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Fail Safe

Entry updated 9 April 2018. Tagged: Film.

Film (1964). Max E Youngstein-Sidney Lumet. Directed by Sidney Lumet. Written by Walter Bernstein, based on Fail-Safe (13-27 October 1962 Saturday Evening Post; 1962) by Eugene L Burdick and Harvey Wheeler. Cast includes Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau, Dan O'Herlihy, Frank Overton and Fritz Weaver. 111 minutes. Colour.

A mistaken US nuclear attack on Moscow nearly initiates World War Three, a quandary resolved only by the US President's decision to bomb New York as an apologetic gesture. Fail Safe had the misfortune to be released soon after Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963), and the public preferred the vigorous black farce of Stanley Kubrick's film to the wordy, low-key documentary style of Lumet's. The unlikely premise is lent conviction by some good performances, but this "message" film is at once too diagrammatic and too like soap opera in such simplistic portrayals as Hawkish Professor (Matthau), Liberal President (Fonda) and Conscience-Stricken Air-Force General (O'Herlihy). [PN]

see also: By Dawn's Early Light.


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