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War Game The

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(Commentary) The War Game opens with a bold, stark title.
What we're about to witness is a bold film with sustained irony.
War is certainly no game.
A simple roller caption
containing information that was in the public domain.
Note the qualifying words 'it is at present planned'
and the repetition of the word 'probably'.
This is part of the double edge of The War Game.
It is a fiction, but looks like fact.
This diagram is reminiscent
of diagrams in real news broadcasts of the 1960s,
an important part of the illusion
that what we are witnessing is in some way real.
(Narrator)... being those 25 key cities in which reside almost...
This is further reinforced by the authoritative voice of Michael Aspel,
a BBC announcer, who urgently points out these chilling details.
(Narrator) Each of these cities and each of these airfields
combine to crowd into Britain
more potential nuclear targets per acre of land mass
than in any other country in the world.
From the static to the intensely mobile.
Note that the commentator is different.
The deliberately distorted voice of Dick Graham, a real BBC newsreader,
is introduced to help propel us into the present.
What we are witnessing is happening now.
Bartlett and sound recordist Derek Williams
precariously balanced themselves on the back of this motorbike,
camera set at wide-angle to minimise camera shake,
giving the deep focus to allow more freedom of movement.
Watkins often uses the camera this way in The War Game,
long, mobile, dynamic hand-held takes,
to generate momentum and build emotional tension.
The cameraman, Peter Bartlett, was trained in news photography.
Bartlett's comment, 'They're raving about this shot back at the BBC',
is testimony to the impact of this carefully choreographed sequence.
(Announcer)... in every major town and county borough in the country.
In view of the seriousness of the international situation,
Her Majesty's Government has decided
that the first task of these committees
will be to implement the evacuation of a certain proportion of civilians
to safer areas in Wales, the Lake District,
parts of Northumberland, the Midlands, southwest England...
(Commentary) We begin to feel that this is one of the actual meetings
of a regional seat of government.
These are the people who,
in the countdown to a nuclear war,
would have to ensure that law and order, civil defence
and all emergency measures
were carried out in line with a national plan.
Note the interjection at the end of this scene.
Is it from a TV journalist?
We're not sure at this point,
but the news camera will be our eyes and ears for most of this film
as we witness events:
Events the officials would rather that we, the public, did not see.
- Are there any fathers? - No. No fathers.
(Commentary) From the public to the very personal.
This is a technique Watkins deploys throughout The War Game.
We are never allowed to forget that it's the so-called 'ordinary people'
who are caught up in this nightmare
that has been endorsed by their elected representatives.
Watkins uses these scenes
to investigate the realities of the Government's plans for evacuation,
or 'dispersal', as they prefer to call it.
Unlike the Second World War, the time factor would be much shorter
and its effectiveness as a policy,
especially in view of massive radioactive fallout,
was questioned as futile.
(Narrator)... to an unknown town.
Britain in the 1950s and the 1960s was undergoing much social change,
immigration being one of the main prejudices.
Many families baulked against
the idea of a black person living in their street,
let alone their own home.
(Woman) Are they coloured?
(Commentary) A fast zoom-in to emphasise the point.
(Narrator)... a country where there is still a degree of racial...
The large cast of The War Game was mainly amateur.
Watkins prefers to use non-professional actors in his films.
They could bring a freshness to a performance, a sense of spontaneity.
... of an estimated ten million people.
And a new face on the screen reinforces the illusion of realism.
... compulsory sheltering and feeding of an extra eight people.
(Policeman) Quickly. All in, quickly.
For the family who have fled this house,
the immediate requisition of their home.
For this man, perhaps imprisonment if he refuses to billet.
- Eight evacuees for you. - Eight? I'm not havin' eight.
Sorry, sir, you've got to take eight.
(Commentary) The reactions to such emergency measures at short notice
would be dramatic.
A simple freeze-frame at the end of this sequence
helps the director to emphasise his point.
Should Britain ever thus attempt
the evacuation of nearly 20 per cent of her entire population,
such scenes as these would be almost inevitable.
(Loud-hailer) All citizens resident within this area
are requested to proceed immediately to the municipal offices
to collect emergency identification papers and ration cards.
(Official) Name?
(Commentary) The concept of rationing
would have raised mixed reactions in post-war Britain.
For those who lived through the '40s and early '50s,
a reminder, no doubt, of grim austerity
but possibly a symbol of hope, too:
A sort of promise of survival, of a steady supply of food,
the authorities in calm, confident control once again.
After all, the country had survived the Second World War.
(Narrator)... between 11/2 to 4 years to recover economically
from the effects of full-scale civilian evacuation.
We do not need sophisticated computer graphics,
even if we had had them in 1965, to make this point more clearly.
H-bombs were weapons beyond the public's perception
in terms of their destructive potential.
It was estimated that just seven of the most powerful H-bombs
could destroy most of the UK.
(Reporter)... the most dangerous elements of radioactive fallout.
Do you know what it does to the human body?
Ooh... No, I'm sorry, I haven't heard of it.
Afraid I don't know much about atomic... radiation at all.
No, I don't.
No, I'm sorry, I don't know.
(Commentary) This was the Home Office's plan,
'a gradual education of the public', as they put it.
But towards what?
The acceptance of the bomb
as something they would have to learn to live with?
Peter Watkins told me that these vox pops were not scripted.
He wanted to test his cast on the common knowledge
of the deadly elements in a H-bomb.
(Woman) I've... no idea really. I...
I know it's some sort of... gunpowder or something, that blows up.
(Commentary) From the personal back to the public, but on a world stage.
A possible scenario for the nuclear attack on the UK starts to emerge.
Peter Bartlett's hand-held camera, using a telephoto lens,
suggests urgency, action, danger:
An actual news cameraman caught up in an actual riot.
(Soldier) Hold them back!
(Commentary) Watkins intercuts these frantic scenes with more vox pops,
a change of pace which also contrasts
with the complacency of some of the public.
(Man) I think it'll die down.
(Commentary) People are dying in the streets of Berlin,
while, at home,
the public is unaware of the enormity of this potential flash point.
(Woman) I'm quite convinced of that.
(Commentary) Apart from the dangers of radiation,
obviously included in this booklet,
most Civil Defence pamphlets of the 1950s and early 1960s
were very similar to the pamphlets issued in World War Two
in terms of the basic advice they offered.
The urgency of this measure prompts the camera crew to intervene.
(Reporter) Er, excuse me. Er...
(Commentary) The voice you hear now is that of Watkins himself.
The camera is acting here as our interrogator of officialdom.
Even in the very early stages of World War Two,
such pamphlets were not free.
A pamphlet I have,
called A Practical Guide for the Householder and Air-raid Warden,
cost six old pence.
Note the siren in the background.
The attack has not yet started,
but Watkins introduces this sound
to increase tension and raise the emotional temperature.
A sign of the things to come
and a chilling reminder of World War Two to those who lived through it.
The camera zooms in on a bewildered woman.
These are the people being targeted
by the most deadly weapons on earth.
(Narrator)... less than 30 seconds.
The social consequences of such a panic are explored here
as they affect different individuals.
The Home Office was to continue with
its so-called Protect and Survive policy until the 1980s,
with its weird public-information film
showing a cartoon house
being bombarded by radiation falling like snow
and a sinister sound-effects track
that could have come out of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
Even the Americans quietly abandoned
any serious attempt at civil defence as a policy in the early 1960s.
(Woman) Well...
Well, I can't afford more than... 17/6 to a pound at the very most.
For this amount of money,
she may purchase eight sandbags and six planks.
(Commentary) When I was a boy, during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis,
one of my neighbours in Doncaster
constructed a shelter in his back garden.
He dug a trench about six feet deep
and covered it with corrugated iron and earth.
(Man)... hold up quite well.
(Commentary) RAF Finningley was only about ten miles away,
a certain target in any first strike.
This was where the huge Vulcan bombers took off every day
on their cat-and-mouse games to test the Russians.
It struck me at the time
that my neighbour's shelter looked more like a grave than a safe haven.
(Man) And I keep this... here.
And I certainly intend to use it
if anyone attempts to break into the shelter with me.
(Commentary) This is the first of the so-called Interrupters.
The static artificiality of these scenes
contrasts with the hand-held,
'camera liberté', as Watkins once called it,
visual style.
Watkins was experimenting with Brechtian detachment techniques
to destabilise the flow of the narrative.
(Announcer)... NATO armoured divisions
attempted to force an entry through to the city
and were themselves overrun by outnumbering Communist forces.
(Narrator) Faced with this situation, it is possible...
This still of Johnson caused great anxiety in Whitehall.
It was felt that America, our greatest ally,
would be offended by such direct reference to their president,
in a film which questioned American foreign policy.
I don't think they were too worried
about any reference to Kosygin as a villain in the piece.
(Soldier) Local area commander...
(Commentary) Watkins achieved such dramatic results as this
in The Diary of an Unknown Soldier
by simply digging up and flooding a small piece of land
to represent a huge First World War battleground,
and choosing high, tight camera angles.
(Narrator) It has a warhead equivalent to one Hiroshima bomb.
It is called an Honest John.
Note the irony in the name of the missile:
An Honest John.
Little Boy was the codename for the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
This was all part of the grim black humour and linguistic distortions
The War Game sought to deconstruct.
... using ordinary weapons.
Thus it is possible for the Allies to be the first to press the button
in a nuclear war.
- Did you know this? - No, I did not.
I was vaguely aware of it, yes.
(Commentary) Once again,
Watkins directly tests his cast's knowledge of these likely events.
The stakes were indeed very high in a nuclear war.
By 1965, there were enough nuclear bombs
to kill everybody on the planet many times over.
Here we see just one of a whole cast of named characters
that Watkins had written into earlier versions of the script.
In its early stages,
the film was to tell the individual stories of these characters
as it followed them throughout the holocaust.
Note the complexity of another long, fluid camera track,
giving us the impression of a real event about to unfold.
... twelve miles from the airfield at Manston...
In Watkins' later films, this was to become one of his hallmarks.
His 1999 film, La Commune,
about the Paris Commune of 1871,
uses many ten-minute takes.
Again, Watkins' emphatic technique
of contrasting the private with the public.
A local GP, going about his daily business
as the Armageddon scenario is about to erupt,
an event that will change his life,
and the lives of millions of people, forever.
... extremely vulnerable,
and, rather than risk losing them in a counter-bombardment,
it is likely that the Russians would have no alternative
but to fire all of them at a very early stage in such a crisis.
Time: 9:13 a.m.
(Soldier) Quick, let's get back!
(Commentary) This dreadful sound,
surely one of the most blood-chilling in the world,
as we experience the panic and utter confusion before doomsday.
Our very worst nightmares are becoming real,
as people do what they can to protect themselves
from the most powerful weapons in the history of the world.
(Woman) Peter! Tony! Tony!
Where is he? Where is he? Think! Where is he?
There's a boy outside. Go and fetch him.
9:16 a.m.
A single-megaton nuclear missile overshoots Manston airfield in Kent
and airbursts six miles from this position.
(Commentary) This simple optical effect of overexposing the 16mm stock
and printing some of the scene as a negative image
conveys the immense heat flash
without the need for an extravagant special-effects budget.
Twelve seconds later,
the shock front arrives.
Watkins came in for some criticism
for what was seen as an anti-cleric stance.
I think he was just expressing the alarming degree
to which the Establishment had been persuaded to embrace the bomb.
At seven tenths of a millisecond...
(Commentary) The sheer terror of these scenes
brings home the personal human tragedy
of people caught up in this most inhuman of death machines.
... 30 times brighter than the midday sun.
To the Home Office it was smugly argued
that no good purpose is served by arguing points of detail,
such as the distance at which a nuclear flash could cause blindness.
Note the could.
This playing-down of the actual details of a nuclear explosion
was a deliberate part of the sophistry
that dominated their literature.
(Baby wails)
(Commentary) Watkins was born in 1935
and lived as a child through the Second World War in southwest London.
He told me that the bombers used to come over his house
and that one house nearby was destroyed.
"My childhood was spent in a Morrison shelter", he told me.
I asked him if the inspiration for these scenes
came from his childhood fears.
Unsurprisingly, the answer was yes.
Here, simple techniques are used once more to recreate terrible conditions.
The camera is hand-held, with a telephoto lens,
to help exaggerate the panic and confusion,
and by jostling and shaking the cameraman
the illusion is effectively created of a dreadful man-made earthquake.
This is the combined shock front
from one dispersal airfield 40 miles away.
An ordinary cup is shaken loose from its hook
and smashes on the kitchen floor:
An effective symbol of domestic destruction.
This scene, the memorable firestorm scene,
generally praised for its creative inventiveness,
was criticised by the Home Office in 1965
as an unlikely occurrence after a nuclear explosion in the UK.
This was never fully explained by the Home Office,
but Watkins was convinced.
In his exhaustive research,
he'd consulted over 100 books and pamphlets on nuclear warfare,
studied films on the subject,
including documentaries and newsreels from Japan and Germany,
and interviewed scores of people from all walks of life.
(Glass shatters)
Within its centre, the rising heat from multiple fires,
caused by both the heat flash
and the blast wave upsetting stoves and open furnaces,
is sucking in ground-level winds
at speeds exceeding 100 miles an hour.
This is the wind of a firestorm.
I saw...
a man...
get caught...
by a great gust of wind!
Pulled his jacket... right over his head!
(Commentary) Derek Ware, the supervisor of the action sequences,
gave the amateur actors careful instruction
on how bodies would roll and tumble
when being sucked into such a hellish inferno.
Another simple roller caption to give us pause for thought.
Many of these statements came from Watkins' research.
(Cleric) I believe that we live in a system of necessary law and order.
And I still believe in the war of the just.
(Commentary) A war of the just.
On what grounds can war, especially nuclear war,
be justified?
Many of the people in power in 1965 had lived through World War Two.
To them the Russians were the new Nazis, to be stopped at any price.
'Better dead than Red', ran the phrase.
Already 17 of his 60 firemen have been crushed, burnt or killed
by flying debris.
From these abstract considerations
back to the personal pain of the public
and the helplessness of the emergency services.
Indeed they too becoming victims to the multiple horrors of nuclear war.
... carbon dioxide and methane.
Peter Bartlett, the cameraman,
explained to me that Watkins would physically push him
when he wanted the camera to shake violently.
... both of heatstroke and of gassing.
(Scientist) In the next world war, I believe both sides could stop...
(Commentary) Another of the Interrupters,
distanced in their offices from the horror we have seen;
this one, a nuclear strategist,
calmly disseminating the sinister game plan
which was debated in military circles,
and perfectly contrasting with the horrors of the public
caught up in this most obscene of war games.
Remarkably, ordinary household white flour,
blown by large fans,
was used to enhance these stunning images.
... and anaesthesia.
When the carbon-monoxide content of inhaled air exceeds 1.28 per cent,
it will be followed by death
within three minutes.
This is nuclear war.
The use of roller captions, as with some of the Interrupters,
is almost surreal at times.
It detaches us from the action
and makes us question the plausibility of their information.
This is the reality of nuclear war.
The images show us the terrible consequences
but the commentary makes it clear that this is only the beginning,
as V-bombers take off on their deadly mission
to annihilate Russian citizens,
people just like these people.
Watkins was startled by the views of these people.
In this vox pop sequence they are responding as people, not actors;
as members of the public,
and their simplistic views contrast...
(Woman)... forgiving and forgetting, and I think we'd have to retaliate.
(Commentary)... very powerfully with the horrors of what we see on screen.
(Boy whimpers)
(Commentary) Note the tonal difference in the quality of the film
after the attack.
Watkins and Mike Bradsell, the editor,
deliberately scuffed up, then copied the film to increase the contrast.
Bradsell told me
it was to create the feel of grainy German newsreels from the last war.
(Man) Technically and intellectually...
(Commentary) I once asked Watkins
if the static, somewhat sterile scenes of the Interrupters
were in some way reminiscent of the information films
or current-affairs programmes of the times...
(Man)... sacrifice 20,000 men to their gods, in the belief that...
(Commentary)... for we can indeed debate such questions
in a detached intellectual way.
But this is the reality.
Who can forget this haunting image?
... a housing estate near Rochester in Kent.
Following the explosion of three single-megaton missiles
within this one county boundary...
It is very hard to distance ourselves
and remember that these people are in a fiction.
A great tribute to Watkins' cast and crew,
particularly make-up supervisor Lilias Munro.
(Nurse) I had a little boy with me.
He had his legs burned off.
(Commentary) It is to Watkins' great skill as a director
that he can draw such raw emotion, as he called it, from his actors.
This woman delivers her lines with such utter conviction,
at this moment she is a woman who has been caught up as an actual nurse
in the full horrors of this Armageddon.
The camera pans and zooms in on Dr Thornley once again,
struggling to help the wounded.
The placing of the injured in three different categories
was indeed part of the Home Office's plan
for the aftermath of such a terrible attack.
(Doctor) For these...'s just hopeless. - (Coughing)
So we put them into what we call the holding section.
(Doctor) These are people with... 50 per cent or more body burns.
(Narrator) He knows that each patient he places in the holding section
will be left to die in pain without drugs.
(Commentary) Decisions over life and death
would have to be made almost immediately.
(Doctor) They'll be...
They'll be asking me to kill them.
(Narrator) What you are seeing now is another possible part of nuclear war.
(Commentary) This scene, the mercy-killing scene,
unnerved the Government and the BBC.
British policemen, shooting the injured?
But Tony Benn, a Cabinet minister at the time,
recently told me that it was part of the Government's policy,
as late at the 1980s,
to shoot the gravely injured.
(Cleric) If I decide to hit, and perhaps kill, another man myself,
then I must be prepared to accept the moral responsibility.
(Commentary) Note this Interrupter is clearly outside the action.
Unusually, he works in harmony,
a complement to the powerful images we have seen.
(Cleric) ...then the situation is no different.
(Cleric) I must again myself accept the moral responsibility.
(Commentary) This tracking shot over dead people laid out in rows,
as with the victims in Hamburg or Dresden,
drives home the full significance of these alarming statistics.
Watkins shows us in a very personal, human way
exactly what these figures mean.
(Narrator)... from 50 to 80 per cent
of the power plants needed to run them.
Such an attack, using weapons of one megaton,
could be described as minimal
because it's now more than possible
that missile warheads or free-falling bombs
of between five to ten times that power would be used instead.
(Woman) I think extra numbers would have made no difference to all this.
(Commentary) You can almost hear the gasps of horror from the Home Office,
responsible for civil defence, at these scenes.
The civil-defence workers
directly criticise the Government's civil-defence policy.
- (Whimpers) - These will be the...
(Commentary) Watkins further expands his thesis.
What would be the likely consequences of this nightmare scenario
on the psychological state of the living?
Watkins' film was originally called After The Bomb,
and set out to explore the full impact of a nuclear strike.
Many people would suffer from shock and deep emotional disturbance.
What, if anything, could the authorities do for these people?
... the psychiatric services needed to cure them.
This, too, will be the legacy of thermo-nuclear war.
(Spoon rattles)
- (Wailing) - (Sobs)
(Policeman) I've already had... a dozen or so of my men go under.
(Commentary) Note the pitiful wailing in the background in this scene.
Watkins' visual imagery is stunning
but his creative use of sound must never be underestimated.
(Policeman) ...a civil-defence worker...
anybody... like this...
is just a... normal human being,
with... normal human reactions and... emotions.
(Commentary) And faced with their own personal tragedies.
How many officials would carry on working in such hopeless conditions?
(Policeman) No-one's allowed in here.
(Commentary) Once again, the camera has been put in the position
of our personal representative.
Through its eye, we are witnessing these scenes.
We, the public, are not allowed access
to this part of the aftermath scenario.
(Soldier) They're not allowing any photographers in there.
(Reporter) Yes, yes, I know, but, er, just a minute...
Er, will you tell us what they're doing in there, please?
(Commentary) The off-screen voice you hear in this scene,
croaking and breaking, is that of Watkins himself.
It is probably in this state because of the great physical energy
he always puts into the making of his films
but it also fits perfectly with the character of a reporter
who has somehow managed to survive
the dusty, smoky, parched aftermath of a nuclear strike.
Two days after the attack, the military authorities, to stop...
Another scene to shock the authorities and the public.
At that time the authorities prided themselves
on how unnecessary it was to arm the police in their normal duties.
What we are seeing here are desperate situations,
and desperate measures would, no doubt, result.
(Soldier)... burning the... bodies,
when two of the soldiers said they weren't gonna do it any more.
(Sighs) One of their officers came up and told them to get on with it
and they said no again
so he shot them both on the spot.
(Commentary) There is an actual record of such an execution
after a heavy raid on Germany.
Watkins' detailed research into the horrors of saturation bombing
is reflected most powerfully in this scene.
(Man) Another thing the Germans did after the bombing on Dresden
was they... took the wedding rings from the bodies.
They were trying to identify them from the inscription inside the ring.
Er, we also are doing this.
We are keeping the rings in this bucket here.
A bucket full of wedding rings from the dead
brings home the personal tragedies
from this very impersonal act of bombing.
... an estimated one-third of...
The Home Office had written
that great areas of the country would not be affected,
even in the most severe nuclear attack,
but we all know that nuclear fallout is no respecter of countries,
never mind the counties and shires of the United Kingdom.
Accidents such as Chernobyl in the mid-1980s,
where a Russian nuclear plant blew up,
spreading fallout thousands of miles, have shown that.
The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, dreadful as they were,
were so-called 'clean bombs'; they were atomic bombs,
with far less destructive power than the newly developed hydrogen bombs,
and these new weapons were known to be far more dirty,
extremely deadly in their ability to throw out massive doses of radiation
over many hundreds of miles.
(Man) I... I suppose I'm just being... selfish.
I just want my kids to be straight
and... and not to have this... poison working in their bones.
(Commentary) Faces.
Watkins often focuses on the human face in his films.
In these faces we read uncertainty, fear, dread.
(Man) The main effect of exposure to severe radiation...
(Commentary) The public had not really been educated
in the difference between atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs.
At the back of many people's minds ran a strange logic:
'The Japanese had survived
two atomic bombs dropped on their country, hadn't they? '
'Radiation? '
'Well, they seemed to be OK now, didn't they? '
This poem by Stephen Vincent Benét,
presented here in total silence for our reflection,
is perhaps representative of the debate that was going on,
in many books and pamphlets,
about the terrible dangers of the hydrogen bomb.
But it was a debate considered too dangerous to be examined
in the very public, immediate mass medium of television.
Images of apathy,
as officials distribute what food they can in a contaminated area.
For the seriously disturbed,
or those feeling the lethargic poison of radiation,
food brings little relief.
(Man) This is the menu of a meal
prepared by the welfare section of the Civil Defence Corps
during an exercise supposed to take place after...
(Commentary) The ironic absurdity of this statement
needs little explanation.
Statements such as this
and plans such as the ration-book scheme and dispersal
were meant, possibly, to reassure the public
that, for many, life would carry on as normal after a nuclear attack.
(Man)... they're accustomed to, with automobiles...
(Commentary) This nuclear strategist interrupts the action
to give us the American perspective.
Would life indeed carry on as normal?
(Woman)... changed now for five days.
(Commentary) Life in this country
would be far from that to which we'd been accustomed.
The breakdown of almost the entire country's infrastructure,
little safe fresh water,
disrupted sanitation,
severe shortages of power,
a dire lack of medical supplies
would most certainly result in these conditions.
At Hiroshima, doctors called this state of apathy maiyo koko gambo.
I apologise for my Japanese
but I'm told the phrase means
'No more will, no more desire, no more hope to live'.
... bitten on the arm by a rat.
There are now no medicines or drugs available to prevent the disease
which may well follow.
(Man) I was carrying a loaf of bread home today
from my mother,
who'd given it to me,
when a guy comes up and offers me a pound for it.
Well, what could I say?
You can't eat a pound note.
(Commentary) After the quiet reflection of these scenes,
we're hurled back again into the frantic world of the newsreel camera,
as it records a food riot.
It is interesting to note that in previous scenes
the mass media could be interpreted
as being on the side of the citizens,
reflecting their pain,
being stopped by officials when it got too close to scenes
the authorities would rather that we did not see.
On this day, the first food rioter is killed by the police in Kent.
(Speech drowned out by shouting)
(Policeman) Tell them to go back.
One in the air.
Two days later,
as a direct result of this incident,
a police ammunition truck and its contents are seized
and its volunteer drivers murdered.
(Man) String him up!
Get 'im!
(Man) In Germany during the last war, it was noticed that,
with people who'd suffered personal loss or deprivation,
even amongst the so-called decent middle class...
(Commentary) The breakdown of law and order, as portrayed in the film,
was an issue raised by Mary Whitehouse,
the co-founder of the Clean Up TV Campaign.
She felt that British people would not behave this way
and that the Blitz spirit would see the nation through.
In a letter, in early September 1965,
to the Prime Minister and other political leaders,
she wrote, without seeing the film,
that it 'prejudged the effectiveness of our civil defences
and the ability of the British people
to react with courage, initiative and control in a crisis.'
The first policemen in Kent are killed.
She also added "This programme could have a serious effect
upon the image of the British public throughout the world."
Within the next 15 years,
possibly another 12 countries will have acquired thermo-nuclear weapons.
For this reason, if not through...
This scene, one of the most powerful in the programme,
memorable for its graphic imagery,
greatly troubled the Government and the BBC.
Note the role of the camera appears to have changed once again.
We, as the eyes of the mass media,
are now treated with suspicion by the authorities.
This is clearly a scene that we are not supposed to see.
(Policeman) ...William Michael Eades...
(Commentary) Dick Cawston, Head of Documentaries at the BBC,
and Huw Wheldon, Controller of Television,
were desperate to get Watkins to cut it from his film.
Watkins made many cuts but would not remove this scene.
But Tony Benn also told me
that there had been plans as late as the 1980s to shoot looters.
The shooting of a British policeman was, and still is in many quarters,
considered the worst of all crimes.
(Cleric) And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Father, have mercy upon their souls, for they know not what they do.
(Commentary) A freeze-frame, as at other points in the film,
encaptures the full horror of the moment.
A statement that provided the press, and CND, with a powerful slogan.
For those who haven't had access to orange juice,
fresh vegetables,
vitamin C in general, and that'll be most people,
haemorrhages around the gums will set in...
(Commentary) More factual information, from a doctor,
telling us of the fate awaiting those who were nowhere near an explosion
but had been denied the kind of diet
that was taken for granted.
This very poignant scene drives home its point with great emotion.
A beautiful Christmas carol,
counterpointed with the faces of human suffering and deprivation.
... four months after the attack.
Watkins provides his audience with more chilling information
and more devastating, graphic representations
of the likely consequences of a nuclear attack.
... this little boy has only half
the requisite number of red blood corpuscles.
He will be bedridden for seven years,
then he will die.
This happened at Hiroshima.
This girl is pregnant.
Because of her constant exposure to radiation,
she has no idea whether or not her baby will be born alive.
(Woman) The thing that terrifies me most is the little ones.
(Commentary) No avenue is unexplored in Watkins' pursuit of detail;
detail that the authorities were keen to withhold.
What would be the long-term effects on children who'd survived the blast?
How would they cope with the deep mental scarring
after witnessing such scenes of horror and destruction?
(Woman) One just doesn't know.
(Cleric) I saw one of the little boys in the compound here yesterday.
(Commentary) And, all the time, the unknown physical damage of radiation
slowly at work in their bodies,
destroying their physiological development.
(Cleric) ...and suddenly he sat down...
as though he were very tired...
and his face went listless...
like that of an old man.
These children are orphans of the attack.
They were each asked what they now wanted to grow up to be.
I don't want to be nothing.
Neither do I.
(Commentary) Watkins, a father at the time of the making of The War Game,
presents us with a final series of vox pops of a nightmare future,
expressed all the more forcefully in the small, quiet voices of children.
... of thermo-nuclear weapons,
on the problems of their possession...
And then a final, powerful montage of striking images.
Images of private suffering,
suffering resulting from an attempt at an official silence
on this most deadly of subjects.
Nuclear warfare and its stark horrors
was a subject so secret and so sensitive
that The War Game, debated in Parliament, discussed in the Cabinet
and self-censored by the BBC,
was banned, probably officially,
from television screens around the world for 20 years.
... and now is the equivalent of almost 20 tons of high explosive
to every man, woman and child on the planet.
This stockpile is still steadily growing.
# Heilige Nacht!
# Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
# Lieb aus deinem göttlichen Mund
# Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund'
# Christ in deiner Geburt
# Christ in deiner Geburt! #
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