When the Wind Blows (1986 film)

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When the Wind Blows
When the Wind Blows 1986.jpeg
Directed byJimmy Murakami[1]
Produced byJohn Coates[1]
Written byRaymond Briggs
Based onWhen the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs
Music byRoger Waters
Distributed byRecorded Releasing
(United Kingdom)
Kings Road Entertainment
(United States)
Nippon Herald Films/At Entertainment
Release date
  • 24 October 1986 (1986-10-24) (United Kingdom)
  • 25 July 1987 (1987-07-25) (Japan)
  • 11 March 1988 (1988-03-11) (United States)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$5,274[2]

When the Wind Blows is a 1986 British animated disaster film directed by Jimmy Murakami based on Raymond Briggs' comic book of the same name. The film stars the voices of John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft as the two main characters and was scored by Roger Waters. The film accounts a rural English couple's attempt to survive a nearby nuclear attack and maintain a sense of normality in the subsequent fallout.

The film was Briggs' second collaboration with TVC, after their efforts with a special based on another work of his, The Snowman, in 1982. It was distributed by Recorded Releasing in the UK, and by Kings Road Entertainment in the United States. A subsequent graphic novel by Briggs, Ethel and Ernest (1998), makes it clear that Briggs based the protagonist couple in When the Wind Blows on his own parents.

When the Wind Blows is a hybrid of traditional and stop-motion animation. The characters of Jim and Hilda Bloggs are hand-drawn, but their home and most of the objects in it are real objects that seldom move but are animated with stop motion when they do.

The soundtrack album features music by David Bowie (who performed the title song), Roger Waters, Genesis, Squeeze, Hugh Cornwell and Paul Hardcastle.

Plot summary[edit]

James and Hilda Bloggs are an elderly couple living in a tidy isolated cottage in rural Sussex in southeast England. James frequently travels to the local town to read the newspapers and keep abreast of the deteriorating international situation regarding the Soviet–Afghan War; while frequently misunderstanding some specifics of the conflict, he is fully aware of the growing risk of an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union. James is horrified at a radio news report stating that a war may be only three days away, and sets about preparing for the worst as instructed by his government-issued Protect and Survive pamphlets. As Hilda continues her daily routine, and their son Ron, who is implied to have fallen into fatalistic despair, dismisses such preparations as pointless (referencing the song "We'll All Go Together When We Go" by Tom Lehrer), James builds a lean-to shelter out of several doors inside their home (which he consistently calls the "inner core or refuge" per the pamphlets) and prepares a stock of supplies. He also follows through seemingly strange instructions such as painting his windows with white paint and readying sacks to lie down in when a nuclear strike hits. Despite James' concerns, he and Hilda are confident they can survive the war, as they did World War II in their childhoods, and that a Soviet defeat will ensue.

Hearing a warning on the radio of an imminent ICBM strike, James rushes himself and Hilda into their shelter, just escaping injury as distant shock waves rack their home. They remain in the shelter for a couple of nights, and when they emerge, they find all their utilities, services and communications have been destroyed by the nuclear blast. Over the following days, they gradually grow sick from exposure to the radioactive fallout, resulting in radiation poisoning. Ron and his wife Beryl are not heard from again, though their deaths are heavily implied.

In spite of all this, James and Hilda stoically attempt to carry on, preparing tea and dinners on a camping stove, noting numerous errands they will have to run once the crisis passes, and trying to renew their evaporated water stock with (contaminated) rainwater. James keeps faith that a rescue operation will be launched to help civilians. Apparently oblivious to the dead animals, destroyed buildings and scorched, dead vegetation outside their cottage (apart from their own garden), they initially remain optimistic. However, as they take in the debris of their home, prolonged absence of other human company, lack of food and water, growing radiation sickness, and confusion about the events that have taken place, the couple begins to fall into a state of despair.

After a few days, the Bloggs are practically bedridden, and Hilda is despondent when her hair begins to fall out, after vomiting, developing painful sores and lesions and experiencing bleeding gums. Either in denial, unaware of the extent of the nuclear holocaust, unable to comprehend it, or trying to comfort Hilda, James is still confident that emergency services will eventually arrive, but they never do. Perhaps this is because they were also presumably destroyed in the attack, or perhaps they are too busy with urban population centres and the Bloggses live in a rural area. The film ends with the dying James and Hilda getting into paper sacks, crawling back into the shelter, and praying. James begins with the Lord's Prayer, but, forgetting the lines, then switches to the first lines of "The Charge of the Light Brigade", whose militaristic and ironic undertones distress the dying Hilda, who weakly asks him not to continue. Finally, James's voice mumbles away into silence as he finishes the line, "...rode the six hundred..."

Outside the shelter, the smoke and ash-filled sky begins to clear, revealing the sun rising through the gloom. At the very end of the credits, a Morse code signal taps out "MAD", which stands for mutual assured destruction.


When the Wind Blows received positive reviews, currently having an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 6 reviews.[3] Critic Barry Lappin called it "Absolutely brilliant.... It was very subtly done but the message more than gets through well". He explained that the scenes are "more than touching" and encouraged people to watch it to the very end.


Originally, David Bowie was slated to contribute several songs to the soundtrack for the film, but decided to pull out so he could focus on his upcoming album Never Let Me Down, and instead only submitted the title track. Roger Waters was brought in to complete the project instead.[4]

When the Wind Blows
RogerWaters WTWB.JPG
Soundtrack album by
Released16 May 1986
RecordedWinter 1985
LabelVirgin Records
ProducerRoger Waters
David Bowie
Hugh Cornwell
Peter Hammond
Paul Hardcastle
Roger Waters chronology
The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking
When the Wind Blows
Radio K.A.O.S.
Singles from When the Wind Blows
  1. "When the Wind Blows"
    Released: 27 October 1986
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[5]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Roger Waters and performed by Waters and The Bleeding Heart Band except where noted. On some versions of the album, the Roger Waters tracks are all put into one 24:26 song. The lyrics to the closing song, "Folded Flags", feature a reference to the song "Hey Joe" in the lines "Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?" and "Hey Joe, where you goin' with that dogma in your head?"[6]

  1. "When the Wind Blows" (lyrics: Bowie; music: Bowie, Erdal Kızılçay) – 3:35
  2. "Facts And Figures" (Hugh Cornwell) – 4:19
    • Performed by Hugh Cornwell
  3. "The Brazilian" (Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford) – 4:51
  4. "What Have They Done?" (Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook) – 3:39
  5. "The Shuffle" (Paul Hardcastle) – 4:16
    • Performed by Paul Hardcastle
  6. "The Russian Missile" – 0:10
  7. "Towers of Faith" – 7:00
  8. "Hilda's Dream" – 1:36
  9. "The American Bomber" – 0:07
  10. "The Anderson Shelter" – 1:13
  11. "The British Submarine" – 0:14
  12. "The Attack" – 2:53
  13. "The Fall Out" – 2:04
  14. "Hilda's Hair" – 4:20
  15. "Folded Flags" – 4:51


The Bleeding Heart Band[edit]

Home media releases[edit]

The film was released on VHS in the United Kingdom by CBS/Fox Video after its theatrical run, and later on laserdisc. After a short theatrical run in the United States in one theatre and grossing $5,274 at the box office in 1988, it was released on VHS by IVE and on laserdisc by Image Entertainment. It was released on DVD in 2005 by Channel 4, with 0 region coding: the official UK DVD is still PAL format. The film was re-released on DVD in September 2010, again by Channel 4, it is formatted in NTSC and All region coding. In the United States it was released on Blu-Ray on 11 November 2014 by Twilight Time in a limited edition of 3000,[7] and in the United Kingdom, a dual-format release containing both the DVD and Blu-Ray version was released on 22 January 2018 by the BFI. In early 2020, Severin Films will release another Blu-Ray of the movie in the United States through their Severin Kids label.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "When the Wind Blows". British Film Institute. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  2. ^ Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ When the Wind Blows, retrieved 15 January 2019
  4. ^ O'Leary, Chris (2019). Ashes to Ashes The Songs of David Bowie 1976-2016. Repeater Books. ISBN 9781912248308.
  5. ^ "Allmusic review".
  6. ^ "When The Wind Blows lyrics". Roger Waters International Fan Club. Retrieved 17 February 2010.
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ When the Wind Blows Blu-ray, retrieved 9 November 2019

External links[edit]