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Fail Safe [DVD] [1964] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

Henry Fonda , Walter Matthau , Sidney Lumet    DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
Price: 4.83
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Region 1 encoding (requires a North American or multi-region DVD player and NTSC compatible TV. More about DVD formats.)

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Frequently Bought Together

Fail Safe [DVD] [1964] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] + The Bedford Incident [DVD] [1965] [2004] + On The Beach [DVD]
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Product details

  • Actors: Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau, Fritz Weaver, Dan O'Herlihy, Frank Overton
  • Directors: Sidney Lumet
  • Writers: Eugene Burdick, Harvey Wheeler, Peter George, Walter Bernstein
  • Producers: Charles H. Maguire, Max E. Youngstein
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, DVD-Video, Letterboxed, Special Edition, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Georgian, Thai
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Subtitles For The Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Unrated (US MPAA rating. See details.)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures
  • DVD Release Date: 31 Oct 2000
  • Run Time: 112 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004XPPE
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 149,209 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



It's Dr. Strangelove, but without the laughs. Fail-Safe, made within a year of Strangelove and at the height of cold war atomic anxiety, posits a similar nightmare scenario. A U.S. bomber is accidentally ordered toward Moscow, ready to drop its load. The U.S. president (Henry Fonda) and various military and congressional leaders must then scramble to deal with the disaster. The built-in suspense is well maintained by director Sidney Lumet, working from a script by former black-listed writer Walter Bernstein. The solemn, serious approach doesn't begin to touch the brilliance of Strangelove's inspired take on the nuclear nightmare, but Fail-Safe is absorbing and well acted (a memorable role for Walter Matthau, for instance). The movie enters unexpected territory in its final minutes; conditioned for feel-good endings, viewers are still genuinely shocked by the plot turns in the final reels. The climax comes as a sobering slap in the face, intriguingly staged by Lumet. Now that the Cold War has passed on into history, Fail-Safe stands as--thank goodness--an interesting period piece. --Robert Horton,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sincere and competent nuclear-age drama 29 Jan 2005
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Cold War Paranoia 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 solid, 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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, tense, utterly believeable 17 Jan 2006
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A REAL CLASSIC 9 May 2011
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Technology exceeds our grasp 3 Nov 2005
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Published 1 day ago by IAN DORAN
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent
Aged badly, I mean one character slaps a woman ffs! Fonda does an excellent job as the President and is supported well by his cast. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Pastor of Disaster
4.0 out of 5 stars Cold war shivers
Plucky production that arrived post Cuba scaries. Added bonus of some of the screens greats being believable. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ddubya
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Lumet classic.
This is the original classic cold war paranoiac portrayal of the US political establishment and their stance against the USSR. Read more
Published 6 months ago by robert stirling
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Film, Good Vendor...
This is one of the best 'doomsday' films ever made... and the vendor provided the product quickly and for a fair price!
Published 10 months ago by TeeJay
5.0 out of 5 stars Moscow then New York
Special effects shaky because of refusal of authorities to co-operate. But still an absolutely splendid film. First rate acting all round. Direction Lumetescent. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Aristide
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly as expected
Bought as a present for my husband, he loves that type of movie and normally, I don't! But this one, I really liked, I wouldn't mind seeing it again
Published 13 months ago by anne lichtenberg
4.0 out of 5 stars Serious alternative to 'Dr.Strangelove'
Slipped by as a B film when first released in 1964 so didn't attract much attention.
A great cast delivering an intelligent cold-war interpretation of a (then) very possible... Read more
Published 16 months ago by David
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and tense
Tense story of a rogue nuclear bomber squadron heading for Moscow from the USA. Powerful and gripping, even emotional, with a shocking ending in which no one wins. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Whinbrook
4.0 out of 5 stars No annoying music
A chilling fable based on tensions at the height of the cold war. Many of us thought it all too possible. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Reg
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