Udo Kier – actor

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“From time to time you have to make a film like Armageddon so people see that you’re still around.”

Udo Kier – born Udo Kierspe; 14 October 1944 – is a German actor who has appeared in over 200 films, across many genres, though his appearances in horror films have been particularly notable.

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Kier was born in Cologne, near the end of World War II. The hospital in which he was born was bombed by the Allies moments after his birth and both Udo and his mother had to be dug from the resultant rubble. In his youth he worked as an altar boy and cantor. He moved to the United Kingdom to learn the English language when he was 18 years-old.

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In 1966, Kier was cast in the lead role for the short film, Road to St. Tropez by director, Paul Sarne. His first major film, appropriately enough, was…

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Brian May – composer

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Brian May (28 July 1934 – 25 April 1997) was an Australian film composer. His best known scores are those for Mad Max and Mad Max 2, though he composed for many genres, including several horror films. No doubt his name led to many instances of mistaken identity; for the record, there is no connection between the Australian composer and the guitarist for rock band, Queen.

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May was born in Adelaide on 28 July 1934. He trained at the Adelaide Elder Conservatorium as a pianist, violinist and conductor. He joined the ABC Adelaide in 1957 and was asked to form and conduct the ABC Adelaide Big Band, a full-blown ensemble that was rated as the best of the ABC state-based bands. He moved to Melbourne when he was 35 to arrange and conduct the ABC’s Melbourne Show band. The Show Band made its radio debut on the First Network…

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Threads

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“In an urban society, everything connects. Each person’s needs are fed by the skills of many others. Our lives are woven together in a fabric. But the connections that make society strong also make it vulnerable”.

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Threads is a 1984 British television drama, produced jointly by the BBC, Nine Network and Western-World Television Inc. Written by Barry Hines (Kes) and directed by Mick Jackson (Volcano), it is a docudrama account of nuclear war and its effects on the city of Sheffield in northern England.

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The primary plot centres on two families, the Becketts and the Kemps, as an international crisis between the United States and the Soviet Union erupts and escalates, mimicking the real-life tensions but allowing the threatened Cold War to escalate beyond the hypothetical and into a fully-blown attack. As the United Kingdom prepares for war, the members of each family deal with their own personal crises, the rigors of family life, not least the unplanned pregnancy of Ruth Beckett (Karen Meagher; 28 Weeks Later) and urgent requirement for some new wallpaper not halting, as a much larger-scale danger develops. As Ruth and her boyfriend, Jimmy Kemp (Reece Dinsdale, best known for his role opposite John Thaw in the deadly dull sitcom, Home to Roost), we observe the political angle, members of Sheffield City Council, on the orders of the Home Office, setting up northern headquarters in the basement of Sheffield Town Hall, closely monitoring news reports of an American submarine going missing off the coast of Iran and the mobilisation of Russian troops on the ground.
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With the Americans launching a counter-offensive, occupying Iranian oil fields, tensions in the UK begin to spill over, the populous involving themselves in demonstrations (ironically, not just pro-CND but demanding more jobs) or looting shops and businesses. Nuclear exchanges are reported near the Russians’ base in Masshad, Iran, after which a flimsy truce is declared. The civil defence arrangements become increasingly panicked and stretched as it seems the worst scenario is looking evermore likely. After an American attempt at diplomacy is rebuffed, the conflict appears to quieten, though UK civilians fruitlessly attempt to withdraw their savings and take to the roads in a bid to find safe ground, the consequence being endless traffic jams and further unrest.

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At 8:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m. in Washington, D.C.) on 26 May, Attack Warning Red is transmitted, and Sheffield’s air raid sirens sound. A warhead air bursts over the North Sea, obliterating many communications systems, then another hits RAF Finningley, 20 miles away from Sheffield. Although the city is not heavily damaged, chaos breaks out. Jimmy is last seen attempting to reach Ruth. Shortly after the first strike, Sheffield is hit by a one megaton warhead over the Tinsley Viaduct, causing enormous destruction. A title card states that strategic targets, including steel and chemical factories in the Midlands, are attacked, with two-thirds of all homes being destroyed and immediate deaths ranging between 17 and 30 million.

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There is chaos at the Town Hall, partially demolished in the blast with the surviving civil servants trapped beneath, armed with little, though conflicting information, dwindling supplies and inevitable communication problems. We are also reminded that they too have loved ones on ‘the outside’, their fates unknown. Having witnessed the devastation of the blast; from melting milk bottles, to fires taking hold, to fried cats, we now see the nuclear radiation and its effects on the survivors, already struggling to escape the rubble but now faced with agonising illnesses, lack of running water and medical supplies and a fractured government authorising killing squads to shoot looters and deserters on-sight.

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We re-visit the affected after a month, then a year, the dead remaining unburied, the country’s infrastructure almost non-existent, disease rife and the on-set of a nuclear winter, the perpetual dusk destroying crops. Later, the sun returns but only to highlight the squalor the remaining injured must endure. With much of the ozone layer decimated, cancer and other conditions are commonplace, the search for food and shelter remaining the overriding concern.
Many years later, Britain is depicted as having returned to the Dark Ages; ragged clothing, primitive farming techniques and a mangled version of language being employed by a population reduced from 11 million people to 4. The film ends with no redemption and little hope, the future bleak for all and life forever changed.

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30 years on, Threads remains one of the most shocking and affecting film shown on British television. Coming 20 years after another nuclear parable, The War Game (ironically, originally not shown on the BBC under orders from the Wilson government), Threads is far more unflinching in its assessment of a nuclear attack, using a largely unknown cast (including many who weren’t recognised actors at all), an ‘anywhere’ location and the depiction of very real fears and logistics. To compound the unremitting tension, the action is interspersed with genuine news reports, Civil Defence announcements and public information films (Protect and Survive, an upsetting watch at the best of times), are a reminder that the mid-80’s were still shrouded in Cold War tensions, Threads serving as a stark picture of a very real possibility.

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Mick Jackson was hired to direct the film, as he had previously worked in the area of nuclear apocalypse in 1982, producing the BBC Q.E.D. documentary A Guide to Armageddon. By undergoing rigorous research to capture the actual plans in place should such a catastrophe take place, the documentary feel overtakes the film from the very start, though some may find the later scenes of grey ruins and uneducated survivors a little too stretched and film-like. The film was shot on a budget of £250,000–350,000, much of the budget going on a rare depiction of post-attack scenes, the majority of previous efforts only showing up to and including the dropping of the bomb. Remarkably, Jackson went on to have mainstream success as the director of Hollywood smash, The Bodyguard.

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Allegedly viewed after broadcast by then-US President Ronald Reagan, as well as Party Leaders in the UK, the initial screenings in Britain, America and Australia were accompanied by studio discussions, debating the issues raised in the film. Although distinctly anti-nuclear, the events are shown as being part of a much bigger picture, the lack of preparation and planning by the Government being as damning as the hopeless brinkmanship of the Americans and Russians. Threads was also shown in British schools, both as an example of storytelling and the use of documentary-style filming. Though having been released briefly on two occasions, the use of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” has left licensing rights a huge stumbling block to the definitive release this film deserves.
Daz Lawrence

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Protect and survive Booklet

 

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M is a 1931 German drama-thriller film directed by Fritz Lang (Metropolis, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse) and starring Peter Lorre (The Beast with Five Fingers; The RavenTales of Terror). It was written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou and was the director’s first sound film. The plot shows one of cinema’s first serial-killer hunts and was a shift in horror from monsters to real-life horrors.

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In early 30’s Berlin, despite a serial killer being on the loose, families are trying to carry on with their lives as normal. We see a six year-old girl named Elsie Beckmann playing with a ball alone on a street having left her friends. She is approached by a relatively nondescript man, Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), whistling as he walks, who buys her a balloon from a blind peddler. This innocent act is soon to be revealed…

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Dr. Satan versus Black Magic

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Dr Satan versus Black Magic (Dr. Satan y la Magia Negra) is a 1968 Mexican horror film directed by Rogelio A. González (Ship of Monsters) and starring Joaquin Cordero (Dr Satan; The Hell of Frankenstein; The Terrible Giant of the Snow), Sonia Furió and Noe Murayama (Blue Demon Versus the Infernal Brains). The film is a sequel to Dr Satan (1966) and retains the character and actor of the titular physician but changes director and transfers from black and white to colour.

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Deep in the bowels of Hell, the notorious yet suave Doctor Satan (Cordero) is being given a thorough dressing-down by his employer, Lucifer. He is given one last chance to avoid Earthly punishment by doing his master’s bidding; he must return to Earth and steal the evil sorcerer, Lei Yin’s (Murayama) secret of turning base metals into gold…

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