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Fail-Safe (1964)

Not Rated | | Drama, Thriller | 1965 (UK)
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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 »
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:

It will have you sitting on the brink of eternity! 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

Production Co:

Columbia Pictures See more »
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

The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau; and one Oscar nominee: Dan O'Herlihy. See more »

Goofs

When the group at the Pentagon is debating whether or not to send the fighters to shoot down the bombers, Dan O'Herlihy almost jumps in with a line before he's supposed to speak, but he visibly catches himself and waits for the man next to him to deliver his line before speaking. See more »

Quotes

Gen. Stark: They're good men, we've seen to that. If their orders are attack, the only way you're going to stop them is to shoot them down.
Brigadier General Warren A. Black: We've got no alternative! This minute the Russians are watching their boards, trying to figure out what we're up to. If we can't convince them it's an accident we're trying to correct by any means, we're going to have something on our hands that nobody bargained for, and only a lunatic wants!
See more »

Crazy Credits

introducing Fritz Weaver See more »

Connections

Featured in By Sidney Lumet (2015) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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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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