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World War III

Entry updated 4 April 2017. Tagged: TV.

US tv mini-series (1982). David Greene Productions for NBC-TV. Produced by Bruce Lansbury. Directed by Boris Sagal and David Greene. Written by Robert L Joseph. Cast includes Cathy Lee Crosby, Rock Hudson, Brian Keith and David Soul. 200 minutes. Colour.

In 1987, the Soviet Union invades Alaska in retaliation for the grain embargo imposed by the US in 1980; the plan is to capture the Alaskan oil pipeline as a bargaining point to force the lifting of the embargo. The US President (Hudson) and Soviet Premier (Keith) try to keep the situation from spiralling out of control into full-scale war, but when it seems these diplomatic efforts could succeed, rogue elements in the Soviet military assassinate their own Premier. The Invasion force in Alaska eventually seizes large sections of the pipeline, and the film ends with both sides ordering massive nuclear attacks against each other, triggering a nuclear World War Three.

This mini-series was one of the first expressions of 1980s anti-communist Paranoia in the US following the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan as President and the renewed nuclear arms race which his regime instigated. There are similarities to the later Amerika (1987), though the plot here is slightly more plausible, albeit still very unlikely. According to actor Hudson, World War III was an unofficial pilot for a sequel or full-blown television series that would have followed had ratings been strong enough; but they were only average, at best. Director Sagal was killed on the set early in the shooting when he walked into the rotating blades of a helicopter; executive producer Greene completed the mini-series. [GSt]


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