Blu-ray Review: When the Wind Blows - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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When the Wind Blows is an animated portrait of a very prim and proper English couple preparing for, and dealing with the aftermath of, a nuclear strike against their country. Director Jimmy Murakami (who passed away in February 2014) tells screenwriter Raymond Briggs’ (who adapted his own graphic novel) story very simply. The animation is the antithesis of today’s digital extravaganzas. It feels as if a children’s book has sprung to life, yet the subject matter is awfully grim. Twilight Time has issued this 1986 cult classic as a double-feature limited edition Blu-ray (only 3,000 copies available). The second included film is a documentary about Murakami, Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien.

James and Hilda Bloggs (voiced by John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft) quietly go about their lives in rural England. James is preoccupied by news reports of impending war, while his wife couldn’t care less. It seems the government has issued propaganda to effectively blur the truth and soften the harsh realities of a post-apocalyptic life (whatever might be left of it). Information is apparently quite vague and misleading, with James believing a nuclear detonation to be akin to “the big bang theory.” He refers at one point the UK’s government intelligence agency MI5 as “EMI5.” He believes the government will always be there for its citizens, taking care of and protecting them. Bomb-proofing instructions, such as creating a blast shield out of doors propped against a basement wall, are to be followed to the tee.

When the Wind Blows cover (212x280).jpgTo say that a nuke does eventually devastate their surroundings is hardly a spoiler. There wouldn’t be much movie without such an event. It’s what happens in the aftermath that darkens the already somber mood of the film. The catastrophe itself is imaginatively animated, presenting a horrifying depiction of devastation without the need to display graphic imagery. The long, slow third act depicts the oblivious Bloggs attempting to carry on with their lives, despite being heavily poisoned by radiation. James expects the water to still flow and the electricity to still burn. When these basic services are found to be inoperative, he reasons that the government is merely attempting to conserve resources. They will, after all, be coming to whisk everyone away to safety. It’s a sad tale of painful naivety in the face of disaster.

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray offers a 1080p transfer of the original 1.33:1 image. It’s a generally clean, tidy presentation. The opening, standard-definition news footage is inherently unattractive, but the animation (which is mostly hand drawn, but features “real” stop-motion objects rather seamlessly combined) is reasonably sharp and colorful. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix is simple but nicely shows off the score (by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters) and songs by acts like Genesis and David Bowie (who title theme is a lurching, oh-so-‘80s, drum machine-driven mess).

The primary feature is, of course, the aforementioned Non-Alien documentary, which deals with Murakami’s life (with a pointed focus on his childhood spent in a Japanese-American internment camp). The informative commentary track is by When the Wind Blows’s first assistant editor Joe Fordham, accompanied by film historian Nick Redman. “The Wind and the Bomb” is a very worthwhile, 24-minute “making of” featurette. There’s also a 14-minute interview with screenwriter Raymond Briggs. The music and effects are available as an isolated DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix. As usual with Twilight Time’s Limited Edition Blu-ray series, film historian Julie Kirgo penned the booklet essay.

Animation enthusiasts and late-era Cold War history buffs alike will find much to pore over in both When the Wind Blows and the accompanying feature-length documentary, Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien. For ordering information (while limited supplies last), visit Screen Archives.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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