I recently wrote a jolly two part piece on the website That’s Not Current about how nuclear war and it’s aftermath were portrayed in four films, The Day After, Threads, Testament and When the Wind Blows. Part one is here, and part two is here.
During the course of researching the article I came across a load of stuff that I couldn’t fit into the narrative of the piece I was doing but I felt interesting enough to highlight one their own without making a highly political point, or suggesting Donald Trump could be the real life Greg Stillson that’ll doom us all!
i spent a lot of time researching Threads in particular. In doing so I discovered that the QED documentary directed by Mick Jackson that inspired the film is online and it’s utterly terrifying.
Also online is The 8th Day, another grim BBC documentary.
Most interestingly the complete Newsnight debate shown after Threads is on YouTube, and it’s truly astonishing how much the debate mirrors that of today, especially from the Tory arsehole on the programme. This really is an amazing bit of archive footage that also features the late Robin Cook showing why he’s such a missed figure.
The real nugget here is the episode of Panorama called If the Bomb Drops, presented by a ridiculously young Jeremy Paxman. this really is an amazing bit of lost archive that’s the wellspring for Threads and indeed, much of the early 1980’s nuclear war paranoia if you were like me young enough to see this and be scared shitless by it.
Moving onto dramas, I tried hard to stick these next two films into the article for That’s Not Current but I couldn’t find the space to fit them in.First up is the BBC play, Z for Zachariah, an SF drama about the survivor of a nuclear war.
I also tried to fit in the American dram, Countdown to Looking Glass, but that’s going to end up in another slightly related apocalypse related piece…
Lastly a couple of oddities from North America. Atomic Attack is a 1950s American TV drama starring Phylis Thaxter and Walter Mattau that’s oddly effective, if hugely outdated. As a bit of television history it’s another nugget….
Finally, The Last Broadcast is something I discovered while looking for something else. This is a Canadian radio drama that dramatises a full scale nuclear war. This starts as stilted cheese but turns into an effective bit of drama in the style of Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds.
So there you go. Don’t have nightmares now…….