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Fail-Safe (1964)

Approved | | Drama, Thriller | 15 January 1965 (Finland)
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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Cast

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

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

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

15 January 1965 (Finland)  »

Also Known As:

Fail Safe  »

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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

(RCA)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

With one exception (see goofs entry), all shots of US Air Force "Vindicator" bombers are views of the same Convair B-58 Hustler, taken from a stock piece of film after the Department of Defense declined to cooperate with the filmmakers. See more »

Goofs

At the very beginning of the first scene in the White House, look closely at the President, his secretary and the 2 other men: they're all standing perfectly abreast of each other at the end of a hallway, as if they were just standing there waiting for the director to yell "Action!". If they really had just come around the corner (which is the only place they could have come from, since the hallway dead ends on a window), they should be jumbled more closely together, being able to walk abreast of each other only after 3 or 4 steps. See more »

Quotes

Defense Secretary Swenson: General Stark, are there any papers or documents in New York which are absolutely essential to the running of the United States? General Stark?
Gen. Stark: No sir. There are important documents, but none of them absolutely essential.
Admiral Wilcox: Will there be any warning given? A lot of lives could be saved if people had a few minutes.
Defense Secretary Swenson: On this short notice, an alert to a big city would do more harm than good. It only produces panic.
Admiral Wilcox: What about this?
[...]
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Crazy Credits

[FINAL CREDIT]: The producers of this film wish to stress that it is the stated position of the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force that a rigidly enforced system of safeguards and controls insure that occurrences such as those depicted in this story cannot happen See more »

Connections

Version of Fail Safe (2000) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Brilliant
25 November 2001 | by (Korea) – See all my reviews

I saw this movie via two instances of serendipity. First I just happened to be living in an area that offered The Disney Channel in the basic cable package (which is all I ever get) and that as a Bruce Springsteen fan I was excited that the Disney Channel was going to broadcast a special concert short on The Boss. Of course I'm an older Springsteen fan, so instead of staying up late to watch it I just put a tape in and pressed record. The next day I enjoyed the concert, but forgot to hit stop when it ended. What followed next was "Fail Safe". After a few minutes it caught my interest, and now is one of my favorite films.

I'm not sure if this was a precursor to "Strangelove" or vice versa, for they are both listed as 1964 releases. Oddly they both have the same texture about them which leads me to believe that there was more than coincidence in their respective productions. Both are piece de resistances in Cold War studies. The main sundering is that where "Strangelove" excels in parody, "Fail Safe" is rich in tension.

Of course an anxious film about nuclear war on the brink can easily invoke tension (remember "War Games"?), but this film exceeds a good plot. The filmmakers use a backdrop of soceital depravity to create neurasthenia and presentiment; as shown by the strange and erotic scene with Walter Matthau and the woman in the car (kind of a mass-sadisim, lust thing) and the implied domestic violence in the apartment scene. The movie is also deliciously philosophical (the clever "criminals and file clerks will survive" theory) as well as adroit phsycological character development for all the main characters.

The picture is also darkly filmed, remarkedly minimalist and low-budget as if to show the limits of technology, in order to symbolize the sophistry of our trust in it. BTW I love the Matthau character's (the political science professor) line as he explains the faults of missles that have no human intuition. "The rockets have the defect of their virtues" he says in explaining how they cannot make a conscious decision to abort after receiving an order. But the message in this film is clear; even if technology breaks down it is only a symptom of our doom, ultimately it is humans who are responsible.


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