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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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(screenplay), (from the novel by) | 1 more credit »
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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

Taglines:

It will have you sitting on the brink of eternity! 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

The "computer-generated" image on the control-room screen (including the map of the world, the planes and the explosions) was entirely drawn and animated by hand. See more »

Goofs

In chapter 9, at 40:00 into the film, professor Groeteschele (Walter Matthau) is speaking in the Pentagon. There appears to be a man dressed in black sitting under the big board, but it is the professor's shadow. See more »

Quotes

The President: How did you get to be a translator, Buck? You don't seem the academic type.
Buck: [nervously] I guess I have a talent for languages, sir. I hear a language once I pick it right up. I don't even know how. They found out about it in the Army.
The President: You sound sorry they did.
Buck: No, sir. It's a very interesting job.
[pauses]
Buck: That is, most of the time.
The President: Well, you did a good job today, Buck.
Buck: Thank you, sir. All I did was repeat what he said.
The President: You didn't freeze up. Another man might have.
Buck: You're the one who didn't, sir.
[...]
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Crazy Credits

introducing Fritz Weaver See more »

Connections

Featured in American Masters: By Sidney Lumet (2017) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
the only WWIII movie you need to see
16 August 2002 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

When people talk about a 1964 cold war movie, they're usually referring to Dr. Strangelove. Meanwhile, this intense, nerve-wracking, cleverly written masterpiece has remained largely under-appreciated.

One way to create a powerful drama is to make it feel as real as possible to the audience, and Fail-Safe succeeds marvelously at it. The order of the day on this film shoot must have been 'stark realism'. This agenda manifests itself most effectively in the vivid dream sequence that opens the film, but also in the terse intertitles indicating time and place, in the very contrasty (yes, I made that word up) black-and-white cinematography, in the absence of any musical scoring, and in the solid, unfussy performances by the actors (Henry Fonda and Larry Hagman deserve special mention). Oh yeah, and it's really suspenseful. The devastating ending gave me shivers.

Kudos to director Sidney Lumet, for his uncompromising and artistically daring vision.


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