When the Wind Blows [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (11th January 2018).
The Film

"When the Wind Blows" (1986)

James and Hilda Bloggs (played by John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft) are a retired married couple in their sixties living a simple life in a rural town in England. Things are seemingly normal as they live their quiet lives, but James had some sudden concerns due to the content he was reading in the newspapers at the library. The tensions between Russia and the United Kingdom is escalating and it prompts him to gather a few pamphlets on survival. Hilda is more concerned about what to cook for the evening rather that worry about nuclear annihilation. But with radio news reports saying an attack could be imminent, James gets cracking on readying for survival. He and Hilda were able to survive the air raids during World War II and they were fine with preparing for another onslaught, or are they?

James starts removing doors from their hinges and stacking them side by side at an angle against a wall to create a small triangular crawlspace, filled with necessary food and goods. He paints the windows with white paint, he gets sand to make a box for toilet needs, and does everything that the pamphlets say. While the multiple pamphlets can sometimes contradict each others information, the two try to make the best of things without over thinking things. But will this makeshift shelter within a country home really be able to sustain life after a nuclear fallout? The two find out when the bomb is finally dropped...

Author and illustrator Raymond Briggs created award winning children's works such as "The Snowman" and "Father Christmas" - stories beloved by generations around the world. In 1980 Briggs produced a graphic novel that was more towards older crowds with "Gentleman Jim", featuring James and Hilda Bloggs, a working class couple that was very loosely based on his own parents. The couple would return in 1982's "When the Wind Blows" where the retired couple are confronted face to face with the effects of a nuclear attack. Eventually a radio play was produced and a feature length animated film produced by John Coates and directed by Jimmy T. Murakami in 1986. The same team produced a short film adaptation of "The Snowman" in 1982 and would take quite a risk in producing an animated feature on a very grim subject, but he controversial and talked about work would prove to be an important one as a feature film.

Murakami had worked on many animated short films since the 1960s though for feature films he was the director of the live action Roger Corman produced sci-fi film "Battle Beyond the Stars" in 1980, filled with special effects though on a miniscule budget. For "When the Wind Blows", the animation would be done on a limited budget of £1.7 and production done entirely in the UK. Although it was considered the fifth feature length animated film to be produced in British film history, the film was not entirely "animated". The opening scenes are live action video pieces. The house that James and Hilda live in is not animated, but a constructed model set. Looking more like Gumby's house with its colorful decor and handmade quality of the furniture and set dressing, the characters themselves where the ones animated in traditional cell animation integrated with the model setpieces. Some intricate camera moves and tracking shots are used in situations and the characters are accordingly animated to the moving camera. Some of the set dressing such as dishes and bed covers are moved using stop-motion animation and the cell animated characters are made to interact with the objects as well. The process and the look is something very unique in the animation world, combining stop motion with traditional flat cell animation. While it may sound strange to have 2D characters within a 3D environment, the way the colors are used and the limited use of the camera blend the two worlds together seamlessly and beautifully.

Basically 95% of the film is voiced by John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft, British legends in the film world who happened to work together for the first time with "When the Wind Blows". Both performers were in their seventies portraying the elderly couple and their contributions are fantastic. Mills gives James a little edge of honest confusion while Ashcroft lends a warm but naive voice to the main characters, and the way the two play off each other is what beautifully works. They are cute together as an elderly couple, in the way they get easily confused, how technologically inept they are, and just how simple they see life after so many years together. While everything seems cute and funny watching an elderly couple and their quirky routine, all gets literally thrown out the window when the bomb drops.

It's no secret that in "When the Wind Blows", the bomb is actually dropped, annihilating the area. Cars go flying, trains and derailed, houses are blown away, and the death count is obviously high. The second half of the film is the harsh reality of trying to survive a nuclear attack, and it is frightening. Radiation poisoning, lack of water and food, no electricity, no contact with the outside world - the things that James and Hilda have to live with all point toward certain death and to watch their degradation both physically and mentally is heartbreaking. Whether it was in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima, or anywhere else, the effects of nuclear devastation is as real as it gets. The film may just be an animated look at a fictional characters in a fictional war, but who says this could not happen in reality. With people like Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and other leaders in the world having a nuclear button on their desks, who's to say that James and Hilda's story is fiction? More than thirty five years after the original graphic novel and more than thirty years after the feature film, the message still remains true. No one should ever go through what the Bloggs had to. Never. "When the Wind Blows" is one of the most devastating films ever made and is a bonafide classic with a reputation that continues to grow over time.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray which can only be played back on region B or region free Blu-ray players


The BFI present the film in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec, in the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Although it was most likely projected theatrically in 1.66:1 or 1.85:1, the full animated space is presented without cropping the top and bottom of the frame. The high definition transfer looks very good, with bright colors and animated details melding well with the model backgrounds. Considering the printed cell animation process, there is a lot of dust particles that are inherent to the original negative from the contact cells which are left as is rather than being digitally removed. The transfer is not exactly staggering by any means but it is a stable transfer with no major damage and no manor issues to be had.

The film is uncut with a runtime of 84:33.


English LPCM 2.0 stereo
The original stereo track is presented in lossless stereo. With a title track performed by David Bowie, additional tracks by Genesis and Squeeze and a score by Roger Waters, the film soundtrack is a music lover's paradise for such a tiny film. The music sounds wonderful with good stereo separation, and as for the dialogue the mostly centered speeches sound absolutely fine with no issues of dropouts or low levels.

There was concern with the US Twilight Time Blu-ray from 2014 having a slight echo in the main audio track. The BFI Blu-ray has no particular echo in the audio track.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the film in a white font.


The BFI's release of "When the Wind Blows" is a dual format Blu-ray+DVD release, with the film and extras presented on the Blu-ray disc and repeated on a region 2 PAL encoded DVD.

DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

Audio commentary with first assistant editor Joe Fordham and film historian Nick Redman
In this 2014 audio commentary, Joe Fordham sits back to discuss one of the earliest animated production he had worked on back in his early 20s. Fordham recalls the process of the animation and the live action footage, some behind the scenes stories, the Cold War fears of the day and the generation prior, as well as his own experience in the film industry after "When the Wind Blows". The first assistant editor may not be high on the ranking of people that fans would clamor to hear from and one could wish that there could have been more people from the original production to be involved in the retrospective commentary. But Redman does a fine job moderating and Fordham does have many interesting stories to discuss.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Isolated Music & Effects Track
The original soundtrack without the dialogue tracks is provided here. All the original songs by Bowie, Rogers, and others are present as well as all the sound effects.
in LPCM 2.0

"The Wind and the Bomb: The Making of When the Wind Blows" featurette (25:23)
In this vintage 1986 making-of featurette, the cameras are taken to the production studio where animators are busy with ink and paper, test footage is seen, as well as interviews with author Raymond Briggs, producer John Coates, director Jimmy T. Murakami, and other members of the production. The footage was shot on film and has been remastered, though there are a few defects remaining that have not feel corrected.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien" documentary (76:41)
In this 2010 documentary, Murakami returns to a place that was considered hell for four years of his life - the Japanese internment camp in northern California where he lived from 1941-1945 with his family during the war. The documentary chronicles Murakami's journey from his home of many years in Ireland to returning to his home country, meets his brother and sister, and talks about what identity meant for Japanese-Americans in a war environment. There is some discussion about his career in animation but most of the documentary is about the pilgrimage and a dark period in history which is rarely talked about in the history books.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

"Protect and Survive" 1975 public information film (49:58)
In this 1975 instructional film, the viewers are given specific instructions on how to protect oneself from a nuclear attack, from what to prepare, how to create a small shelter, and how to avoid certain death. Though most likely these instructions will lead to death, just not as quick. Many of the instructions are presented here with simple animation and stop motion with easy to understand narration, with content very similar if not completely the same as the instructions that James reads in "When the Wind Blows".
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

Interview with Raymond Briggs (13:50)
In this interview with the author from 2005, Briggs discusses how he created "When the Wind Blows", the importance of his parents having a profound influence on his work, his illustration process and more.
in 1080i 60hz AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English Dolby Digital 2.0 with no subtitles

The film and the extras are repeated on the region 2 PAL DVD.

A 28 page booklet included, which has an introduction by Briggs, essays, full credits, notes and stills. First is a one page introduction by Raymond Briggs. Next is the essay "Looking Back on When the Wind Blows" by executive producer Iain Harvey. Then "A World on the Brink" by BFI curator Jez Stewart. "The Channel 4 Factor" by linguist, author, and historian Clare Kitson is next. Last is "Music for the End of the World" by music critic Bella Todd. Finally there are full film credits, extras credits and information, transfer info, and acknowledgements.

The film was previously released on Blu-ray in the United States by Twilight Time, which included all the supplements above with the exception of "Protect and Survive". The BFI is the clear winner with the additional content included.


"When the Wind Blows" may look like a simple film about an elderly couple and their relationship over time, but the theme of nuclear annihilation and survival should not be taken lightly. It is funny, charming, sad, devastating and deserves to be seen by all - whether young or old. The BFI Blu-ray features good video and audio with a great set of extras making this highly recommended.

The Film: A Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A-


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