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Fail-Safe (1964)

8.0
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American planes are sent to deliver a nuclear attack on Moscow, but it's a mistake due to an electrical malfunction. Can all-out war be averted?

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(screenplay), (from the novel by), 2 more credits »
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Title: Fail-Safe (1964)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Colonel Grady (as Ed Binns)
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William Hansen ...
Russell Hardie ...
General Stark (as Russell Hardy)
Russell Collins ...
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Nancy Berg ...
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Frank Simpson ...
Hildy Parks ...
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Storyline

A series of human and computer errors sends a squadron of American 'Vindicator' bombers to nuke Moscow. The President, in order to convince the Soviets that this is a mistake, orders the Strategic Air Command to help the Soviets stop them. Written by KC Hunt <khunt@eng.morgan.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The screen zeros in on the most suspenseful adventure drama of our age! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

15 January 1965 (Finland)  »

Also Known As:

Fail-Safe  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Columbia Pictures produced both this movie and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Director Stanley Kubrick insisted his movie be released first, and it was, in January 1964. When Fail-Safe (1964) was released, it garnered excellent reviews, but audiences found it unintentionally funny because of "Strangelove", and stayed away. Henry Fonda later said he would never have made this movie if he had seen "Strangelove" first, because he would have laughed too. See more »

Goofs

Just before Mrs Grady tries to speak to her husband, the Ultimate 1 war room display shows 3 Vindicator bombers when at this time there is only one left. See more »

Quotes

Prof. Groeteschele: [after recommending an unprovoked attack by the U.S. on Moscow] And the Lord said, gentlemen, "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone."
See more »

Crazy Credits

The sounds of a bullfight crowd is heard in reference to Black's matador dream. Then, the squeal of the Russian ambassador's melted phone which the President stated would be heard when New York City was bombed. See more »

Connections

Referenced in What's My Line?: Episode dated 13 September 1964 (1964) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
How do you show your good will when your own bombers are about to mistakenly nuke Moscow?
17 February 2000 | by (Twin Cities, Minnesota) – See all my reviews

That's the biggest moral dilemma this movie puts in front of its characters. It falls to the President (ably played by Henry Fonda) to make the agonizing decision of how to handle the situation without causing a global thermonuclear war.

From the Soviet point of view, here's what happens. The hot line in Moscow rings. The premier picks it up to hear the American president explaining that three unstoppable bombers are on their way to obliterate Moscow. Oh, but it was an accident. We didn't mean to send them out, sorry. And we can't call them back, because they're beyond their fail safe position (and thus are trained to maintain complete radio silence and ignore any communication they may receive), and we can't shoot them down because they're way out of our range. Sorry. Our bad.

The pacing of the movie moves from a calm, cool tone while various media figures are shown around the facility in charge of all the bombers. Then it picks up a tiny bit as the facility detects a bogie over Hudson Bay. And this is where the situation begins that eventually leads to the erroneous deployment of a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union. Although it seems small at the time, this is the metaphorical horseshoe nail that loses the kingdom. ("For want of a nail....") From this point, the movie steadily increases the suspence as progressively more drastic measures are taken in the effort to stop these bombers, with the situation growing more desperate by the moment. I started out firmly positioned on my seat, but by the end I had moved further and further forward towards the edge of my seat until eventually I couldn't even sit still. Too much suspense.

There are quite a lot of technical errors in the film (for instance, due to the Air Force refusing to assist in the film, they had to resort to a fairly limited set of stock footage for the shots of aircraft, which are thus extremely inaccurate) but it remains a good movie. If you can ignore the errors in set design and stock footage and concentrate instead on the dialog (which is where the action is anyway), watching people rise to the challenge or snap under the pressure, this is a movie you will never, ever forget.


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