Threads

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Britain has emergency plans for war. If central government should ever fail, power can be transferred instead to a system of local officials dispersed across the country. In an urban district like Sheffield, there is already a designated wartime controller. He's the city's peacetime chief executive. If it should suddenly become necessary, he can be given full powers of internal government. When, or if, this happens depends on the crisis itself. ~ Narrator
This time they are playing with at best the destruction of life as we know it and at worst total annihilation. You cannot win a nuclear war! Now just suppose the Russians did win this war... What exactly would they be winning? Well, I'll tell you! All major centres of population and industry would have been destroyed. The soil would have been irradiated. Farmstock would be dead, diseased or dying. The Russians would have conquered a corpse of a country.
Hanging in the atmosphere, the clouds of debris shut out the sun's heat and light. Across large areas of the Northern Hemisphere it starts to get dark, it starts to get cold. In the centers of large land masses like America or Russia, the temperature drop may be severe, as much as 25 degrees centigrade. Even in Britain, within days of the attack it could fall to freezing or below for long, dark periods. ~ Narrator
It is 8:30 a.m.; 3:30 in the morning in Washington. Over the past few days, neither the President nor his senior staff will have had more than a few hours rest. This is when they may be asleep. This is when Western response will be slowest. ~ Narrator

Threads (1984) is a British docudrama account of a full-scale nuclear war and its effects on the city of Sheffield in Northern England.

Narrator[edit]

  • In an urban society, everything connects. Each person's needs are fed by the skills of many others. Our lives are woven together in a fabric. But the connections that make society strong also make it vulnerable.
  • Britain has emergency plans for war. If central government should ever fail, power can be transferred instead to a system of local officials dispersed across the country. In an urban district like Sheffield, there is already a designated wartime controller. He's the city's peacetime chief executive. If it should suddenly become necessary, he can be given full powers of internal government. When, or if, this happens depends on the crisis itself.
  • In the last few days, emergency headquarters like this have been hastily improvised up and down the country, in the basements of town halls and civic centres.
  • Many of these officers have had no training at all. Some have learnt of their emergency role in the last few days, and almost all are unsure of their exact duties.
  • It is 8:30 a.m. 3:30 in the morning in Washington. Over the past few days, neither the President nor his senior staff will have had more than a few hours rest. This is when they may be asleep. This is when Western response will be slowest.
  • The first fallout dust settles on Sheffield. It's an hour and 25 minutes after the attack. An explosion on the ground at Crewe has sucked up this debris and made it radioactive. The wind has blown it here. This level of attack has broken most of the windows in Britain. Many roofs are open to the sky. Some of the lethal dust gets in. In these early stages, the symptoms of radiation sickness and the symptoms of panic are identical.
  • Hanging in the atmosphere, the clouds of debris shut out the sun's heat and light. Across large areas of the Northern Hemisphere it starts to get dark, it starts to get cold. In the centers of large land masses like America or Russia, the temperature drop may be severe, as much as 25 degrees centigrade. Even in Britain, within days of the attack it could fall to freezing or below for long, dark periods.
  • The entire peacetime resources of the British Heath Service, even if they survived, would be unable to cope with the effects of even the single bomb that's hit Sheffield.
  • By this time, without drugs, water or bandages, without electricity or medical support facilities, there is virtually no way a doctor can exercise his skill. As a source of help or comfort, he is little better equipped than the nearest survivor.
  • Money has had no meaning since the attack. The only viable currency is food, given as reward for work or withheld as punishment. In the grim economics of the aftermath, there are two harsh realities. A survivor who can work gets more food than one who can't and the more who die, the more food is left for the rest.
  • Detention camps are improvised to cope with looters. Their numbers are growing.
  • A growing exodus from cities in search of food. It's July. The countryside is cold and full of unknown radiation hazards. By now, five to six weeks after the attack, deaths from the effects of fallout are approaching their peak.
  • Collecting this diminished first harvest is now literally a matter of life and death.
  • Chronic fuel shortages mean that this could be one of the last times tractors and combine harvesters are used in Britain.
  • The first winter. The stresses of hypothermia, epidemic and radiation fall heavily on the very young and old. Their protective layers of flesh are thinner. In the first few winters, many of the young and old disappear from Britain.

Newscaster[edit]

  • This film, shot secretly by a West German television crew on Tuesday, shows one of the Soviet convoys on the move in northern Iran. The convoys were first spotted by United States satellites on Monday moving across three of the mountain passes leading from the Soviet Union. The Soviet foreign minister has defended the incursions and has accused the United States of deliberately prompting last week's coup in Iran. Speaking on his arrival in Vienna, Mr. Gromyko claims the Soviet vehicles were responding to appeals from legitimate government forces... He went on to define American covert activities in Iran in the period immediately preceding the coup as "destabilising". He warned the United States of the dangers of what he called "an easy return to the reign of the Shah."

Peace activist[edit]

  • This time they are playing with at best the destruction of life as we know it and at worst total annihilation. You cannot win a nuclear war! Now just suppose the Russians did win this war... What exactly would they be winning? Well, I'll tell you! All major centres of population and industry would have been destroyed. The soil would have been irradiated. Farmstock would be dead, diseased or dying. The Russians would have conquered a corpse of a country.

United States president[edit]

  • The unprovoked attack on our submarine and the move into Iran are the actions of a reckless and warlike power. I have to warn the Soviets in the clearest possible terms that they risk taking us to the brink of an armed confrontation with incalculable consequences for all mankind.
  • The United States government has been forced, reluctantly, to take action to safeguard what it believes are legitimate Western interests in the Middle East. This administration has therefore resolved to send units of its rapid deployment force, the U.S. Central Command, into western Iran. We are confident that the Soviet Union will take note of our resolve and will desist from its present perilous course of action.

Dialogue[edit]

Mrs. Beckett: Ruth, Ruth love, come on love, you'll have to eat something. You'll have to love, it's not just you now you know, the baby needs food as well.
Ruth Beckett: [crying] I don't care about this baby anymore, I wish it was dead.
Mrs. Beckett: Oh Ruth! Don't say things like that.
Ruth Beckett: There's no point! There's no point with Jimmy dead.
Mrs. Beckett: But you don't know...
Ruth Beckett: He is! He is! I know he is!
Mrs. Beckett: You can't be certain.
Ruth Beckett: We're breathing in all this radiation all the time. My baby. It will be ugly and deformed. [sobs]

Clive Sutton: We've not heard from county yet.
Food Officer: If we don't release some food now, we'll never get things under control.
Information Officer: You try getting through to them! It's bloody hopeless.
Food Officer: I've got starving mobs in Sharrow, Ecclesfield...
Clive Sutton: Look, it's not our decision anyway. It's up to Zone to authorise the release of buffer stocks and then it becomes a County decision.
Manpower Officer: We can't get through to County.
Food Officer: What are we going to do? Let them starve?
Clive Sutton: Look, even if we did have the authority...
Manpower Officer: We're on our own. You've got the authority. It's about bloody time you did something with it.
Clive Sutton: Look, what's the point in wasting food on people who are going to die anyway?
Medical Officer: I agree with Clive. The food stocks are not going to last long. A lot of people just didn't stock up.
Food Officer: How could they? The bloody shops were empty.
Medical Officer: And now they're coming out of the shelters. I know it sounds callous, but I think we should hang on to the little food we've got.
Manpower Officer: And I need that food to force people to work.

Clive Sutton: We've no choice, as far as I see.
Food Officer: Can't we get any food from outside?
Clive Sutton: Where from? We've told County and everybody's in the same boat. The trouble is, we can't contact Rockley or Airs Brook. God knows what's happened there.
Food Officer: Probably been raided.
Clive Sutton: What do you think, Doctor?
Medical Officer: We'll have to cut their rations. I've worked it out there. [produces a file] A thousand calories for manual workers and 500 for the rest.
Food Officer: 500? 500?! That wouldn't keep a flea alive.
Clive Sutton: Should we be bothering to keep anybody alive if they can't work?
Medical Officer: A lot of people are gonna die anyway. It's back to survival of the fittest, I suppose.
Clive Sutton: What is that in terms of food, then, 500 calories?
Medical Officer: I don't know... A few slices of bread... some soup... a lamb chop... a treacle tart... a few pints of beer. [raises fist in the air] Bastards!

[arguing over where to house survivors]
Chief Supt. Hirst: Look, you must have an empty factory somewhere to put them.
Accommodation Officer: No, you look. I've got thousands of homeless bloody people up there walking around, and I've got enough on with them without being worried about bloody criminals.
Chief Supt. Hirst: Well, you're gonna have to find somewhere to put them, aren't you?
Accommodation Officer: Well, I don't know. Look, shoot the buggers. I don't care.

About[edit]

  • Our intention in making Threads was to step aside from the politics and – I hope convincingly – show the actual effects on either side should our best endeavours to prevent nuclear war fail.

Mick Jackson[edit]

  • Barry came up with the idea of the two families – one working class, the other lower-middle – and what their lives were like. Sheffield seemed a good place to set it, and Barry knew it well. It was bang in the middle of the country, and a good way from London. Strategically, it also made sense: there were industrial and military targets nearby.
    Both of us were interested in the idea that none of these characters would ever have a god’s-eye-view of events, and never find out what was happening outside their immediate experience, certainly not outside Sheffield. That seemed to be the way most people would have to deal with a nuclear apocalypse, with most forms of communication vaporised.
  • From the point where the bomb happens, the whole nature of the movie changes. In the first half of the movie, I hope, you have a very full soundtrack. You have all the soundtrack of TV broadcasts and radio broadcasts, the sound of birdsong in the country, the sound of musical things happening, the sound of traffic and city noises. And from the moment that the bomb drops you don't have anything. You don't even have the teletype, all these things, they just type out in silence, and all you hear is wind. [...] You hear voices of people screaming, coughing or whatever. You hear wind, you hear no birds. [...] It's gone. That world is gone.
    • From DVD audio commentary with Mick Jackson: Threads: remastered. Director: Mick Jackson. 1984. 2-disc special edition. Severin Films Inc., 2017.
  • In this movie, from the outset, I wanted to put it in the scale of people that you might know, people like yourself, your immediate family, relations and so on, and no bigger than that, and not really to show anything except how it would happen to them. So, there's no God's eye view in this movie. You don't actually get to look down and get the overall picture and see maps of Europe and maps of the world and so on. You just get what's happening to these people, and it's all really done from ground level. There's no cinematic crane shots or anything like that. It's just very, very documentary.
    • From DVD audio commentary with Mick Jackson: Threads: remastered. Director: Mick Jackson. 1984. 2-disc special edition. Severin Films Inc., 2017.
  • People tell me how relevant they find the movie to what’s happening now. It’s comforting, at a time when so many films are being remade, to find that people still appreciate – and are scared by – the original film.
  • The idea was to take a movie which was about death...and use the iconography of life to tell the story.
  • The real effect of a nuclear weapon is not what it does to things, to buildings, to cities: it's what it does to society, what it does to people, what it does psychologically. I was very struck by the work that an American writer called Robert Jay Lifton had done on the psychological effects of the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima on the survivors and I talked to him a lot. It seemed to me that the story that needed to be told was the story of what this does to society as well as what it does to physical things, and you could only really tell that with a drama, with people that you identified with.
    • From DVD audio commentary with Mick Jackson: Threads: remastered. Director: Mick Jackson. 1984. 2-disc special edition. Severin Films Inc., 2017.
  • There's the hospital sequence in The Day After and there's the hospital sequence in Threads. [...] In The Day After people are being wheeled in on gurneys and everybody's stressed, but they're coping with it as they would do on ER or something like that. In Threads, the floor is covered with muck and shit and blood and people don't have anything they can work with. [...] We see people having their legs amputated without an anesthetic, just something stuck between their teeth for them to bite on. That's what it's going to be like! And I wanted every part of this movie to be "That's what it's going to be like".
    • From DVD audio commentary with Mick Jackson: Threads: remastered. Director: Mick Jackson. 1984. 2-disc special edition. Severin Films Inc., 2017.
  • What we’d depicted and its implications stayed in the minds of every actor and crew member for a long time. I’m sure there were some nightmares. There are some things so far outside our experience or comprehension that they are unthinkable. Nuclear war is one.

Karen Meagher[edit]

  • I think Threads didn't keep people at arm's length, it drew people in because of the characters that everybody knew. I mean, we related to them, and that's what I think made Threads so visceral for people.
    • From Auditioning for the Apocalypse, DVD special feature: Threads: remastered. Director: Mick Jackson. 1984. 2-disc special edition. Severin Films Inc., 2017.
  • I was unaware really of the importance of it at the time, but I was asked to go for an interview, which I did, and I was the first person that Mick Jackson saw for the part. And I went looking rather radical, because I thought "oh, it's about nuclear war", you know, and I'm a very radical person, so I kind of went wearing my sort of "combat gear" which was very "in" at the time. And it was really strange, because afterwords, when I got the part of Ruth, who turned out to be a very fragile sort of a person, I was surprised and he said having been the first one, he saw me for the part. He obviously saw something in me that was, I don't know, vulnerable, maybe. It was the only time I've ever said to a director "I would really like a part in this, regardless of what that part may be", because I knew that the content would be close to my heart.
    • From Auditioning for the Apocalypse, DVD special feature: Threads: remastered. Director: Mick Jackson. 1984. 2-disc special edition. Severin Films Inc., 2017.
  • It was cloaked to a great extent in secrecy almost. [...] You knew what it was about, but the script was a close-kept secret I think. Not many people had seen it, and I think they were worried that it would go the same way as War Games, which was made but never seen, so it was all quite mysterious really.
    • From Auditioning for the Apocalypse, DVD special feature: Threads: remastered. Director: Mick Jackson. 1984. 2-disc special edition. Severin Films Inc., 2017.
  • It's hard to watch and it should be hard to watch. It should frighten people, and if it's done that, it's done its job.
    • From Auditioning for the Apocalypse, DVD special feature: Threads: remastered. Director: Mick Jackson. 1984. 2-disc special edition. Severin Films Inc., 2017.

External links[edit]

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