An imprisoned rogue USAF general with a secret personal agenda, escapes the brig and takes over an ICBM silo, threatening to start WW3.


Robert Aldrich


Ronald M. Cohen (screenplay), Edward Huebsch (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Burt Lancaster ... Gen. Lawrence Dell
Roscoe Lee Browne ... James Forrest
Joseph Cotten ... Arthur Renfrew - Secretary of State
Melvyn Douglas ... Zachariah Guthrie
Charles Durning ... President David T. Stevens
Richard Jaeckel ... Capt. Stanford Towne
William Marshall ... William Klinger - Attorney General
Gerald S. O'Loughlin ... Brig. Gen. O'Rourke
Richard Widmark ... Gen. Martin MacKenzie - Commanding General SA
Paul Winfield ... Willis Powell
Burt Young ... Augie Garvas
Charles Aidman ... Bernstein
Leif Erickson ... Ralph Whittaker - CIA Director
Charles McGraw ... Air Force Gen. Peter Crane
Morgan Paull ... First Lt. Louis Cannellis


A renegade USAF general, Lawrence Dell, escapes from a military prison and takes over an ICBM silo near Montana and threatens to provoke World War 3 unless the President reveals details of a secret meeting held just after the start of the Vietnam War between Dell and the then President's most trusted advisors. Written by Dave Jenkins <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Adventure That Blows The Screen Apart! See more »


Drama | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Robert Aldrich turned down a large salary and a 10% profit stake in A Bridge Too Far (1977) in order to make this film. See more »


Powell stated that he lied when Dell asks him about his experience with Titan missiles and ICBM security. This is completely improbable as these career fields are so detailed and require such specific areas of knowledge that faking ones way through even the most basic conversation would difficult. To do so for months or years while planning a mission would be nearly impossible.

Additionally, the General could have simply asked the records clerk at the prison to look into Powell's background. The AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code) for his career field would have indicated whether he had any experience with ICBMs' See more »


Willis Powell: Just wanted you to know General, win or lose, you're some motherfucker.
Lawrence Dell: Thank you.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The original UK cinema release featured the 2 hour version. The 1998 Warner video featured the extended 138 minute print. See more »


Referenced in The Simpsons: Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming (1995) See more »


My Country Tis of Thee
Music by Lowell Mason (uncredited) based on the music by Henry Carey from "God Save the King" (1744)
Lyrics by Samuel Francis Smith (uncredited) (1832)
Performed by Billy Preston
from the album "I Wrote a Simple Song"
on A & M Records and Tapes
See more »

User Reviews

They unWagered and lost...but...
14 January 2013 | by orbitsville-1See all my reviews

Things are far too strange here to just say "so bad it's good". Far, far too strange.

Instead, let's say there are three ways to make a film out of a Walter Wager novel. First we have the Telefon example: do a straight-up, linear, by-the-numbers thriller that is so straightforward and escapist that you get a rather wooden, unmemorable--if somewhat entertaining--potboiler. Nothing risked, nothing lost nothing gained. That's Telefon.

Or, there's the 58 Minutes/Die Hard 2 model: change main-character Malone to John McClane, keep the airport-in-jeopardy setting while massively rewriting the novel so it works as a movie sequel to something it wasn't even connected to in the first place, and make sure it's more exciting than Telefon. Your cinematic thriller has soul, and is safely attached to a successful franchise. And for goodness sakes, stay away from polemic, political commentary or deep meaning.

This brings us to our third case of filming a Walter Wager escapist thriller tome: attach thought-provoking socio-political concerns to the escapism. Try to address some lingering bitterness or cynicism in the US macro-psyche over, say, the Viet Nam war. Homegrown terrorists as anti-heroes, trying to out the government's secrets over a futile conflict that lingered on as a political peeing contest that cost too many lives, by way of a captured missile base. Rogue Major Burt Lancaster tries to stare down US President Charles Durning with nine nuclear warheads set to ferment, unless some dirty laundry is aired right quick. Of course it's previous administrations' decisions that Durning's version of the President is getting slapped around for, but that's all part of Uh, no, sorry, all part of the moral conundrum. The fun is somewhere else in the movie...and quickly seeping out of the movie, the more director Robert Aldrich decides this is not just going to be escapist thrills.

Personally, I feel the movie gets most obviously unwieldy, and dangerously over-ambitious, once it starts to abandon Burt Lancaster, in favor of Charles Durning. There's a big shift in focus as soon as we start hanging out with Durning and his boardroom full of mucky-mucks--and shut-in Lancaster becomes sort of a bit player in the proceedings, even though he's got nine nuclear missiles. This switch in character focus directly corresponds to the diminishing thrills, and the emphasis on deeper questions and concerns that Robert Aldrich decided were in tune with the USA zeitgeist of 1977. Less booby-traps, ambushes, shoot-outs, torture sessions and stealth attacks gone wrong--more talk, talk, talk, by suits, suits, suits, sitting comfortably in chairs, chairs, chairs, who wants more coffee? Meanwhile, the split-screen effect used deftly during action sequences (much in the way of the TV show 24 years later) gives way to less suspenseful split-screen sequences showing Burt Lancaster almost looking bored while the President dithers.

Then the ending comes along and finds a really unexpected and daring way to combine stark cynical commentary with a shockingly brutal final confrontation such as you would find in only a truly bold and cutting-edge thriller. And so, I'm going to do what the movie does: I'm going to end a review of what sounds like a bad movie deserving its flop status by shifting gears and saying Bravo! Why? Well, 8 out of 10 for this because--despite everything wrongheaded about the project- -I can honestly say that there is no other thriller, or quasi-thriller stuffed with deep thoughts and dark commentary, quite like it. It's a glorious misfire. I didn't take it seriously, but it had me trying. More lively than Telefon, less cheesy fun than Die Hard 2, and a unique experiment: sort of Inside Man meets Sum Of All Fears meets Point/Counterpoint. Crashes and burns in one of the most compelling ways I've ever seen, and that ain't hay!

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USA | West Germany



Release Date:

9 February 1977 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Silo III See more »


Box Office


$6,200,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (35 mm optical prints)| 4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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