging their home, we learn that tensions between the United States and the U.S.S.R. are escalating due to American interference in the Iranian civil war. The whole world watches as the threat of nuclear war looms ever closer.

    It gets worse from there. An American submarine disappears which results in troops being deployed into the Middle East. Political protests become common place and city comptroller Clive Sutton (Harry Beety) readies the town for a nuclear strike while simultaneously trying to keep law and order. Despite Sutton’s best efforts, the preparedness doesn’t go as planned and after many snags, when the strike is inevitably launched – there are American military bases near Sheffield - no one is ready for it, despite everyone expecting it. Those that are killed are the lucky ones. The few survivors, including Ruth who does her best to find Jimmy amongst the ruin and the chaos, find themselves left with a fate worse than death.

    Proving that everything old is new again, Threads was made at a time in history where nuclear war really did seem like a very possible threat. Now that we’re back in that mode with tensions escalating between the United States and North Korea and shit hitting the perpetual fan in the Middle East again, what better time than now to reissue the movie? If nothing else, it serves as a startlingly grim reminder of just how devastating the effects of a nuclear strike would be. The research that went into this film, which is very well documented in the extra features (more on that in a few paragraphs) was clearly taken very seriously and the final product is particularly frightening because it really does feel like something that could happen.

    Additionally, our two lead characters are well developed. Ruth and Jimmy are just regular people, scared of what lies ahead for them but excited to start their life together. They’re in love and for that reason, they’re charming. The movie doesn’t overdo it with sugary sweetness, it just creates a relationship that the audience can both latch onto and identify with. Karen Meagher and Reece Dinsdale play their parts well, as do David Brierly, Henry Moxon, June Broughton and Rita May as their concerned parents. Harry Beety is also very good as the man in charge of getting Sheffield ready, only to watch it succumb to almost complete societal breakdown.

    The look of the film is appropriately dire. Shot on location in Sheffield using a lot of old, rundown buildings Jackson and his crew create a post-apocalyptic dystopia that, again, feels authentic. There aren’t any irradiated mutants here or punk-style biker gangs roaming the streets, just people trying to survive, doing their best not to die from the radiation poisoning that they know is going to kill them. It’s heartbreakingly well done. Occasional narration from Paul Vaughn helps to not only give the film context but also to provide telling facts about the after effects of the bomb.


    Severin Films brings Threads to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.33.1 fullframe transfer that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. Shot on 16mm, this is a very grainy film and the fact that it frequently makes use of stock footage inserts doesn’t do it any favors in that department. Still, the detail here is pretty solid given the way that the movie was made. This is hardly a colorful picture but the dark tones and grim hues of the movie are reproduced faithfully and the strong bit rate on the disc keeps compression artifacts from getting in the way. There’s no evidence of noise reduction or edge enhancement – this seems true to the movie’s source and is by and large a very respectable presentation of some iffy elements.

    The DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, in English, sounds fine. Dialogue is clear and while source limitations result in some occasional flatness this really just sounds like the eighties made for TV movie that it is – no shame in that. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the levels are fine. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    The substantial selection of extras on the disc starts off with an audio commentary with director Mick Jackson that’s moderated by writer Kier–La Janisse and Severin Films’ own David Gregory and it’s quite an interesting talk. He gives us the rundown on how he got into the film industry, talks about his early days working for the BBC and then discusses how he wound up doing a lot of research on nuclear war that wound up leading to the making of Threads. There’s also talk here about how the picture was received, what has aged in the film versus what remains fresh and relevant and many of the social and political themes that it explores during its running time.

    From there, we move on to the featurettes, starting with Audition For The Apocalypse which is an interview with actress Karen Meagher. Here she speaks for just short of ten-minutes about her own fear or nuclear war during the time in which the film was made, research that went into the picture and her thoughts on the effectiveness of the finished product. Up next, Shooting The Annihilation, a nine-minute interview with director of photography Andrew Dunn that covers the importance of the city of Sheffield’s participation in the film, how prepared director Jackson was and the look of the film itself. In the ten-minute Destruction Designer we’re treated to an interview with production designer Christopher Robilliard that goes into even more detail about the look of the film, the locations that were used and what had to be done to them to prepare for the shoot and other related topics. Last but not least, we get a half-hour interview with film writer/author/musician Stephen Thrower that dives fairly deep into the tensions that existed between the United States and the U.S.S.R. at the time the movie was made, the BBC’s involvement in the picture, the lasting impact of the film and how it was received after its initial broadcast.

    Outside of that, the disc also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer, a re-release trailer, animated menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Relentless grim and hopelessly depressing, Threads is nevertheless a very well-made picture, harrowing as it might be. Severin Films has brought this impressive film to Blu-ray in very fine form with a solid transfer and an excellent selection of supplemental material that documents its history and its importance.

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