Fail-Safe (Criterion Collection)
It will have you sitting on the brink of eternity!
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- Rated: Not Rated
- Run Time: 1 hours, 52 minutes
- Video: Black & White
- Released: January 28, 2020
- Originally Released: 1964
- Label: Criterion
- Encoding: Region 1 (USA & Canada)
- Note: New 4k digital restoration
- Audio Commentary from 2000 featuring Director Sidney Lumet
- New interview with film critic J. Hoberman on 1960s nuclear paranoia and Cold War Films
- "Fail Safe" Revisited, a short documentary from 2000 including interviews with Lumet, Screenwriter Walter Bernstein, and actor Dan O'Herlihy
- Plus: An essay by film critic Bilge Ebiri
- Aspect Ratio: Widescreen - 1.85
- Dolby Digital 5.1
Performers, Cast and Crew:
|Starring||Walter Matthau & Henry Fonda|
|Performer:||Sorrell Booke, Russell Collins, Edward Binns, Frank Overton, Fritz Weaver, Larry Hagman, William Hansen, Russell Hardie & Dan O'Herlihy|
|Directed by||Sidney Lumet|
|Edited by||Ralph Rosenblum|
|Screenwriting by||Walter Bernstein|
|Produced by||Max E. Youngstein|
|Director of Photography:||Gerald Hirschfeld|
It packs a melodramatic wallop that will rattle a lot of chattering teeth. Full Review
New York Times
Rating: 3.5/4 -- The cold war gets hot in this nuclear disaster film. Full Review
Three Movie Buffs
Not only a damn good thriller, but a terrifying account of how easily such technology can malfunction. Full Review
Rating: B+ -- Lumet's tense political drama is riveting, but unfortunately it was released the same year as Kubrick's similarly-themed Dr. Strangelove, which was a satire and more thus more popular Full Review
It faithfully translates on the screen the power and seething drama of the Eugene Burdick-Harvey Wheeler book. Full Review
Rating: 4/5 -- An impressive and disturbing brink-of-doom thriller. Full Review
...[Frears] makes a sterling job of reviving the original film's taut, monochrome claustrophobia. A compelling exercise in human drama...
Sight and Sound
Following closely on the heels of Stanley Kubrik's DR. STRANGELOVE (all too closely for Kubrick and company, who quickly filed a lawsuit alleging plagiarism), Sidney Lumet's FAIL-SAFE employs a similarly stylized and heightened dramatic structure in its nerve-crushing moral tale. Taking place over the course of a single day, the film follows government and army officials in Nebraska, New York City, and Washington, D.C., as they go about their day supervising, examining, and speculating on the fragile state of affairs engendered by the tense nuclear standoff between the U.S. and Russia. When an off-course commercial airplane triggers the Pentagon's complex "fail-safe" maneuver, leaving an arsenal of nuclear-bomb-carrying jet fighters at the ready, a mechanical error puts the entire world in danger of destruction. Riveting performances from a rich cast are pushed even further by Lumet's stark and ominous direction. Walter Matthau gives an uncharacteristic turn as a cold and contemptuous political scientist unswerving in his convictions that the U.S. must stand strong against the communist menace. Henry Fonda plays the American president who must navigate the complex and urgent political trauma and prevent total destruction, even at an unthinkable price.
Nuclear Destruction | Politics | Suspense | Thriller | War | Recommended | Disturbing | Theatrical Release | Cold War | Essential Cinema
- Theatrical release: October 7, 1964.
- Shown at the second New York Film Festival on September 15, 1964.
- The film's premise closely resembled that of DR. STRANGELOVE, which had been released in January of 1964. Columbia Pictures and others involved in the making of the earlier film found out about the novel FAIL-SAFE and filed a federal court suit against the authors, the book's publishers, and independent production company ECA, which was planning to make the movie version. The makers of STRANGELOVE charged that the writers, Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, had plagiarized the book on which STRANGELOVE was based. But this entire situation was resolved when Columbia received distribution rights for FAIL-SAFE and ECA dissolved. ECA producer Max Youngstein went on to produce FAIL-SAFE for Columbia.
- The film was remade as a live television movie in 2000, directed by Stephen Frears and starring George Clooney, Richard Dreyfuss, Harvey Keitel, Brian Dennehy, and Don Cheadle.
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