Fail Safe 1963

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(37) IMDb 8/10
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Based on the novel by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, Fail-Safe is set for the most part at Strategic Air Command headquarters, where a misguided transmission sends a squadron of bombers hurtling towards Russia, fully prepared to drop their atomic weaponry on Moscow.

Starring:
Henry Fonda,Walter Matthau
Runtime:
1 hour, 52 minutes

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Fail Safe

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Product Details

Genres Thriller
Director Sidney Lumet
Starring Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau
Supporting actors Larry Hagman, Frank Overton, Dan O'Herlihy, Edward Binns, Fritz Weaver
Studio Sony Pictures International
BBFC rating Parental Guidance
Purchase rights Stream instantly and download to 2 locations Details
Format Amazon Instant Video (streaming online video and digital download)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Seatinthestalls on 13 Aug. 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Renowned film-noir director Sidney Lumet turns his skills to nuclear threat.

Filmed - as all good cold-war films should be - in B&W, It's about infallible systems going haywire and launching an allied attack on Russia. Purists may reasonably argue about military incongruities, but the tension racks-up very nicely indeed. Walter Matthau turns in his usual top-drawer performance as a cynical military adviser, whist Henry Fonda, as US President, does the moral man in crisis to perfection. He always does. Dan O'Herlihy also shines as a cautious General Black. Supporting cast is solid. There's a decent script, some frisky exchanges, and great ambience. Sets are robust, and other technical issues are up to snuff. Just occasionally does the editing seem a bit heavy-handed.

My only gripe is with an opening dream sequence in the form of a bullfight, and some rather pointless social dalliance involving a dinner party and failed seduction. They rather squander the first 12 minutes.

The Amazon DVD supplied was unrestored but still satisfactory. Sound is mono, aspect ratio is 1.85:1, run time is stated at 107 minutes. Rating is PG. Extras include a commentary from Sidney Lumet which I've yet to watch.

At the time of writing, the price is quoted as 2.99, making it good value. Despite the fake military issues, it is an excellent historical presentation of the nightmare scenario that terrified people back then.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jamie Madath on 29 Jan. 2005
Format: DVD
Far better than the recent re-make, Sidney Lumet's b&w original accurately depicts and discusses the major issues surrounding the theory, and release, of nuclear weapons before the advent of nuclear submarines. Henry Fonda plays a stunning role as The President and the lack of superfluous props amplifys the words, or lack of them in some scenes, to make this a truly emotional and heartbreaking fact-based fiction about what might have been...
If you are looking for a gritty, psychological and tense drama - look no further - there are no better.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Allan One on 17 Jan. 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Set during the height of the Cold War, this epic revolves around the fact that a SAC Bomber fails to return to its 'failsafe' point after an alert.
The aircraft streaks on its way to its target and the paranoia and tension begin to build. This is the classic "What If" movie and remains credible to the very end including the shattering climax to the film.
Chilling, and when set in the context of the Cold War, utterly plausible. All the cast give magnificent performances and the production values are plain to see. This is an example of movie making at its finest and the understated 'documentary' style of the film underlines the performances of the cast.
This is truly one of the best films ever made.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By bernie VINE VOICE on 3 Nov. 2005
Format: DVD
We are at the height of the cold war. We use assured mutual destruction to keep the commies at bay. The main defense is the use of strategic bombers to deliver nuclear weapons. In the event of a perceived thereat we send the bombers to points called Fail-Safe. From there if the thereat is determined to be real the president gives the go signal in a coded message. At a further point there is no recall.
What if the recall signal was jammed?
We are now faced with many questions that move from the theoretical.
Is it a trick?
Will the Ruskies believe it is an accident?
Should we take the first strike initiative?
Is mutual destruction assured?
In today's world it is easy and common place to imagine some artificial intelligence that we have ceded authority to taking over for malevolent or even levolent purposes. We have every type of movie from "2001" (1968) with the HAL 9000 to "The Forbin project" (1970) with Colossus.
This film however is a lot spookier because it is played out with what looks like could be a real scenario. It also looks like it could have been a play as the action is mostly dialog that takes place in two rooms and the interior of a strategic bomber. It has a claustrophobic feel with the black and white with odd placed lighting.
There are many fine actors in this film. One surprisingly strong performance was by Larry Hagman as Buck the interpreter for the President. The survival of the world hinged on his facial expressions as he had to interpret not just the words but the attitude of the Soviet Premier.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Lekk. on 9 May 2011
Format: DVD
I'd forgotten how great this movie really is. Fonda on top form, Matthau giving an unfamiliar performance of strange, dated menace and Larry Hagman in an early role as the somewhat bewildered yet workmanlike translator. A period piece from back in the day when the iron curtain was well drawn and life was very different indeed this film drips with tension and drama. From the moment it becomes clear what is happening you are swept along as both sides try to make the right (correct ?) choices and battle with enemies within as well as abroad. The direction is superb as the tension mounts, the use of close up's and odd angles making the whole thing seem so claustrophobic that you actually feel at times like you are present in the unfolding chaos. I saw this many, many years ago on the TV and haven't seen it for ages so at the bargain price I just had to pick it up. A real 5 star classic.
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