|Original theatrical poster|
|Film Studio||Dominion Films|
|Genre||Science fiction, drama|
by Ray Neville
|Production company||Dominion Films|
|Première||20 November 1983|
|Release date||29 November 1983|
In December 1989, political tensions between the capitalist Alliance and the communist Union are at an all-time high. Fighting in Commonia between the two sides has escalated and the conflict has spread to neighbouring countries, and tensions have risen further after an unexplained "Khaiwoon Incident" earlier in the year. Nations on both sides are preparing for war, however most of the residents of Saviso show little sign of concern, with most focusing on preparations for Christmas.
The film mainly focuses on two families - the upper middle class Halifaxes of Rhodestown and the working class Clarks of Admore Park. 18-year-olds Rebecca Halifax and Tony Clark have been dating for two years and have just finished their last year of school, with both intending to move in together after the summer. The class divide causes an undercurrent of hostility between the parents of the two, with the fathers divided as to who is right in the war. Rebecca's father, Arthur, is preparing his family's fallout shelter and is convinced that war is imminent, much to the annoyance of his wife, Helen, who thinks he is panicking the family unnecessarily. The Clarks do not undertake any preparations, believing that the situation will sort itself out by Christmas Day. Rebecca's concerns are not reciprocated by Tony, who insists on carrying through with his plans of visiting her on Christmas Day, and then on Boxing Day taking her on a week-long holiday to Avalon.
On Christmas Eve, the Union detonates a tactical nuclear warhead in the atmosphere 110 kilometres off the coast of the Federal States as a threat to the Alliance to stand down. The news is met with panic, with stores filled with people making last-minute preparations; others pack into churches to pray. Government plans go into effect, with emergency services and the military on standby. Rebecca phones Tony to tell him she loves him and begging him to take shelter, however he simply laughs and tells her that "nothing can happen, it's Christmas tomorrow."
Shortly after 9 am on Christmas Day, air raid sirens begin sounding across the city prompting many to run for emergency shelters. At 9:19 a one-megaton missile explodes over the Padina Bay Naval Base, followed by other strikes on Saviso Airport and Casserres. Various landmarks, including the Saviso Harbour Bridge and the Bank of Saviso Tower (then the city's tallest building) are destroyed, while the deaths of a number of people are shown in detail. The Clarks' house is partially shielded from the blast by the nearby Mount Pleasant, however the Halifax house is not so fortunate, being built on flat ground and in almost direct line-of-sight with the city centre and airport blasts. The Halifaxes survive, having rushed to their well-stocked basement when the sirens sounded; the Clarks were caught unprepared, with Tony's parents still asleep, and so had to hastily seek shelter. Tony's father is decapitated by flying debris and his mother blinded, but Tony is able to shield his younger sister with his body. After a short time, he makes his way to what remains of the kitchen to retrieve food, and then guides his siblings down to the basement.
A couple of days later, the Clarks are awoken by the sound of breaking glass upstairs. Cautiously making his way out of the shelter, Arthur discovers three young men looting the house of valuables. Enraged, he shoots one but is stabbed by another, whom he shoots dead before succumbing to his wound. In Admore Park, Tony's younger brother and sister both begin suffering from radiation sickness, and despite his best efforts, they soon die. Tony is forced to wrap their bodies in blankets and place them in the living room; he reasons that it is not yet safe to venture outside.
A week later on New Year's Day, with his food supplies dwindling, Tony decides to leave in search of food and to check on Rebecca, however the electromagnetic pulses produced by the blasts have disabled his car. He debates whether to attempt the journey on foot despite heavy fallout, and chooses to go when he discovers that his father's 1951 Cobalt, which he had been restoring, is able to start. The roads and bridges are badly damaged and fires rage across the city, but eventually he is able to make his way to Rhodestown. He is able to find some tinned food and preserves in a corner shop, Finding the Halifaxes' house, he picks his way through the debris and bangs on the door of the fallout shelter. A cautious Rebecca, armed with her father's gun, answers the door when she hears Tony's voice. He discovers that she is on her own - her mother had died of radiation sickness the previous night, and although Rebecca still feels well, she fears that it is only a matter of time before she, too, is stricken. Tony suggests to Rebecca that they leave Saviso and find somewhere safer to live. Rebecca is initially hesitant, but realising that she has only a couple days' worth of food remaining, and that the city is too radioactive and unsafe to live in, she agrees to go with him. The two take what supplies they can to the car and drive off.
The film then fades to the year 1999. Vodeo is slowly rebuilding, however the population has dropped to around two million, with the largest towns being Crafers, Endorie, and Radern; the likes of Saviso, Holme, Avington, and Silverton are too devastated and still radioactive. Technology has reverted to pre-1900 levels, while health problems, including cancers and typhoid, are commonplace. The central government in Brynderwyn has little ability to govern the affairs of the rest of the country, and as a result most authority is divested to what remains of the provincial governments and local councils. Tony and Rebecca work on a government farm near Landsborough in southern Avalon, but both have been aged and weakened by the lingering effects of the bomb. Rebecca is too weak to perform manual labour, but is strong enough to look after the children too young to work. As Tony is a manual labourer, he is allowed more food than Rebecca, however he gives her most of what little food he has in order to keep her going. When Rebecca falls sick, Tony steals food from the kitchen for her, but is caught and publicly executed. Rebecca witnesses the hanging and collapses crying as the film pans to a ragged Vodean flag flying from a flagpole before fading to black.
- Jacob Barker as Tony Clark
- Claire Dunn as Rebecca Halifax
- David Fryer as Arthur Halifax
- Kathleen Sutcliffe as Helen Halifax
- Bill Reid as Alan Clark
- Susan Archer and Roger Graham as the newsreaders
- John Stone as the Premier
The film was shot both on location in Saviso and on the Dominion Films soundstage over six weeks between February and March 1983. The scenes set at the government farm near Landsborough were actually filmed on a farm near Wellesley, north of Saviso. The film had a budget of V£410,000 (V£565,000 in 2018 figures), but cost V£386,000 to produce. Ray Neville was closely involved with the production of the film, overseeing the scriptwriting and filming, and played a cameo as a man watching a television in a shop window on Christmas Eve.
Radiation premiered in Saviso on 20 November 1983, and opened in cinemas a week later on 29 November. The film was a major success, earning more than V£1.6 million worldwide, making it Vodeo's most profitable film to that point. The film won the Best Film award at both the 1984 Vodean Film Festival and the 1984 Golden Delta Film Festival, the latter at which the film also received the most nominations. In 2000 the film was voted Vodeo's third-best film of the 20th century.
Critics praised the film for its realism and frank approach to the effects of nuclear war, as well as for keeping close to the plot of the novel. Peter Maynard of The St Austell Telegraph called it "perhaps the most chilling film yet made", writing: "no film has come so close to portraying nuclear war for how horrifying it really is. Mushroom clouds rising over Saviso instead of, say, Stanton or Winburgh drives home the point that not only could it happen anywhere, it could happen here." Clive Robertson of The Holme Gazette gave the film a perfect score, writing that "we can be thankful this is the closest we have come to nuclear war, and we must hope that it stays a work of fiction."
In an interview on the VBC-TV current affairs show Review on 9 December 1983, Ray Neville said he was "quite pleased" with the film, and said that "the horrors that I put on paper back in 1957 are still around now in 1983, the difference is that we have a better idea how evil they are."
The film's portrayal of nuclear war and the inadequacies of government plans prompted the Vodean government to reconsider its plans of action and advice to the public in the event of nuclear war. In his 1999 autobiography, Otto van Helsing, the Premier of Vodeo at the time of the film's release, wrote "Radiation certainly made us re-think how we looked at nuclear war reaching Vodeo. Were those plans that had been drawn up in the '50s and constantly revised every few years all for naught? As I sat in the theatre, I felt my blood turning to ice, and when I got home, I just sat there like a stone, trying to process what I had just seen."
Home release and broadcast history
The film's soundtrack was released on vinyl and cassette by Audior on 1 December 1983. The title song, "Radiation", performed by Radern band The Cracks, was released as a single in January 1984 and peaked at #9 on the Hit Parade the following month.
The film made its television debut on VBC-TV on 16 May 1985 and was one of the VBC's most-watched programmes ever at the time, and since 2010 has been broadcast every Christmas Eve on NTV2. The film was released to home video in 1987, and was re-released on cassette and Videodisc in 1999, followed by a new version to celebrate the film's 30th anniversary in 2013.