World War III (1982)

TV Movie  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  31 January 1982 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.6/10 from 463 users  
Reviews: 20 user | 2 critic

Soviet paratroopers drop into Alaska to sabotage the oil pipeline in retaliation against a United States grain embargo. A skirmish occurs at a pumping station, lightly defended by Col. Jake... See full summary »

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Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Col. Jake Caffey
Secretary General Gorny
Maj. Kate Breckenridge
Col. Alexander Vorashin
Gen. Aleksey Rudenski
Dorothy Longworth
Richard Hickman
President Thomas McKenna
Adm. Vernon Blanchard
Frank Dent ...
Tim Hardy
Maj. George Devery
John Lehne ...
Brig. Gen. Gard Roberts
Marcus K. Mukai ...
Sgt. Johnny Parson (as Marcus Mukai)
William Traylor ...
Maj. Nicolai Saamaretz
Lee Wallace ...
Dr. Jules Farber


Soviet paratroopers drop into Alaska to sabotage the oil pipeline in retaliation against a United States grain embargo. A skirmish occurs at a pumping station, lightly defended by Col. Jake Caffey and a National Guard reckon unit. A stalemate ensues while the possibility of World War III hangs in the balance. The danger escalates as the Russian leaders and the American President play a cat-and-mouse game. Written by Herman Seifer <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Drama | Thriller


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Release Date:

31 January 1982 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

III Guerra mundial  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Director Boris Sagal was killed early in the production, in a helicopter accident in Oregon. See more »


In the opening scene where the 2 Air Force sergeants are watching the radar scope, they are wearing the blue name tapes on their fatigues with subdued stripes. They should have subdued name tapes on their uniforms and an Alaskan Air Command patch on the right shirt pocket. See more »


President Thomas McKenna: We are looking at the possibility of a nuclear confrontation.
Col. Jake Caffey: But no one's going win a nuclear confrontation.
President Thomas McKenna: That has nothing to do with getting into one.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Way Above Average Cold War Era Fantasy
14 June 2008 | by (New York, USA) – See all my reviews

Great made for TV miniseries from NBC. I vividly recall this movie from when I was in maybe the 10th grade and being absolutely riveted by it's superbly plotted story about a group of National Guard soldiers trying to fend off a Russian invasion of Alaska with about 10 bullets per man. It still holds up, and is one of the best made for network TV action thrillers from that now bygone era.

Some of the studio sets depicting the frozen wastes are a little cheezy -- you get Roger Ebert's Captain Video Effect of the same fake rocks arranged in different formations a few too many times -- but there is an impending sense of urgency to the proceedings, which are staged in a surprisingly sober manner. The movie is also a lot more violent than one might expect, with nearly R rated gunshot wounds that are a lot more bloody than one might see on television today. Kudos also to the production team in getting together an integrated cast for the American troops that doesn't seem like gratuitous politically correct meddling.

Once you get down to it though this was another one of those Hollywood Cold War era doomsday fantasies that inevitably has a character announcing that "war is over forever" before being blown away by a crooked plant in their own platoon, which then sets the movie's inevitable global annihilation climax phase into motion. Rock Hudson is very sympathetic as a President who cannot stop the avalanche of doom once it gets started, with Brian Keith well cast as his Russian counterpart who is literally just a figurehead leader of a military oriented Soviet bureaucracy who look upon nuclear war as a justifiable risk.

Made at the height of US/Russian cold war tension (remember the Korean air liner jet incident?), this miniseries along with Nicholas Meyer's THE DAY AFTER and Edward Zwick's mesmerizing SPECIAL BULLETIN helped to define the decade for many of us who were growing up at the time, helping to convince me at any rate that a global apocalypse was unavoidable. I still am amazed that we made it out of that era without a nuclear war.

There is sadly a real-life tragedy that hangs like a pall over the film, and perhaps makes its sobriety all the more telling: Original director Boris Sagal, a competent and talented filmmaker who's talents had graced such made for TV favorites as Rod Serling's NIGHT GALLERY and the brilliant ode to D.B. Cooper, DELIVER US FROM EVIL, and the Charlton Heston favorite THE OMEGA MAN, was killed in a bizarre accident involving a helicopter during early 2nd unit location filming in Oregon. His death and the unwholesome accident that claimed the life of Vic Morrow & two Vietnamese-American child actors on the set of Steven Spielberg's THE TWILIGHT ZONE movie would lead to changes in how helicopters -- inherently dangerous contraptions -- would be used in major Hollywood productions.

I recommend anyone who perhaps wants to get a feel for the mindset of the early 1980s to seek this movie out and take a look. It's too bad that NBC has not managed to find time to issue it or SPECIAL BULLETIN on a DVD because there really are lessons to be learned here. Not so much about how to fight a skirmish in Alaska so much as how to make a really really good movie that maintains interest for a relatively long period of time (3 hours) with what was really a modest TV movie budget: $8 million, at the time, with some big names in the cast (David Soul, Cathy Lee Crosby, Brian Keith, Katherine Helmond, Robert Prosky, and of course the late Rock Hudson). Definitely more meaningful than it had to be, and deserving of a modern day audience.


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