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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:

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

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

In the movie, no year or date is given for the events. But in the novel, the authors state in the introduction that the events take place in 1967. This is consistent with details given about different characters and their backstories; for example, Groteschele is forty-eight years old, and his job search after college graduation was interrupted by Pearl Harbor. And on Grady's bomber, the sealed packet containing the printed Fail-Safe code is dated March 13. See more »

Goofs

The sequence that shows the B-58 bombers taking off from Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska, is incorrect. There were never at any time any SAC bases in Alaska, that's all Alaskan Air Command in that area. Moreover, the B-58 "Hustler" has a combat radius of only 1,740 miles, not close to the 4,000 miles each way from Alaska to Moscow. The bomber in real life, unless refueled in air by an Air Force KC-135 tanker somewhere over enemy territory (one thing the Air Force did not do), would run out of fuel not even half way to Moscow. Only the B-36 (with an un-refueled range of 8,000 miles) or the B-52 (with aerial refueling before entering enemy airspace) could possibly have flown the mission depicted in the film. 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

The sounds of a bullfight crowd is heard in reference to Black's matador dream. Then, the squeal of the Russian ambassador's melted phone which the President stated would be heard when New York City was bombed. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Fonda on Fonda (1992) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Frightening
22 November 1999 | by preppy-3See all my reviews

I'm a child of the 1970s, but this movie still scared me. You didn't have to grow up during the 50s or 60s to appreciate this. Anways in the 1980s, when Reagan was in office, nuclear war seemed a very real prospect. This movie is deadly serious, NO humor at all, and lit very sparsely. The battles between Russian and US planes seen as blips on a huge screen, is just as scary as if we had seen it realistically. Frightening, harrowing...hard to believe this film still has that effect now. Well worth watching but it's very very grim. Also, Fonda is superb as the President.


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