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When the Wind Blows: The Limited Edition Series Blu-ray Review

When the Wind Blows movie poster When the Wind Blows

US Theatrical Release: March 11, 1988 (UK Release: October 24, 1986) / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Jimmy T. Murakami / Writer: Raymond Briggs (book & script)

Voice Cast: Peggy Ashcroft (Hilda Bloggs), John Mills (Jim Bloggs)

Buy When the Wind Blows on Blu-ray at Amazon.com

British author Raymond Briggs is best known for The Snowman. A few years after that wordless picture book was published and a few months before its half-hour animated adaptation had its first of many Christmastime broadcasts, Briggs wrote the graphic novel When the Wind Blows.
This too would be tapped for animation, with Briggs earning his second screen credit and first feature one for the 1986 film of the same name.

Whereas holiday tradition The Snowman is highly regarded as a heartwarming and enchanting cartoon for children, When the Wind Blows could not be further from such description. The two might be best likened to Studio Ghibli's 1988 double feature of Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro and Isao Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies. Totoro is sweet and lovable as Snowman appears to be, while Wind, like Fireflies, presents an unflinching view of world war that will crush your spirit and moisten your eyes.

The music of When the Wind Blows reflects the movie being a product of the 1980s: an opening title song is performed by David Bowie, a closing one and another are sung by Roger Waters and The Bleeding Heart Band, and tunes by Genesis and Squeeze are featured in between. Otherwise, though, despite the contemporary setting, Wind has an old-fashioned sensibility to it. It's simple, pastoral, and European.

Jim Bloggs squeezes into the inner core or refuge he has constructed in "When the Wind Blows." Hilda pokes her head out to find her home destroyed by the impact of a nuclear bomb.

The movie features just two characters onscreen: Jim Bloggs (voiced by John Mills), who looks like a grown-up Charlie Brown, and his wife Hilda (Peggy Ashcroft). The British couple is getting up in years. Jim is retired and the first to admit he doesn't lead a fast-moving or dynamic life. His greatest adventures these days are visits to the public library to read the newspaper. That's still a bit more excitement than Hilda sees, as her day unfolds with her asking her husband questions like "Beef burgers or sausages?" and "Mashed or chips?"

This dull post-retirement existence is about to get more eventful after the couple learns that they are on the verge of a third World War. With the Russians expected to drop a nuclear bomb on Britain in just three days, Jim dutifully consults a pamphlet he got as to how to prepare for such a scenario. He unhinges doors to construct an "Inner core or refuge" to protect Hilda and him. He also paints the windows white and stocks up on some canned food items.

Jim's by-the-book efforts are no match for nuclear holocaust, however. The nuclear bomb does come as expected and though the couple survives the impact, their problems are far from over. Wind proceeds to depict the Bloggses' rapid deterioration of mind and body. Oblivious to the danger of fallout, the husband and wife grow deathly ill before our eyes, as they lose their electricity, water, and dignity. It is most unpleasant to watch.

Happier times: the Bloggses' younger, more carefree days are recalled in a photo montage.

Written and adapted during the 1980s' height of the Cold War, Wind appears to be a cautionary tale, designed to shake viewers into awareness of the potential horrors of nuclear war and to remind them of the atrocities of past wars.
The Bloggses have fond memories of coming of age during World War II: "those were the days", they proclaim, but Briggs' seems to argue that they really weren't for those whose lives, families, and homes were decimated by the use of devastating atomic bombs.

Wind may be even more difficult than Grave of the Fireflies to watch. At least in that movie, you are trying to endure war with characters you care for and about. The Bloggses are more like caricatures, too gullible and blindly sensible to survive the unsurvivable. Watching them develop spots on their skin, lose hair in clumps, and grow haggard is just painful and without reward. It may be effective for a young and impressionable viewer foolish enough to expect more heartwarming animation from the author of The Snowman. Clearly, it's not kid-friendly in any way, but at the same time, it's too graceless and obvious to hold much appeal for adult viewers. It's never really clear how director Jimmy Murakami (who dealt largely with shorts and television and worked as supervising director of The Snowman) and Briggs intend for you to process this. Satire? Allegory? Just plain old depressing? None of those mindsets makes it easy to appreciate this bleak experience. It is wrong to surmise that because nuclear war is a serious and important subject that this must be a great or even good film. It could take the same approach of putting this thinly-drawn couple through cancer or the Holocaust and the results would feel every bit as tacky and hollow.

At least Wind is interesting visually. It opens with news footage and makes occasional use of live-action (like shots of clouds in the sky) after that. There's also plenty of stop-motion animation and what looks like rotoscoping.

Though quite obscure for those in America, where the film spent just one week in a single theater in March of 1988, When the Wind Blows appears to be somewhat well-known and appreciated by UK audiences. At IMDb, it carries a user rating of 7.8, a most respectable score that ranks it above most animated films made by studios other than Ghibli and Pixar. But that rating is the product of less than 6,000 voters, 84% of them located outside the US. To put that votership in perspective, Disney's not terribly well-known 1986 animated feature The Great Mouse Detective has been rated by nearly 27,000 IMDb users.

Never widely available on DVD (an apparently legitimate 2010 DVD-R distributed by Film4 Library is sold on Amazon and almost nowhere else), When the Wind Blows recently made its Blu-ray debut in the Limited Edition Series of Twilight Time, limited to the label's usual low print run of 3,000 units.

Director Jimmy Murakami returns to Tulelake, California, the site of an internment camp where he spent four years as a Japanese-American child.

The Blu-ray also includes Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien (1:17:39, HD), a 2010 documentary about the director of When the Wind Blows, who passed away in February 2014. It depicts life for the Japanese-American animation filmmaker in his adopted home of Ireland. Murakami reflects on the four years he spent as a child in a Tulelake, California internment camp as the son of a man deemed "disloyal" to America. Murakami makes a pilgrimage to the site, as he tries to come to terms with his feelings about the experience. He also visits a museum on the topic and the California neighborhoods and schools where he went next, including UCLA. We get a few tastes of his animated works, but this film by director Sé Merry Doyle is more interested in the man than the artist. It's an inspired inclusion which gives us insight into Murakami's personal connection to the material in Wind.

When the Wind Blows: The Limited Edition Series Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Screen Archives Blu-ray Disc Details

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio (Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien: 1.78:1 Widescreen)
2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio (English), 2.0 DTS-HD MA (Effects and Music)
Subtitles: None
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: November 11, 2014
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
List Price: $29.95
Blue Keepcase
Still available on DVD (September 16, 2010)
Also available: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD (September 3, 2007)

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though it was made for theaters, When the Wind Blows occupies the old television standard aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Twilight Time has repeatedly dazzled with its ability to make forgotten titles look brand new. The company's fine track record renders this presentation a bit disappointing. The mixed medium film has its fair share of visual woes, probably a mix of age and production methods.
At times, the element is downright cluttered with wear and tear. It's probably not realistic to expect much better results for a film this obscure, but we've definitely seen much older movies look a lot better in the hands of Twilight Time.

Sound is presented in 2.0 stereo DTS-HD master audio. This too is somewhat lacking in quality, though seemingly more the result of problematic original recordings than insufficient restoration. John Mills' dialogue is especially muffled and at times tough to understand, as if he delivered his lines into a string and coffee can. The music has more vitality, but also feels kind of hollow with a slight echo. In a disappointing first (as far as I know), Twilight Time does not treat the film to English subtitles, though you might find them nice on occasion even without a hearing problem.

The picture quality on Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien, which is presented in 1.78:1, is much better. Looking sharp and clean, it too is treated to a 2.0 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack, but one that isn't plagued with the issues afflicting the much older feature. It also lacks subtitles, unfortunately.

An artist draws "simple, innocent" Jim Bloggs in making-of featurette "The Wind and the Bomb." From his writing-drawing desk, author Raymond Briggs reflects on "When the Wind Blows" and "The Snowman."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Alongside the two feature presentations, the Blu-ray includes two standard definition video extras. "The Wind and the Bomb" (24:19) is a making-of featurette from 1986. Various creators, including author Raymond Briggs and director Jimmy Murakami, shed light on this movie's creation and what they would do if a nuclear bomb was about to be dropped on them.

In "An Interview with Raymond Briggs" (13:49), a piece that looks a lot more recent but probably isn't brand new,

the author/screenwriter further discusses the inspiration for his book, his creative methods, and the film.

In addition, the Set Up section provides two alternate ways to experience When the Wind Blows: with audio commentary or with an isolated music and effects soundtrack. The commentary is provided by first assistant editor Joe Fordham and film historian/Twilight Time co-founder Nick Redman. Fordham lends an insider's perspective to this production with his vivid recollections, explaining his involvement and the techniques employed to his friend Redman while also sharing stories like a studio visit from Paul McCartney.

The value of the 2.0 DTS-HD master audio music and effects track may not be obvious, but it's tough to object to Twilight Time releasing these as a standard feature.

As always, Twilight Time simply uses the cover art as the static, silent menu image. The Blu-ray, which includes a gallery displaying the company's full catalogue, resumes playback, but does not support bookmarks.

The final extra is found inside the case. It is a booklet devoting four of its eight pages to an essay from in-house historian Julie Kirgo, which sees the beauty in the film that I did not.

Old married couple Hilda and Jim Bloggs suffer devastating effects of a nuclear bomb fallout in "When the Wind Blows."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

While it's always nice to see animation used for something other than family fare, When the Wind Blows is horrific and pointless, if somewhat innovative visually. The film gets a strong Blu-ray release from Twilight Time, who accompany it with a very good feature documentary on its director, two insightful archival pieces, a good new commentary and the label's rare, standard bells and whistles like an essay and a music and effects-only track.

I cannot recommend the main feature, but those who find it moving should be pleased with this pricey but loving disc.

Buy When the Wind Blows on Blu-ray at Amazon.com

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Related Reviews:
1980s Animation: Grave of the Fireflies • My Neighbor Totoro • The Great Mouse Detective • The Brave Little Toaster • Who Framed Roger Rabbit
John Mills: Swiss Family Robinson | Peggy Ashcroft: The 39 Steps | New to Blu-ray: Time Bandits
British Literature Adapted: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh • Matilda • Coraline • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
British Animated Films: Valiant • Gnomeo & Juliet • The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Japanese-Americans: To Be Takei • Cutie and the Boxer | Animated Marriages: Up • Fantastic Mr. Fox

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Reviewed December 21, 2014.



Text copyright 2014 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1986-88 Meltdown Productions, British Screen, Film Four International, T.V.C. London, Penguin Books, and 2014 Twilight Time.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.