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Def-Con 4

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (1985). Salter Street International Films/New World Pictures. Produced by Michael Donovan, Paul Donovan, and Maura O'Connell. Directed by Paul Donovan and Tony Randel (uncredited). Written by Paul Donovan. Cast includes Maury Chaykin, Tim Choate, Kevin King, Kate Lynch, John Walsch and Lenore Zann. 88 minutes. Colour.

Set in the Near Future, this film features a Space Station armed with nuclear missiles, controlled by the North American Aerospace Command and crewed by astronauts Howe (Choate), Dr Jordan (Lynch), and Captain Walker (Walsch). Middle Eastern terrorists seize a ship transporting cruise missiles, and launch one at Russia. Although the missile fails to detonate, the Soviets launch a full-scale nuclear attack against the US, whose rapid response leads to full-scale nuclear World War Three. The three astronauts are horrified as they see most of the world destroyed and the world plunged into Nuclear Winter. Eventually deciding not to worsen the devastation, they jettison all of their missiles, save one which becomes stuck in the launch bay. The station's Computer is then taken over by someone on the surface, who forces it to crash-land in Nova Scotia. Jordan is badly injured; Walker is killed by radiation-poisoned "terminals" who have lapsed into cannibalism. Howe slips away from the wreckage but is captured by survivalist Vinny (Chaykin), who holds him prisoner in his fortified house. There Howe meets a woman, JJ (Zann), also being held by Vinny. Making a deal with the survivalist for the food rations aboard the wrecked station, they all venture out only to be captured by Gideon Hayes (King), despotic ruler of this region's survivors. It proves that Hayes was responsible for the de-orbiting of the station as he desires information contained in its computers about a "safe haven" somewhere in Central America. A battle eventually ensues in which both Vinny and Hayes die; Howe and JJ visit the station to find Jordan dead from her injuries; Howe realizes the remaining warhead has malfunctioned and is nearing detonation. Killing the guards of a small ship, Howe and JJ sail away to an uncertain fate before the bomb explodes.

Like several other films dealing with nuclear war and Post-Holocaust consequences, Def-Con 4 was produced at the height of the Reagan-Era US-Soviet nuclear arms race – though this, unusually, was a Canadian production. The title refers to US terminology describing how close the nation is to nuclear war, Defence-Condition or DEFCON. The critical level corresponding to "Maximum readiness" and imminent nuclear war is Def-Con 1; the highest level ever reached was Def-Con 2, first attained during the 1963 Cuban missile crisis; it is to be suspected that the film-makers misread the scale, since level 4 indicates no more than "Above normal readiness". [GSt]


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