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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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Peter Donat ...
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Daniel Valdez ...
Stan Bohrman ...
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Michael Alaimo ...
Donald Hotton ...
Khalilah Ali ...
Paul Larson ...
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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:

People who know the meaning of "The China Syndrome" are scared. 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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Release Date:

16 March 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El síndrome de China  »

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Color:

(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Actress Jane Fonda dyed her waist-length fair hair to a show-stopping red for the film. This was because she had noticed that most of the on-camera women newscasters she had observed had sported dyed hair. Fonda once said of this: "I'm acting out my Brenda Starr (1989) fantasy!". See more »

Goofs

When meeting about what to do with the film the next day, a paper leans against Rich's coffee cup, but is gone a moment later. See more »

Quotes

Bill Gibson: Mr. Mc Cormack I can't take responsibility for this.
Evan Mc Cormack: What's your alternative? Let this maniac wash out a billion dollar investment? At least this buys time, it will take the press an hour to get here.
Bill Gibson: I wouldn't count on it.
Evan Mc Cormack: I'm counting on you to take care of the goddamn press. Now you do your job and I'll do mine.
Bill Gibson: Yes sir.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The end credits run in total silence. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Howard the Duck (1986) See more »

Soundtracks

Somewhere In Between
by Stephen Bishop
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Still Relevant After (Nearly) 25 Years
2 September 2003 | by (Georgia, USA) – See all my reviews

This is *not* a great film about nuclear power. It plays too fast and loose with reality for that--especially in a cringe-inducing scene where two scientists describe the consequences of a reactor accident. The catastrophic damage they describe is (even opponents of nuclear power would agree) a worst-case scenario, not the inevitable result of a breakdown in the reactor cooling system. Three-Mile Island suffered such a breakdown, and the surrounding "area the size of Pennsylvania" remained habitable.

That said, this *is* a great (and surprisingly subtle) film about complex technological systems, how they fail, and how the organizations that manage them go awry. Subtle? Well: 1) Jack Godell, the whiste-blowing hero, is a flawed and self-doubting normal human being rather than a crusader in shining armor; 2) His co-workers at the plant (as opposed to the "suits" they work for) are sympathetic working-class guys who gripe (as does everybody now and then) about burdensome government regulations and the clueless public; 3) The flaws in the plant are subtle, not glaring. The film, in other words, plays a lot fairer than you'd expect given its reputation (and pedigree).

Does this film have a definite whiff of late-70s, post-Watergate America about it? Sure. Does it have a political edge? Yes. For all that, though, it's still (sadly) relevant--our technology, and the people who are supposed to make it work, still fail us. See the movie, then skim the recent (August 2003) report on the Columbia disaster; the more things change. . .


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