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The Nuclear War Movie That Traumatized a Generation Is Back via Motherboard

The British anti-war classic ‘Threads’ is coming to Blu-ray.

In 1984 a bomb went off on British television.

That bomb was Threads, a well-researched TV movie about nuclear war. Unlike so many other movies, books, and television shows that deal with the subject of nuclear weapons, Threads showed what life was like for normal people on the ground during a nuclear war. It is one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen on screen.

Threads traumatized an entire British generation. The BBC only aired it twice—once in 1984 then again in 1985, on the 40th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan—then put it in a vault for 20 years. When TBS aired it in the US in 1985, media mogul Ted Turner introduced it personally. “The more we know about what could happen, the less chance it is that it will happen,” the millionaire told Americans before airing the unsettling feature.

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Despite its power and enduring relevance, Threads has always been tough to find outside of Britain. That’s about to change. On January 30, a restored Blu-ray and DVD will hit store shelves, complete with new interviews with the cast and crew.

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Threads isn’t a movie about humanity’s ability to struggle and survive. There’s no message of hope and people don’t band together to make it through. This isn’t I Am Legend or Armageddon where the brave sacrifice of a single person can save the day.

Instead, society breaks down. Local cops use their fading power to abuse Sheffield’s residents, executing looters and rounding up the sick and infirm. Millions die and Britain regresses and enters a new dark age.

It’s an important movie. The Hawaii nuclear alert false alarm earlier this month was a reminder that we’re still terrified of nuclear war, but rarely do we consider in detail what that war will actually look like. Threads dares to show audiences what they don’t want to consider—that the aftermath of nuclear conflict is far worse than what happens in a flash.

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