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The War Game BBC 1965. Stephanie Potter and Andrew Wood. Background. Watkins a controversial filmmaker using innovative techniques Based on events at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hamburg, Dresden, and, Darmstadt Watkins based initial feelings on photographs. Background (Cont.).

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The War Game BBC 1965

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The war game bbc 1965

The War GameBBC 1965

Stephanie Potter and Andrew Wood



  • Watkins a controversial filmmaker using innovative techniques

  • Based on events at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hamburg, Dresden, and, Darmstadt

  • Watkins based initial feelings on photographs

Background cont

Background (Cont.)

  • Prepared through interviews (scientists, civil service, etc.) and scientific fact

    • Combined fact and fiction

  • British government refused to provide help, only help was through Kent fire services for firestorm scenes

Background cont1

Background (Cont.)

  • Completed in 1965

    • Meant to be aired on television during anniversary week of Hiroshima bombings

  • Banned from British television—contradicted official British position on nuclear survivability

    • Aired on TV for first time in 1985

  • Shown in cinemas from 1966 onward through ban loophole

    • Awarded “Best Documentary Feature” at 1967 Academy Awards

Watkins goals

Watkins’ Goals

  • Expose inadequacy of Civil Defense program

    • Lack of education for general British population (Effects of bomb; handing out safety pamphlets at the last minute)

  • Portrayal of effects of nuclear attack

  • Evoke pathos and sentiment against nuclear weapons

    • Set in an idyllic part of Britain

Purported attack chronology

Purported Attack Chronology

  • Less than three minutes warning time

    • Problems with evacuation to countryside

    • Inability of population to afford and adequately build bomb shelters

  • Immediate intense heat (“melt the upturned eyeball”)

  • Firestorms

  • Mass chaos



  • Massive casualties

  • Destroyed economy

    • Simple threat: Four years to fully recover

    • Actual attack: All of attack area/20% of “safe” areas rendered uninhabitable

Social effects

Social Effects

  • General apathy toward life

  • Disregard for law

    • Hunger riots

    • Killing of security forces

    • Anarchy

  • Euthanasia

  • So traumatic no amount of therapy would help

  • Health effects

    • Radiation poisoning

    • Leukemia

    • Scurvy from lack of nutrition

  • Children

    • Extreme apathy

The war game bbc 1965


  • Discusses problems of using nuclear weapons

  • Threat of growing stockpiles and proliferation



  • Which parts do you think were real statistics and accurate interpretation vs. exaggeration meant to evoke strong emotions?

  • If an attack did occur, there would be a strong public outcry for retaliation: how would the government respond? Would they be locked into a series of mutual retaliations?

  • Watkins used both statistics, civilian interviews and potentially “real life” footage to make his points. Which depictions were the most effective and why?



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