sat 20/07/2024

DVD/Blu-ray: When the Wind Blows | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: When the Wind Blows

DVD/Blu-ray: When the Wind Blows

Chilling, animated vision of nuclear war, based on Raymond Briggs' graphic novel

We will go together when we go...

Adapted by Raymond Briggs from his best-selling graphic novel, When the Wind Blows was released in 1986 and stands up so well that you’re inclined to forgive its flaws: namely David Bowie’s leaden theme song and an abundance of fairly flat black humour.

Though, in hindsight, Jimmy T Murakami’s deadpan, quasi-realist look at nuclear Armageddon as it befalls an elderly working class British couple shouldn’t be amusing.

As with all the best animated features, the storytelling grips to the extent that you forget that you’re not watching a flesh-and-blood cast. Not that there’s much story, other than watching rural pensioners Jim and Hilda (voiced, wonderfully, by John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft) prepare for imminent conflict and attempt to survive in the aftermath. They’re likeable idiots: Hilda believes that the war won’t actually arrive, while Jim dutifully follows every scrap of advice in the various leaflets he’s picked up in the local library.When the Wind BlowsWhat he does is taken verbatim from the Central Office of Information’s Protect and Survive, from leaning doors at precisely 60° to make a crude fallout shelter(pictured above) to painting the exterior windows white to repel the flash. Jim’s unceasing, optimistic desire to do the right thing is met with bafflement and incomprehension by Hilda, understandably miffed at Jim’s insistence that the upstairs toilet will be of bounds. Technically the film is fascinating, its hand-drawn characters mostly superimposed on physically real backgrounds. Which makes the blast sequence, when it comes, overwhelming, the destruction of the cottage painfully vivid. After which, isolated in a bleak, grey landscape of contaminated water and evaporated lettuces, the end is inevitable, the pair’s physical and mental unravelling painted with unsentimental affection.

Words can’t readily convey just how alarming the 'Protect and Survive' shorts are

Generous bonus features on this BFI dual-format release include Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien, an engaging profile from 2010 of the late director, then resident in the West of Ireland. An optional commentary (from assistant editor Joe Fordham and historian Nick Redman) is a little too discursive for repeated viewing. More interesting is The Wind and the Bomb, a vintage “Making Of’ featurette from the mid-1980s, conveying the sheer slog of pre-digital animation. A 2005 interview with a laconic Briggs is frequently moving, especially when he remembers his late parents.

The real prize is a compilation of 20 Protect and Survive shorts, made in 1975 and intended for broadcast in the event of threatened nuclear attack. Words can’t readily convey just how alarming these deadpan nuggets are, their stripped-down visuasl and jaunty electronic jingle suggesting an ironic spoof. But no: marvel at how the warning signal for radioactive fallout suggests three deadening gunshots, and wince at the sanitation advice. It wouldn’t work with today’s wheelie bins. The final short is the most shocking of all, a dry-as-dust explanation of what to do with the bodies of loved ones who might have inconveniently died during the blast. A timely re-issue: the BFI’s restored image is handsome, and Roger Waters’ spare soundtrack still holds up.

As with all the best animated features, the storytelling grips to the extent that you forget that you’re not watching a flesh-and-blood cast


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters