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The China Syndrome (1979)

 -  Drama | Thriller  -  16 March 1979 (USA)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 18,529 users  
Reviews: 94 user | 62 critic

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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Scott Brady ...
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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

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

16 March 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El síndrome de China  »

Box Office

Gross:

SEK 8,390,477 (Sweden)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Because the Three Mile Island accident, which resulted in the release of radioactive steam, occurred just weeks AFTER release of this movie, many people associate the movie with Three Mile Island. However, the potentially FAR more dangerous "Incident at Browns Ferry" (Alabama) happened in 1975, four years earlier, and was caused by a number of construction flaws, operational issues, and safety failures. Brown's Ferry Alabama is more properly the "true" basis of this story. No similar situation happened in California. See more »

Goofs

The emergency lights in the control room did not go on when the second plant accident occurred just after the SWAT team broke in. This was clearly for dramatic effect; in reality they would be on a backup power source just as the plant controls were. 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 »

Connections

Featured in The 78th Annual Academy Awards (2006) 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 (Brooklyn, N.Y.) – 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).


38 of 43 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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