I watched this film only recently. It was on my list of "to find and watch" movies, but I only got around to the finding part while looking for the film of Nineteen Eighty-Four on SuprNova. Having found Threads but not said film amongst the search results, I snapped it up regardless, being too cheap to pay for it and too lazy to earn the money to buy it.

I really wish I hadn't now.

I've always been somewhat a pacifist and an anti-nuclear person (I was about to say activist but then I'm hardly doing much that's active about it, besides being concerned) but referred to nukes in jest. I'd go, in general conversation "Just nuke fucking $person", to express my dissatisfaction with $person, usually a celebrity. From most of the media I had seen (aside from Greenpeace's stuff, which was too busy scaring me shitless with delightful images of mutated babies) nuclear war would be easy: drop bomb, people vaporised, fallout settles, cancer spreads, area returns to normal after a few years. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.

Well, (and you probably saw this sentence coming a mile off, like a big cliche train which you're standing directly in front of waving a green light around) not any more. Threads, rather than viewing nuclear annihilation as a task carried out by governments and shown from their perspective, takes a more personal view, meaning we get to see the total and utter obliteration of society from the viewpoint of normal people-i.e, not people who have an underground bunker to piss off to whenever the situation calls for it. Everything is shown, regardless of how disturbing, frightening or dangerous to mental health. We get it all: melting milk bottles, glass rushing out of window frames like water, something that looks like a meerkat (On reviewing I think it's just a cat. I don't generally revel in the watching of a melting animal, so to all intents and purposes, it be a meerkat. Yes, a meerkat. In Sheffield. Yes) being burnt away, all under the shadow of fiery nuclear death. Cheerful television, it ain't.

I'm not going to fault the technical quality of the programme (after all, it was made in the 80s, and even so it's pretty damn impressive). The film crew reportedly ran into problems as they detonated a (probably fucking huge, judging by the shot we get of it) smoke bomb to produce a mushroom cloud, producing much panic for local residents, but I'm not quite sure how they managed to wangle melting milk bottles (the windows are probably easy to do, just get a window frame and pour water down it, job done).

At this point I'm rewatching the explosion bit to transcribe it for the writeup. My mental health is depleted anyway, one more bit of mind eroding suffering won't hurt. Ouch, everyone's now running away, and they're lowering some old woman into a cellar, and there's an old couple frantically building a fallout shelter from some doors...all is in chaos...and now...here it goes...ouch. Oops. Fuck. I reeeeeally wish I hadn't seen that.Woolworths collapses. BHS collapses. Part of the Government fallout collapses. Then we get a fun statistic - "Total exchange, three gigatons". How nice. What a nice nice nice nice film. Oh look, a burning hand, and a burning face. Lovely. Pass the sick bucket, please, and tell those utter, utter bastards at the BBC that I want my sanity back.

It is this display of graphic imagery that led to it only ever being shown on world television three times in 20 years. Its last showing was last year, on a channel than practically nobody watches (and it's a good thing too, for reasons I'll come to shortly). Any attempt to show it on any mainstream channel (i.e BBC One, on which it was originally screened) would probably result in a few thousand complaints to Ofcom (Note to our (mostly) friends across the Pond: Ofcom are our televisions regulators, like the FCC but less easily offended by the sounds of things). Its legacy on its first showing was insane: schoolchildren around the country were, understandably, scared witless. The Cold War was still going on, They Of The Hammer and the Sickle were still more or less up and running, and the threat of a fiery nuclear doom was very, very real-a programme depicting, in accurate detail, just how terrible such a state of affairs would be is not going to be welcome. It's probably the realism that made it so distressing: it was backed up by a lot of consultants, most of which carried the PhD Mark of Cain and did nothing to reassure the viewer that this was fiction.

I don't know. All I know is that if I ever watch this film again, it will be in the company of a bottle of Jack Daniels and a large heavy object to lob at whatever form of media I am watching it from. It is a truly horrid film to watch, engrossing but still horrid and not pleasurable by any stretch of the imagination.

That doesn't stop it from being fucking brilliant though.
Some links: here is an extremely irritating review by an American who obviously thinks it would be better done by the cast of Beverley Hills 90210. AP above was hiding a secret on his web server, an absolutely stonking page on the film, at http://www.ashleypomeroy.com/threads.html. Finally, there's a good page at http://www.geocities.com/godforgnomes/Threads with screenshots and links to DVDs and videos at Amazon, if you choose to subject yourself to what is, in effect, filmic Chinese water torture.