7.4/10
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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  »

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

Producer Michael Douglas feels that what The China Syndrome (1979) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) share in common is the classic dramatic situation of man versus institutions. In the case of The China Syndrome (1979) those institutions are the many-headed monsters of modern media and technological corporations. Douglas said: "It's Man vs. Machinery. Basically, I find I like stories about heroes and, frankly, I think most people do. When I first read 'The China Syndrome', I was knocked out to find a very exciting story in which the leading characters are faced with dramatic choices, decisions that could make them heroic.This is the same plane on which 'Cuckoo's Nest' [One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)] was so involving". Douglas added: "Although we're dealing with complicated and controversial issues, the story is presented in a straightforward fashion, just as in 'Cuckoo's Nest' [One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)] . There were a lot of people who thought Big Nurse [(Louise Fletcher)] was right, that she was just doing her job. Conclusions belong to the audience, not the filmmakers". See more »

Goofs

When Jack sets down his coffee cup, just after the earthquake, the handle points towards the edge of the counter. In the close up the handle points to the corner. See more »

Quotes

Ted Spindler: He was not a loony. He was the sanest man I ever knew in my life.
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Crazy Credits

The end credits run in total silence. See more »


Soundtracks

Somewhere In Between
by Stephen Bishop
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Nuclear nightmare
12 July 2001 | by (San Gabriel, Ca., USA) – See all my reviews

When THE CHINA SYNDROME was released, plenty of right-wing critics and pro-nuke supporters blasted this film, particularly since its three leading stars were all known for their liberal politics and their overt distrust of nuclear power. But it only took two weeks and a near-catastrophic accident at Three Mile Island to shut those critics up.

Fonda and Douglas are the L.A. news crew that witness a potentially nasty accident at the Ventana nuclear power plant. Douglas films the event through the plant's soundproof glass; but the TV station will not air the footage, fearing a massive lawsuit. It is thus up to Fonda and Douglas to get at the truth, despite a massive attempt by the plant's owners to cover up the accident.

But a conscientious shift supervisor (Jack Lemmon) has uncovered certain defects in the plant's pump support structure. He believes that these defects were the cause of the accident and that, though it would be extremely costly and lengthy, if repairs aren't made, the next accident could be apocalyptic. But he can't get anyone who works with him to believe his story. The result is a nightmarish climax that pulls various political, technological, and human interest stories together in one disturbing package.

While obviously quite politically liberal in nature, THE CHINA SYNDROME, well directed and co-written by James Bridges (THE PAPER CHASE), is also fundamentally a message movie about the inherent dangers of putting technology and nuclear power together. Fundamentally, nuclear power can NEVER be made safe because people can NEVER be perfect. That is what the film is saying; and in a highly entertaining and suspenseful way, it says it brilliantly.


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