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Fail-Safe (1964)

Not Rated | | Drama, Thriller | 1965 (UK)
American planes are sent to deliver a nuclear attack on Moscow, but it's a mistake due to an electrical malfunction. Can all-out war be averted?

Director:

Sidney Lumet

Writers:

Walter Bernstein (screenplay), Eugene Burdick (from the novel by) | 1 more credit »
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3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Dan O'Herlihy ... Gen. Black
Walter Matthau ... Dr. Groeteschele
Frank Overton ... Gen. Bogan
Edward Binns ... Col. Grady (as Ed Binns)
Fritz Weaver ... Col. Cascio
Henry Fonda ... The President
Larry Hagman ... Buck
William Hansen William Hansen ... Secretary Swenson
Russell Hardie ... Gen. Stark (as Russell Hardy)
Russell Collins ... Knapp
Sorrell Booke ... Congressman Raskob
Nancy Berg Nancy Berg ... Ilsa Wolfe
John Connell ... Thomas
Frank Simpson Frank Simpson ... Sullivan
Hildy Parks ... Betty Black
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Storyline

A series of human and computer errors sends a squadron of American 'Vindicator' bombers to nuke Moscow. The President, in order to convince the Soviets that this is a mistake, orders the Strategic Air Command to help the Soviets stop them. Written by KC Hunt <khunt@eng.morgan.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The screen zeros in on the most suspenseful adventure drama of our age! See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

1965 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Fail Safe See more »

Filming Locations:

USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Columbia Pictures produced both this movie and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Director Stanley Kubrick insisted his movie be released first, and it was, in January 1964. When Fail-Safe (1964) was released, it garnered excellent reviews but audiences found it unintentionally funny because of "Strangelove", and stayed away. Henry Fonda later said he would never have made this movie if he had seen "Strangelove" first, because he would have laughed, too. See more »

Goofs

Before the bombers enter Soviet airspace the fighters that attempt to shoot them down change type to include F-101s, F-102s and F-104s. See more »

Quotes

The President: How did you get to be a translator, Buck? You don't seem the academic type.
Buck: [nervously] I guess I have a talent for languages, sir. I hear a language once I pick it right up. I don't even know how. They found out about it in the Army.
The President: You sound sorry they did.
Buck: No, sir. It's a very interesting job.
[pauses]
Buck: That is, most of the time.
The President: Well, you did a good job today, Buck.
Buck: Thank you, sir. All I did was repeat what he said.
The President: You didn't freeze up. Another man might have.
Buck: You're the one who didn't, sir.
[...]
See more »

Crazy Credits

[FINAL CREDIT]: The producers of this film wish to stress that it is the stated position of the Department of Defense and the United States Air Force that a rigidly enforced system of safeguards and controls insure that occurrences such as those depicted in this story cannot happen See more »

Connections

Featured in Henry Fonda: The Man and His Movies (1982) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
Serious As a Crutch
9 April 2007 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Interesting that both Failsafe and Dr. Strangelove both came out in 1964 the year that Barry Goldwater and his candidacy brought up the nuclear issue. After seeing both those films together with the flip comments Goldwater made about nuclear war, he was never to be anything other than a Senator from Arizona.

Everyone remembers Stanley Kubrick's black comedy Dr. Strangelove about a nuclear exchange. Failsafe which is as serious as a crutch is less remembered. Still viewed today it still has an important message, maybe more important now than when it was a bi-polar world. At least everyone then seemed to be on one side or the other.

My favorite performer in this film is Frank Overton who worked mostly in television. On the big screen he's probably best known as the small town sheriff in To Kill A Mockingbird. Though he did a lot of television work until he died in 1967, Failsafe turned out to be his last big screen performance. Overton does a great job as the general in charge of the Strategic Air Command in Omaha who is very reluctantly trying to help the Russians shoot down SAC bombers who've had one squad of them accidentally given the go ahead for nuclear war.

Henry Fonda is the beleaguered president of the United States who is issuing commands from a deep underground bunker beneath the White House with only Russian interpreter Larry Hagman there. The whole claustrophobic atmosphere adds to the desperation of Fonda's performance. By the way note the large closeups of Fonda as he's trying to order the SAC bombers back from their mission.

You might also note in a tiny role at the SAC command center Dom DeLuise in a very serious role as a sergeant. This may be the only time DeLuise ever had a serious part.

At the Pentagon is Defense Department consultant Walter Matthau also in a serious role as a Herman Kahn type, looking to 'win' a nuclear exchange. He's one frightening fellow.

The world is no longer bi-polar, but the lessons of Failsafe have yet to be learned.


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