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Fail Safe (1964)

Not Rated | | Drama, Thriller | 7 October 1964 (USA)
Trailer
2:56 | Trailer
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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Photos

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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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Did You Know?

Trivia

The view of the satellite zooming into a closer shot is actually film taken from a camera mounted on a captured German V2 rocket launched from White Sands, NM. The film is run backwards to show the illusion of zooming closer to the ground. See more »

Goofs

Many of the Air Force officers are wearing non-existent award ribbons on their uniforms, especially in the lower rows. See more »

Quotes

[last lines]
Brigadier General Warren A. Black: The Matador, the Matador... me... me
See more »

Crazy Credits

introducing Fritz Weaver See more »

Connections

Featured in By Sidney Lumet (2015) See more »

User Reviews

Brilliant
25 November 2001 | by XRANDYSee all my reviews

I saw this movie via two instances of serendipity. First I just happened to be living in an area that offered The Disney Channel in the basic cable package (which is all I ever get) and that as a Bruce Springsteen fan I was excited that the Disney Channel was going to broadcast a special concert short on The Boss. Of course I'm an older Springsteen fan, so instead of staying up late to watch it I just put a tape in and pressed record. The next day I enjoyed the concert, but forgot to hit stop when it ended. What followed next was "Fail Safe". After a few minutes it caught my interest, and now is one of my favorite films.

I'm not sure if this was a precursor to "Strangelove" or vice versa, for they are both listed as 1964 releases. Oddly they both have the same texture about them which leads me to believe that there was more than coincidence in their respective productions. Both are piece de resistances in Cold War studies. The main sundering is that where "Strangelove" excels in parody, "Fail Safe" is rich in tension.

Of course an anxious film about nuclear war on the brink can easily invoke tension (remember "War Games"?), but this film exceeds a good plot. The filmmakers use a backdrop of soceital depravity to create neurasthenia and presentiment; as shown by the strange and erotic scene with Walter Matthau and the woman in the car (kind of a mass-sadisim, lust thing) and the implied domestic violence in the apartment scene. The movie is also deliciously philosophical (the clever "criminals and file clerks will survive" theory) as well as adroit phsycological character development for all the main characters.

The picture is also darkly filmed, remarkedly minimalist and low-budget as if to show the limits of technology, in order to symbolize the sophistry of our trust in it. BTW I love the Matthau character's (the political science professor) line as he explains the faults of missles that have no human intuition. "The rockets have the defect of their virtues" he says in explaining how they cannot make a conscious decision to abort after receiving an order. But the message in this film is clear; even if technology breaks down it is only a symptom of our doom, ultimately it is humans who are responsible.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

7 October 1964 (USA) 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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