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Fail-Safe (1964) Poster

(1964)

Trivia

The large, metal phone the President uses to talk to the Soviet premier was actually a special phone used by explosives companies during blasting.
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The "computer-generated" image on the control-room screen (including the map of the world, the planes and the explosions) was entirely drawn and animated by hand.
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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.
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Hal Schaefer wrote a score for the film but director Sidney Lumet decided to release it without any music. However, a promotional single by The Hal Schaefer Quintet, "Fail Safe Parts 1 and 2", was released on the Colpix label. There is music on the trailer, and it is probably extracted from Schaefer's score.
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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.
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With one exception (see goofs entry), all shots of US Air Force "Vindicator" bombers are views of the same Convair B-58 Hustler, taken from a stock piece of film after the Department of Defense declined to cooperate with the filmmakers.
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In the original novel, the character of Dr. Groeteschele, played by Walter Matthau, has a back story very similar to the early life of future Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: a German Jewish immigrant who fled Nazi Germany with his parents as a teenager, then became an intelligence officer in the US Army in World War II in charge of interrogating German POWs, then went on to become a specialist in International Relations.
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The conversation in the rec room about automated aircraft has come true and is so common that they can be purchased for pocket change today. It is worth noting that the B-58 Hustlers in this film (the stand-ins for the "Vindicator" bombers) were the first fly-by-wire planes in military service, this meaning that the controls were electronic and were not directly connected to the hydraulic systems that managed the control surfaces or throttles. A notoriously difficult plane to maintain, it also had one odd feature. The military had the planes upgraded with remotely controlled machine guns, but if the plane was a full speed when fired (faster than a bullet), the bullets actually followed in the direction the plane, but at a slower speed.
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The big screen in the control room at Omaha was entirely front-projection, and had to be very carefully contrasted to appear clearly on black and white film. This posed a problem for the crew, as the air in the room had to be totally clear of dust so as not to disrupt the image (and make the projection obvious). The screen in the war-room used the same film-stock but was rear-projection.
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The interior of Col. Grady's plane was not a set but a flight simulator that was rented for the production.
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Feature debut of Fritz Weaver.
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Some reference works credit Hal Schaefer as composer of the music score. In fact, the Columbia record division did issue his five-minute "Fail Safe Suite" on a seven-inch disc in 1964 (Colpix Records CP 751) with the film promoted on the actual label: FAIL SAFE - A Columbia Pictures Release. Schaefer's music, performed by the Hal Schaefer Quintet, was a somewhat nervous and dissonant jazz work, fairly appropriate to the film's content. However, director Sidney Lumet decided to release the film with no background score, so Schaefer's music only exists on the promotional disc.
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Film debut of Dana Elcar.
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Although the first view of Henry Fonda is a full-body shot of him walking down the hallway, his first closeup is from the back, as he looks over his shoulder with a smile. This is similar to the surprise view of Fonda as the bad guy in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), showing his face for the first time as a young boy is killed.
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The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Henry Fonda and Walter Matthau; and one Oscar nominee: Dan O'Herlihy.
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This is the first film in which Henry Fonda plays the President of the United States. He would later do so again in Meteor (1979).
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Reunites Henry Fonda with Edward Binns after 12 Angry Men (1957).
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The President talks to General Black about their Bible studies, and the "sacrifice of Abraham." In Genesis 22:1-19, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar. Ultimately, God stopped Abraham from going through with the act, unlike the movie, where it was allowed to continue.
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Seen on the paper file folder, Gen. Koniev's full name is Alexandr'h Koniev.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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