7.4/10
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109 user 63 critic

The China Syndrome (1979)

A reporter finds what appears to be a cover-up of safety hazards at a nuclear power plant.

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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Daniel Valdez ...
Stan Bohrman ...
Pete Martin
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Michael Alaimo ...
Donald Hotton ...
Khalilah Ali ...
Marge
Paul Larson ...
D.B. Royce
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Storyline

While doing a series of reports on alternative energy sources, an opportunistic reporter Kimberly Wells witnesses an accident at a nuclear power plant. Wells is determined to publicise the incident but soon finds herself entangled in a sinister conspiracy to keep the full impact of the incident a secret. Written by Dave Jenkins <david.jenkins@smallworld.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Today, only a handful of people know what it means... Soon you will know. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

16 March 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

An Element Of Risk  »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$51,718,367
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Star Jane Fonda and her company partner Bruce Gilbert vowed that their production company IPC Films would never be involved in a film that was cynical. Fonda stated with conviction: "I feel what we need instead are more complex movies like this one that show people as being brave and intelligent and complicated, as people are". See more »

Goofs

When a reactor is "SCRAM"ed it does not initiate the use of massive cooling systems. The SCRAM process is the rapid (4 second or less) insertion of the control rods into the core which shuts the reactor down by absorbing the neutrons. If the control rod SCRAM fails, then the reactor can be SCRAMed by using a neutron absorbing liquid injected into the core from pressurized tanks (no pumps.) Also, in addition to the cooling pumps, there is an Emergency Core Cooling System which injects a large amount of cooling water into the core if the primary colling system fails. See more »

Quotes

Greg Minor: [re evidence of a nuclear power plant accident] I may be wrong, but I'd say you're lucky to be alive. For that matter, I think we might say the same for the rest of Southern California.
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Crazy Credits

The end credits run in total silence. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Game Boys (2008) See more »

Soundtracks

Somewhere In Between
by Stephen Bishop
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A chilling, reality-based, horror film.
15 May 2002 | by See all my reviews

"The China Syndrome" is perhaps the first horror film that is not necessarily following the rules of the genre. It takes place in the contemporary '70's, and features people in the normal profession of broadcast television news. But, when a news story about the leakage of nuclear energy breaks; let's just say - there is your monster.

Jane Fonda is absolutely superb as Kimberley Wells, an ambitious Los Angeles reporter relegated only to fluff pieces by her sexist boss (Peter Donat). She wants something juicier, and gets it, in the form of an accident at a nuclear power plant facilitated by Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon with expressions too numerous to count). Her hippie radical cameraman (Michael Douglas, who also produced) photographs the incident without the plant's knowledge and they both agree that public safety is a valid story. The network brass doesn't think so, and soon both Fonda and Douglas are entangled in a web of legalities concerning the tape.

The crux of the film is Lemmon's character. A man torn between loyalty to his company and telling the truth - even in the face of grave consequences. What makes this horror scenario so compelling is that these are true flesh-and-blood people stuck in the most extraordinary of circumstances faced with both a threat of cosmic proportions as well as a human one.

This is a remarkably chilling thriller, and I'm disappointed that it's not taken more seriously (as both art and tract).


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