IMDb > The China Syndrome (1979)
The China Syndrome
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The China Syndrome (1979) More at IMDbPro »

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The China Syndrome -- A modern nightmare nearly becomes reality in this timely, tension-filled story about an incident ata nuclear power plant. Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon star.


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7.4/10   19,526 votes »
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Up 105% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Mike Gray (written by) &
T.S. Cook (written by) ...
View company contact information for The China Syndrome on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
16 March 1979 (USA) See more »
Today, only a handful of people know what it means... Soon you will know. See more »
A reporter finds what appears to be a cover-up of safety hazards at a nuclear power plant. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 11 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
Press Censored even in 1979 See more (96 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Jane Fonda ... Kimberly Wells

Jack Lemmon ... Jack Godell

Michael Douglas ... Richard Adams

Scott Brady ... Herman De Young

James Hampton ... Bill Gibson
Peter Donat ... Don Jacovich

Wilford Brimley ... Ted Spindler

Richard Herd ... Evan McCormack
Daniel Valdez ... Hector Salas
Stan Bohrman ... Pete Martin

James Karen ... Mac Churchill
Michael Alaimo ... Greg Minor
Donald Hotton ... Dr. Lowell
Khalilah Ali ... Marge
Paul Larson ... D.B. Royce
Ron Lombard ... Barney
Tom Eure ... Tommy

Nick Pellegrino ... Borden
Daniel Lewk ... Donny
Allan Chinn ... Holt
Martin Fiscoe ... Control Guard
Alan Kaul ... TV Director
Michael Mann ... TV Consultant
David Eisenbise ... Technical Director

Frank Cavestani ... News Reporter
Reuben Collins ... Sportscaster
E. Hampton Beagle ... Mort
David Pfeiffer ... David

Lewis Arquette ... Hatcher
Dennis McMullen ... Robertson
Rita Taggart ... Rita Jacovich
James Hall ... Harmon

Carol Schlanger ... Waitress (as Carol Helvey)
Trudy Lane ... Alma Spindler
Jack Smith Jr. ... Tom
David Arnsen ... KXLA Cameraman
Betty Harford ... Woman at Demonstration
Donald Bishop ... Hearings Chairman
Al Baietti ... Pro-Nuclear Witness
Diandra Morrell ... Sasha

Darrell Larson ... Young Demonstrator
Roger Pancake ... Gate Guard
Joe Lowry ... Security Agent
Harry M. Williams ... Fire Rescue
Dennis Barker ... Jaws of Life
Joseph Garcia ... Highway Patrolman
James Kline ... Jim
Alan Beckwith ... Technician
Clay Hodges ... SWAT Squad Leader
Val Clenard ... Val Clenard
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Peter Paul Eastman ... Reporter (uncredited)
Michael Jeffers ... Board Member (uncredited)
Clyde McLeod ... Reporter (uncredited)
Robert S. Woods ... (uncredited)

Directed by
James Bridges 
Writing credits
Mike Gray (written by) &
T.S. Cook (written by) and
James Bridges (written by)

Produced by
Michael Douglas .... producer
James M. Falkinburg .... associate producer (as James Nelson)
Bruce Gilbert .... executive producer
Penny McCarthy .... assistant producer
Jack Smith Jr. .... assistant producer
Cinematography by
James Crabe (director of photography)
Film Editing by
David Rawlins 
Casting by
Sally Dennison 
Production Design by
George Jenkins 
Set Decoration by
Arthur Jeph Parker 
Costume Design by
Makeup Department
Bernadine M. Anderson .... makeup artist: Ms. Fonda (as Bernadine Anderson)
Kaye Pownall .... hairstylist (as Kay Pownall)
Don Schoenfeld .... makeup artist
Production Management
James M. Falkinburg .... unit production manager (as James Nelson)
James A. Dennett .... production manager (uncredited)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Kim Kurumada .... first assistant director
Barrie M. Osborne .... second assistant director (as Barrie Osborne)
Joel Chernoff .... second unit director (uncredited)
Art Department
Rafael Caro .... art department staff
Rick Carter .... art department staff (as Richard Carter Jr.)
Joseph Hurley .... art department staff (as Joe Hurley)
Terry E. Lewis .... property master (as Terry Lewis)
William Maldonado .... construction coordinator
Richard McKenzie .... art department staff
Rudy Reachi .... assistant prop man
Ray Villalobos Sr. .... paint foreman (as Reynaldo Villalobos)
R. Chris Westlund .... lead man (as Chris Westlund)
S. Bruce Wineinger .... construction foreman (as Bruce Wineinger)
Jimmy Day .... labor foreman (uncredited)
Roy 'Bucky' Moore .... third assistant property master (uncredited)
William Ladd Skinner .... set designer (uncredited)
Sound Department
Fred J. Brown .... sound effects editor (as Fred Brown)
Willie D. Burton .... sound mixer (as Willie Burton)
Gene Corso .... sound effects editor
Les Fresholtz .... re-recording mixer (as Lester Fresholtz)
Marvin E. Lewis .... boom man (as Marvin Lewis)
Mary McGlone .... sound effects editor
Michael Minkler .... re-recording mixer
Lorane Mitchell .... sound effects editor
Arthur Piantadosi .... re-recording mixer
Samuel C. Crutcher .... assistant sound editor (uncredited)
Robert W. Harris .... cable person (uncredited)
Special Effects by
Bruce Mattox .... special effects assistant
Henry Millar Jr. .... special effects
Visual Effects by
Richard Edlund .... miniature photography
Michael L. Fink .... electronic consultant (as Mike Fink)
Richard E. Hollander .... electronic consultant (as Richard Hollander)
James F. Liles .... special photographic effects
Matthew Yuricich .... matte paintings
Stuart Ziff .... electronic effects
Peter Anderson .... visual effects (uncredited)
Bob Harris .... stunt coordinator (as Bobby Harris)
Carey Loftin .... stunt coordinator
Hubie Kerns Jr. .... stunt driver (uncredited)
Bryce Guy Williams .... stunt double: Jack Lemmon (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
James O. Blair .... gaffer (as James Blair)
Robert Duggan .... best boy grip
Robert Isenberg .... camera assistant (as Bob Isenberg)
Hal Landaker .... video consultant
Tom Prophet Jr. .... key grip
Daryl Smith .... best boy electric
Peter Sorel .... still photographer
Mike Sweeten .... camera operator
Reynaldo Villalobos .... second camera (as Ray Villalobos)
John Szajner .... second camera assistant (uncredited)
Casting Department
Stanzi Stokes .... assistant casting (as Stanzi Foster)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Aggie Guerard Rodgers .... costumer: ladies (as Agnes Rodgers)
Eddie Marks .... costumer: men (as Edward Marks)
Editorial Department
Francesca Emerson .... assistant editor
Music Department
Jim Henrikson .... music editor
Francesca Emerson .... assistant music editor (uncredited)
Dan Wallin .... score mixer (uncredited)
Transportation Department
Edward Baken .... transportation captain (as Eddie Baken)
Craig Pinkard .... transportation coordinator
Other crew
Marty P. Ewing .... production assistant (as Marty Ewing)
Debbie Getlin .... assistant: Mr. Bridges (as Deborah Getlin)
Richard Holley .... helicopter pilot (as Rick Holley)
Alan Kaul .... technical advisor: news
Ronnie Kramer .... production secretary
Doe Mayer .... video sequences designer
Ramon Pahoyo .... craft service (as Ramone Pahoyo)
Eileen Peterson .... publicist
Ken Ryan .... production auditor (as Kenneth Ryan)
Marshall Schlom .... script supervisor
Gayle Simon .... researcher
Teddy Stewart .... researcher
Douglas E. Stoll .... location manager (as Douglas Stoll)
Richard Thomason .... helicopter pilot
David Arntzen .... production assistant (uncredited)
Blanche Bisbing .... assistant auditor (uncredited)
Dale Bridenbaugh .... nuclear technical advisor: MHB Technical Associates (uncredited)
Ron Eisenman .... first aid (uncredited)
Karina Goodman .... production assistant (uncredited)
Richard Hubbard .... nuclear technical advisor: MHB Technical Associates (uncredited)
Eileen McGuire .... accounting assistant (uncredited)
Gregory Minor .... nuclear technical advisor: MHB Technical Associates (uncredited)
Francesca Rivieri .... assistant to executive producer (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
122 min
Color (Metrocolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Argentina:13 | Australia:PG | Canada:PG | Finland:K-12 | Netherlands:AL | Norway:12 (original rating) | Norway:15 (re-rating) | Singapore:PG | Sweden:11 | UK:A (original rating) | UK:PG (video rating) (1986) | USA:PG (MPAA rating: certificate #23436) | West Germany:12

Did You Know?

Rob Dixon of "Turner Classic Movies" has said of the production of this picture: "The genesis of The China Syndrome (1979) came partly from Jane Fonda's roots as an outspoken political activist. Opposition to nuclear power was a centerpiece of the program of the Campaign for Economic Democracy, founded by Fonda's then-husband, Tom Hayden (one of the original Chicago 7 activists tried for their part in the riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention). IPC Films, the company founded by Fonda and Bruce Gilbert, was scouting around for a script about nuclear power and tried unsuccessfully to buy the rights to the story of Karen Silkwood, a power plant worker who died under mysterious circumstances after discovering safety violations at a facility in Oklahoma. Then they discovered the script for this film by writer Mike Gray, who was originally slated to direct (Gray had attracted some attention as the producer of The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971), a controversial documentary on the late Black Panther). IPC bought into the project with Gilbert as executive producer and actor Michael Douglas, who had established his producer's track record with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), as producer".See more »
Continuity: Michael Douglas' character says the film of the accident is 230 feet. Yet when he is running the film through the moviola at the station there can't be more than 40-50 feet on the takeup reel at the end of the footage.See more »
Evan Mc Cormack:...and let this lunatic wipe 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 God damn press. Now you do your Job, and let me do mine.
Bill Gibson:Yes sir.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in Howard the Duck (1986)See more »
Somewhere In BetweenSee more »


What is 'The China Syndrome' about?
Why was the pump shaking and shuddering so much?
Why wouldn't the nuclear plant supervisors listen to Jack when he tried to point out the problem?
See more »
48 out of 84 people found the following review useful.
Press Censored even in 1979, 22 July 2001
Author: alicecbr from United States

AS poor and as distorted as the news in the U.S. is today, I find it refreshing that there were cover-ups and 'arrangements' being made over nuclear plants even in the 70's. Having worked on the software for control systems that theoretically control the nuclear plants, I know that any day now, the 'holes in the Swiss cheese slices' will all line up, and boom!!!! No one is taking the time to provide the care in that software that is continually being 'improved' and building like a house of cards. Safety software engineers are paid NOT to care about the quality of the work, but to rubber stamp the specs.

The inspectors they showed there are today even more incompetent and apathetic. As long as they find a few cosmetic problems to bitch about (e.g., coffee cups hiding alarm buttons), they don't peer any further. And of course, they wouldn't examine the X-rays, or know what they were looking for, if they did. The fox is guarding the henhouse in many areas in which we foolishly think we are protected. This movie attempts to unveil that danger, something movies are no longer allowed to do, since they are made by the same Big Business conglomerates that give you the nuclear plants, the Keystone tires, the Ford roll-overs.

Jane Fonda does a fantastic job of playing the innocent ingenue, something that hard-brained tough lady isn't in real life. And of course, Jack Lennon, dear departed, did one fantastic job as the ill-fated conscience of the nuclear plant. Check this one out of the video store....before all the copies are ordered destroyed. (I'm kidding, but not by much.)

Collusion between the information distorters and dispensers AND Big Business is just one of the themes in this movie, but something that's much more prevalent now than then. Well-written, I want to now see, "The Making of the China Syndrome" to find out what was cut out of it, and how much pressure the makers of this movie were under.

Just one thing: The movie Cher was in, in which she's run off the road, was also about a nuclear plant, and a worker who knows the truth about the apathy to safety at high levels of the plant. Which one copied the other?

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Discuss this movie with other users on IMDb message board for The China Syndrome (1979)
Recent Posts (updated daily)User
"The system works, THAT'S not the problem!" bg_mog
That's a really good car chase, actually.. ajtaylor82
with Japan's nuclear disaster now... kimasabe90035-1
Does anyone know the actual location of the powerplant? ajtaylor82
Nuclear, Schmuclear! Syxiepoo
Turtle? Lukerdog
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