Threads: Remastered [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Simply Media
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (21st December 2018).
The Show

THE CLOSEST YOU EVER WANT TO BE TO NUCLEAR WAR

Nominated for seven BAFTAs, and winning four including Best Single Drama, this BBC film depicts the effects of global nuclear war on the city of Sheffield. Written by Barry Hines (Kes) and directed by Mick Jackson (The Bodyguard) it is unflinching in its presentation of the weeks leading up to war, the attack itself and the bleak years of nuclear winter that follow.

From its first broadcast Threads became one of the most significant and influential commissions ever seen on the BBC. When the drama aired on CNN in 1985 it was rumoured to have changed President Reagan's nuclear policy, and to date it has only been seen on UK TV screens three times. So disturbing is the screenplay that special permission from the highest editorial levels at the BBC is required for any TV screening.

This 2-disc set presents the original film remastered in 2k from the original BBC CRI 16mm prints. It is available in HD on Blu-Ray for the very first time in the UK, and includes the world premiere of the director-approved widescreen edition.

First broadcast Sunday 23 September 1984 on BBC2 at 9.30pm.

Video

A shattering viewing experience. I saw this on it’s original 1984 BBC2 transmission on my little B&W combi TV / radio / tape 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.

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 Threads.

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 35mm blowup print; the original was shot on 16mm and they didn’t have access to the BBC’s master materials. Consequently it was littered with dirt and damage and artefacts from the process used to take a 16mm film print and blow it up to 35mm. However, according to reports, it was still a decent disc.

This new Blu-ray from 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. This new transfer was used for their 2-disc DVD special edition released earlier in 2018 which was no slouch and was about as good a standard definition release as we could've hoped for.

In my earlier review of that disc, I said:

"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 10days.

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 and glean as much information as possible in the source.

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

Well, simply have gone the extra mile and produced the Blu-ray!

And, it's a doozy of a release; all the strengths of the earlier DVD are here only more so with superior codecs, excellent encoding and a healthy bitrate.

Contrast is more layered and obviously still with no blown out whites and black levels are deep and rich; there is some 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 and the generational consequences in the aftermath and not a slick crowd pleaser like The Professionals (1977-81).

With the increased resolution, bitrate and encoding, detail has received a major uptick in what we get to see; facial features and fabric textures are traditionally the areas that get the biggest boost and boy do they benefit. Grain is present but is now unfettered by the mild fog of standard def. It's much better resolved and gives this a very film like appearance.

The widescreen version supervised by director Mick Jackson has been perfectly reframed throughout although there are moments involving facial closeups where framing seems tight. It was, after all, shot for 1.33:1 and that is still the preferred version to view. Flaws inherent in the 16mm image are slightly more apparent due to the zooming, but not in a way that is going to disturb anyone. Purists may blanche at the thought of a cropped, reframed version and they're likely to be the ones most likely to notice those visual inconsistencies inherent in the source ... but they'll be too busy watching the 1.33:1 version to really care.

For the vast majority of punters viewing this on smaller displays (say 40 inches or less) the improvements will be minimal, but anyone with a larger display or projector will notice.

Simply have gone the extra mile for the customer with this one; they've offered an exchange programme for those who want to upgrade their 2-disc DVD to this superb Blu-ray.

1080/50i / 1.33:1, 1.78:1 / 113:17 (both versions)

Audio

English LPCM 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English HoH

Audio is crisp and clear with all dialogue free from interference from sound effects or music unless by design. The DVD had a fine 2.0 stereo boost but that hasn't been ported across, and what we have here is the original mono. However, it's a very satisfying track with plenty of base and fidelity. No distortions are evident and I thoughT I could detect the odd moment that activated the subwoofer.

English subtitles are very welcome.

Extras

All in HD

Audio Commentary by actress Karen Meagher, moderated by 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.

Audio Commentary by director Mick Jackson and film historian kier-La Janisse, moderated by 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’re in great hands and the track is a classic; kudos to Severin for making it and to Simply for licensing it.

“Auditioning for the Apocalypse” interview with actress Karen Meagher (9:40)
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” interview with production designer Christopher Robilliard (9:44)
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” interview with director of photography Andrew Dune (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” (30:12)
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” (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.

Remastered UK Trailer 1 (2:51) and Remastered UK Trailer 2 (1:26)
Excellent new trailers emphasising the horror and historical significance. The second one above was listed as Trailer 1 on the DVD and the first wasn't included on the earlier set.

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

Overall

A superb Blu-ray of one of the seminal TV events of the 20th Century. Picture and sound are as good as can be given the format and I can't see either a 4K UHD Blu-ray comning along anytime soon, but givent he 16mm source I'ts debateable as whether it'd be an improvement on what we have here.

As I said in my review of the DVD, the extras are meaty and deeply satisfying. Also, the main feature has a disc to itself to maximise the bitrate. The 1.33:1 film plus commentaries are on disc one, and the 1.78:1 version is on disc two with the video extras.

Easily this is one of the Blku-ray releases of the year and blows the US Severin disc out of the water.

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

 


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