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Fail Safe ()


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A technical malfunction sends American planes to Moscow to deliver a nuclear attack. Can all-out war be averted?

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Gen. Black
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Dr. Groeteschele
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Gen. Bogan
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Col. Grady (as Ed Binns)
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Col. Cascio
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The President
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Buck
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Secretary Swenson
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Gen. Stark (as Russell Hardy)
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Knapp
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Congressman Raskob
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Ilsa Wolfe
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Thomas
Frank Simpson ...
Sullivan
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Betty Black
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Mrs. Grady
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Sgt. Collins
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Foster
Stewart Germain ...
Mr. Cascio
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Mrs. Cascio
Frieda Altman ...
Jennie
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
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Pilot playing pool with Col. Grady (uncredited)
Geri Miller ...
Go-Go Dancer (uncredited)
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Jet Fighter Pilot (uncredited) (voice)

Directed by

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Sidney Lumet

Written by

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Walter Bernstein ... (screenplay)
 
Eugene Burdick ... (from the novel by) &
Harvey Wheeler ... (from the novel by)
 
Peter George ... () (uncredited)

Produced by

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Charles H. Maguire ... associate producer
Max E. Youngstein ... producer

Cinematography by

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Gerald Hirschfeld ... director of photography

Film Editing by

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Ralph Rosenblum ... film editor

Art Direction by

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Albert Brenner

Set Decoration by

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J.C. Delaney ... (as J.C. DeLaney)

Costume Design by

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Anna Hill Johnstone ... (costumes by)

Makeup Department

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Harry Buchman ... makeup
Bill Herman ... makeup department head

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director

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Harry Falk ... assistant director (as Harry Falk Jr.)

Sound Department

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Jack Fitzstephens ... sound editor
William Swift ... sound mixer

Camera and Electrical Department

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Howard Fortune ... chief electrician
Edward Knott ... chief grip
Albert Taffet ... camera operator (as Al Taffett)

Script and Continuity Department

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Marguerite James ... continuity
Eugene Burdick ... script consultant (uncredited)

Additional Crew

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Lillian Michelson ... researcher (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production Companies

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Distributors

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Special Effects

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Other Companies

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Storyline

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Plot Summary

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

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Taglines The screen zeros in on the most suspenseful adventure drama of our age! See more »
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Parents Guide View content advisory »
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Additional Details

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Also Known As
  • Fail-Safe (Canada, English title)
  • Fail-Safe (United Kingdom)
  • Point limite (France)
  • Angriffsziel Moskau (Germany)
  • Punto límite (Spain)
  • See more »
Runtime
  • 112 min
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Did You Know?

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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 The interior shots of the bombers, Convair B-58 Hustlers (see Trivia), actually were shot inside of a commercial airline simulator then under repair at a a New York airport. The three crew members sit within feet of each other, in an open cockpit layout. In an actual B-58, the world's first supersonic bomber (and capable of twice the speed of sound), the three-man crew of pilot, bombardier/navigator, and defense systems specialist were separated by banks of equipment, and had no physical contact with one another. To make survivable ejection possible on such a high-speed aircraft, each compartment was specifically designed as wholly contained clam-shell "pod" that would disengage intact if the need arose. As a result, the crew had to rely on an internal telecommunications system to talk, or a string-and-pulley system that ran along the cabin wall to exchange notes if those systems failed. It's speculated that this early "jettison pod" design was incorporated as a presidential safeguard on modern 747 versions of Air Force One, as implied in the 1997 Harrison Ford movie thriller "Air Force One", and that it also inspired the crew containment compartment of the space shuttle. See more »
Movie Connections Featured in Henry Fonda: The Man and His Movies (1982). 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 »
Quotes Defense Secretary Swenson: General Stark, are there any papers or documents in New York which are absolutely essential to the running of the United States? General Stark?
Gen. Stark: No sir. There are important documents, but none of them absolutely essential.
Admiral Wilcox: Will there be any warning given? A lot of lives could be saved if people had a few minutes.
Defense Secretary Swenson: On this short notice, an alert to a big city would do more harm than good. It only produces panic.
Admiral Wilcox: What about this?
[Wilcox tosses a newspaper onto the table, showing the First Lady in NYC, prominently featured on the main page. Swenson sees it, then gives the paper to General Stark]
Gen. Stark: Maybe... maybe he doesn't know his wife is there.
Defense Secretary Swenson: [shaking his head] He knows.
[Groeteschele finishes writing something onto some paper]
Prof. Groeteschele: Gentlemen, we are wasting time.
Prof. Groeteschele: [walking to the podium] I've been making a few rough calculations based on the effect of two twenty megaton bombs dropped on New York City in the middle of a normal workday. I estimate the immediate dead at about three million. I include in that figure those buried beneath the collapsed buildings. It would make no difference, Admiral Wilcox, whether they reached a shelter or not. They would die just the same. Add another million or two who will die within about five weeks. Now our immediate problem will be the joint one of fire control and excavation. Excavation not of the dead, the effort would be wasted there. But even though there are no irreplaceable government documents in the city, many of our largest corporations keep their records there. It will be necessary to... rescue as many of those records as we can. Our economy depends on this.
Prof. Groeteschele: [walking disgustedly back to his seat before noisily opening and closing his briefcase] Our economy depends on this.
[after closing briefcase]
Prof. Groeteschele: And the Lord said, gentlemen, "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone."
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