Film (1979). IPC Films. Directed by James Bridges. Written by Mike Gray, T S Cook, Bridges. Cast includes Wilford Brimley, Michael Douglas, Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon. 122 minutes. Colour.
Made by the production company with which Jane Fonda was associated (Indochina Peace Campaign), this is the first of two crusading borderline-sf films starring her, the other being Rollover (1981). Here she plays a television reporter hoping to do more "hard" news stories who stumbles across an "event" (crisis) caused by cost-cutting engineering in a nuclear power plant; this could (and almost does) lead to meltdown and the radioactive pollution of Southern California. Corporate bosses attempt, violently, to suppress the potential exposé. What looked at first like mere science fiction looked a lot more like science fact only weeks later, with the nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island – an apposite if unfortunate coincidence that made The China Syndrome a commercial hit. The subgenre of the near-future technological-disaster film (see, for example, Endangered Species and Wargames) is a kind of fringe sf, though usually made in the manner of the conspiracy thriller. The China Syndrome is well crafted and well acted. [PN]
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