7.4/10
23,334
108 user 70 critic

The China Syndrome (1979)

A reporter finds what appears to be a cover-up of safety hazards at a nuclear power plant.

Director:

James Bridges

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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jane Fonda ... Kimberly Wells
Jack Lemmon ... Jack Godell
Michael Douglas ... Richard Adams
Scott Brady ... Herman De Young
James Hampton ... Bill Gibson
Peter Donat ... Don Jacovich
Wilford Brimley ... Ted Spindler
Richard Herd ... Evan McCormack
Daniel Valdez Daniel Valdez ... Hector Salas
Stan Bohrman Stan Bohrman ... Pete Martin
James Karen ... Mac Churchill
Michael Alaimo Michael Alaimo ... Greg Minor
Donald Hotton ... Dr. Lowell
Khalilah Ali Khalilah Ali ... Marge
Paul Larson Paul Larson ... D.B. Royce
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Storyline

While doing a series of reports on alternative energy sources, an opportunistic reporter Kimberly Wells witnesses an accident at a nuclear power plant. Wells is determined to publicise the incident but soon finds herself entangled in a sinister conspiracy to keep the full impact of the incident a secret. Written by Dave Jenkins <david.jenkins@smallworld.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Today, only a handful of people know what it means... Soon you will know. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Thriller

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

16 March 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

An Element Of Risk See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$51,718,367
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Producer Michael Douglas spent the better part of a year having the film's screenplay properly developed with the film's three writers. See more »

Goofs

In the introduction to the news, the announcer names Kimberly Wells' segment "California Close-Up" but the anchorman calls it "California Now." See more »

Quotes

Churchill, Mac: Richard, I want that goddamn film.
Richard Adams: You can kiss my ass!
See more »

Crazy Credits

The end credits run in total silence. See more »

Connections

Featured in The 78th Annual Academy Awards (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Somewhere In Between
by Stephen Bishop
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A chilling, reality-based, horror film.
15 May 2002 | by moveefrkSee all my reviews

"The China Syndrome" is perhaps the first horror film that is not necessarily following the rules of the genre. It takes place in the contemporary '70's, and features people in the normal profession of broadcast television news. But, when a news story about the leakage of nuclear energy breaks; let's just say - there is your monster.

Jane Fonda is absolutely superb as Kimberley Wells, an ambitious Los Angeles reporter relegated only to fluff pieces by her sexist boss (Peter Donat). She wants something juicier, and gets it, in the form of an accident at a nuclear power plant facilitated by Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon with expressions too numerous to count). Her hippie radical cameraman (Michael Douglas, who also produced) photographs the incident without the plant's knowledge and they both agree that public safety is a valid story. The network brass doesn't think so, and soon both Fonda and Douglas are entangled in a web of legalities concerning the tape.

The crux of the film is Lemmon's character. A man torn between loyalty to his company and telling the truth - even in the face of grave consequences. What makes this horror scenario so compelling is that these are true flesh-and-blood people stuck in the most extraordinary of circumstances faced with both a threat of cosmic proportions as well as a human one.

This is a remarkably chilling thriller, and I'm disappointed that it's not taken more seriously (as both art and tract).


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