Threads (TV)
R2 - United Kingdom - Simply Media
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (8th April 2018).
The Show

Written by Barry Hines ( Kes ) and directed by Mick Jackson ( The Bodyguard ). The BBC drama which shocked an entire generation is given a meticulous 2k restoration from the original BBC CRI 16mm prints. This remaster is available for a limited time only, and is exclusive to the UK.

Winner of four BAFTAs including 'Best Single Drama', the story follows everyday Sheffield townsfolk as they struggle to survive nuclear attack and the years of that follow. Originally broadcast at the height of the nuclear paranoia of the 80s, it sent shockwaves throughout the country and arguably changed the global political discourse on nuclear war.

This 2-disc set presents the original film remastered in 2k, available uncut for the first time in the UK.

Video

A shattering viewing experience. I saw this on it’s original 1984 BBC2 transmission on my little B&W combi TV / radio / tale deck machine. It was in my inner room; I had two small rooms then, one connected to the main landing of our house and the other to that room and also the creepy attic. I watched many things that scared me in that room ... all by myself.
U
Threads is quite simply a stunning, emotionally gruelling film, and in my view THE last word on nuclear war films. The US had made the tamer The Day After and Testament (both 1983) and enjoyable thick ear like World War III (1982) but the Brits blew everyone away with The War Game (1965) (saw that one at school when I lived in the USA circa 1981-82) and this knockout. I moved to the UK in August ‘83 just in case anyone was wondering.

By September of ‘84 I was alone in my little room, quaking in the dark.

Severin in the USA (a fine company specialising in all the kinds of films I love!) released their Blu-ray of Threads earlier this year but it was based on a 2K scan of a vintage 16mm transmission print; consequently it was littered with dirt and damage. However, according to reports It was still a decent disc if missing a seven second shot near the end.

This new DVD comes from those wonderful folks at Simply Media who have funded a brand new 2K transfer taken off the BBC’s master materials and it’s a doozy of a restoration. The image will never look like a top of the range 35mm (or higher) restoration due to it’s down and dirty production on 16mm; it was made in approximately 10 days.

However, it’s free from damage and debris and director Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard, 1992) has taken the opportunity to supervise the grading to satisfy his original intentions (it’s a colder grade than previously) and glean as much information as possible in the source. The only caveat is that this in standard definition.

At this point I ask the question on everyone’s lips: Why no UK Blu-ray Simply?

In any case, contrast is good with no blown out whites and black levels are deep and rich. There is crush, but that is inherent in the source due to budget and the 16mm format ... and the intentions of the makers. This is after all a gritty docudrama about the destruction of Sheffield by nuclear airburst and the generational consequences in the aftermath, and not a slick crowd pleaser like The Professionals (1977-81). The colour plalette is naturalistic and fairly muted with the new cooler grade being a welcome addition (see the restoration featurette).

Detail is very good considering the source and the fact this in standard definition. Grain is present but muted by being in standard def. it is presented in the correct 1.33:1 and should be viewed pillarboxed on 19:9 TVs with black bars down the left and right. This is also the uncut version with the music restored to the spiders web opening with narration.

PAL / 1.33:1 / 112:57

Audio

English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Audio is crisp and clear with all dialogue free of interference from sound effects or music unless by design.

English subtitles are very welcome.

Extras

(1.) Audio commentary with Karen Meagher and moderator Simon Farquar
An exclusive track to this disc. A good one with Farquar keeping Meagher talking and there’s plenty of great information on the shoot from an actors perspective.

(2.) Audio commentary with Mick Jackson, kier-La Janisse and moderator David Gregory

Superb commentary taken from the Severin disc in which three dab hands at yaktraks take the stage. Jackson directed it and is kept well on track by Janisse and Gregory. Jackson has done a few of these tracks in the past and is filled with great trivia. He’s especially eloquent on his reasons for making Threads.

Gregory has been around working on DVD / Blu-ray extras since the late ‘90s and knows his onions. Janisse wrote a fascinating book House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (2012) which is one of the best books on genre cinema I’ve read; she has also contributed to Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin (2017) which looks like it also may be must reading.

We’ve in great hands and track is a classic. Kudos to Severin for making it and to Simply for licensing it.

“Auditioning for the Apocalypse” featurette (9:17)
Actress Karen Meagher discusses her career and how she got the part in Threads. Meagher is a calm, warm presence and her story interesting. Taken from the Severin Blu-ray).

“Destruction Designer” featurette (9:21)
Production designer Christopher Robilliard outlines his approach to designing the look and how they used lots of rubbish and wreckage in the set dressing. Taken from the Severin Blu-ray).

“Shooting the Annihilation” featurette (8:38)
Director of photography Andrew Dune discusses working on Threads and more specifically working with Mick Jackson. Taken from the Severin Blu-ray).

“Stephen Thrower on Threads” featurette (28:59)
The estimable Mr. Thrower is fast becoming one of the all time great contributors to DVD / BD extras. This once again heralds from the Severin Blu-ray and is my favourite piece. Thrower usually commentates on European genre fare and has written superb books on the likes of Jess Franco and Lucio Fulci that are very probably the last word on those men as film makers. He approaches Threads in a contextual vein as well as from a personal standpoint of seeing it in ‘84.

“Threads: 2018 Restoration” featurette (2:45)
Fascinating little piece comparing the old, warmer master with the newer regraded transfer supervised by Mick Jackson. Done in a split screen format.

Threads Remastered UK Trailer (1:26)
Excellent new trailer emphasises the horror and historical significance.

PDF of Radio Times Articles and Letters
Always interesting vintage pieces; I clearly remember that issue of the Radio Times!

Overall

A superb DVD of one of the seminal TV events of the 20th Century. Picture and sound are as good as can be given the standard definition format and the extras are meaty and deeply satisfying. Also, the main feature has a disc to itself to maximise the bitrate; extras on disc two.

The only quibble is why no Blu-ray? In 2018 a major release like this deserves to be seen in the optimal home video format. If anyone out there wants a Blu-ray tell Simply your feelings but also buy this disc, because the possibility of a Blu-ray is on the cards but it depends on sales of this.

Easily this is one of the DVD releases of the year.

The Show: A+ Video: B Audio: B Extras: A+ Overall: A

 


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