Title ID 5203Collection ID722
TitleThe Star Wars Threat
Date[ca. 1980s]
CollectionH.K Lewenhak
Genre/TypeProfessionalTelevision companyNon-fiction
ThemeWartime And Military
KeywordsCentral Government Education Family Children Political Demonstrations Workers Wars
RegionalGreater London
NationalEngland United Kingdom
ProductionH. K. Lewenhak
ProducerMembers of the ACTT
Commissioning bodyTUCND
FormatColour Sound
Duration7 min. 20 sec.
Copyright & AccessCopyright restrictions apply, contact Screen Archive South East for details


A film made in protest against British support of Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative or "Star Wars" policy, produced by H. K. Lewenhak while Head of International Training at Visnews in London, and Chairman of the ACTT Peace and Disarmament Committee. A professor at Imperial College London narrates the film, which includes animations and protest footage.


Protesters gather on a street, where a protester retrieves a banner out of a car. A professor at Imperial College sits at a computer in an office. He speaks to the camera throughout the film. He introduces the Star Wars threat, the subject of the film; 'Four years ago, when president Reagan announced his so called Strategic Defense Initiative, scientific and technical staff at Imperial College, as elsewhere, began to question the technical assumptions on which the Star Wars Policy was based. To create Reagan's impenetrable shield, to render nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete requires computer controlled spaced based battle stations able to protect the cities of the USA and Western Europe.' An animation illustrates Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. War heads are destroyed as they descend to earth from space. He describes the initiative's flaws; the system must intercept and destroy all the 10,000 nuclear warheads in flight, the number of war heads the Soviet Union could launch. He explains that the construction of an impenetrable shield would be impossible; even if the interception were 99 per cent successful, 100 nuclear warheads would still get through. The Star Wars system could not prevent a nuclear war. The Imperial College's notion became the official policy of the ASDMS. Protest footage follows.

The narrator holds a banner naming the Joint Trades Unions of Imperial College as a supporter of the protest against the Star Wars initiative. Further banners include those held by the Association of Cinematograph Television and Allied Technicians, and Tower Lodge N.U.M. South Wales Area. Other protest signs read "Star Wars: Guess who pays?" and "no nuclear weapons, no star wars Nancy - I think we're better off the Soviet way". Further animation and narration explains Imperial College's findings; 'Even a sophisticated computer would find it hard to sort out the 15,000 missiles and the 10,000 warheads from 300,000 decoys and other objects in space. Then in split seconds they would have to fire nuclear powered x-ray lasers from 100 orbiting space platforms or launch rocket-born pop up lasers to destroy each incoming missile. And they must get it right first time, there is no second chance. Star Wars as a policy is just not credible.' The professor suggests that it might make nuclear war more possible; the defense strategy is 'more like an offensive sword, a strike weapon spiraling the nuclear arms race into space.' A statue is shown, carrying both a shield and a sword.

The whole of Trades Union Congress is named as involved in the opposition to Star Wars. A speech was made at the TUC building against the SDI and British involvement in the strategy. The professor speaks of the poor financial situation of British universities and research departments and his offense at 'the fat cats', the Military Industrial Complex, dreaming up the program for their own benefit; 'British companies and universities, which have tried for research contracts, have found that the Americans want to keep the results classified and secret.' Further protest scenes and banners follow. The narrator continues; 'The SDMS branch, in conjunction with our colleagues at Computers for Social Responsibility and Scientists Against Nuclear Arms, have persuaded Eric Ash at Imperial College that the results should not be classified and we should be able to work with Chinese and Russian colleagues and share findings. He explains that Star Wars does not bring in finance. Rather, it is a diversion from social development. He describes the initiative as a fantasy, which no theory or technology could make work. It must be stopped so that it does not distort society. Academics are interviewed; one describes Star Wars as 'something out of science fiction'. She fears for the world her grandchildren will live in. Footage of children at the protest follows.

The Imperial College professor concludes; 'we join with other trade unionists to campaign against star wars, which seeks to take the arms race into space and distorts and diverts our science and technology. We have to campaign for funds to be invested into science and technology, and once more use science and technology to benefit mankind as a whole.' Further protest scenes close the film, focussing on the children in attendance; 'Save Tomorrow, Stop Star Wars.'

Contextual information

The film was produced by H. K. Lewenhak while Head of International Training at Visnews in London between 1978 and 1987 before his retirement in 1988, during which time he continued to make films including Change Direction (1991-92) and Fifty Years On (1993-94). Visnews provided in-services training for film, television and video personnel from official government units worldwide. During his time at Visnews he links units together for The Right to Learn (1979). As Chairman of the ACTT Peace and Disarmament Committee, Lewenhak produced two films for the the CND against the manufacture, transportation and use of nuclear weapons, Star Wars Threat being one, and We are Many (1983), the other. In 1958 he had been instrumental in producing The March to Aldermaston, which followed protesters on a four day march from Trafalger Square in London to Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Berkshire. SASE holds a copy of The Making of the Film: March to Aldermaston, produced in the 1990s, which includes interviews by participants including H. K. Lewenhak.

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Further information on file at Screen Archive South East

A booklet with information on the film production and its content. Biographical texts and photographs, and a substantial collection of paper materials in the care of SASE are available to researchers.


Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

A brief history of CND