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The China Syndrome [DVD] 
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Struggling TV reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) sees an opportunity to break into hard news after she and her cameraman (Michael Douglas) witness a near meltdown in a nuclear power station. But the network refuses to air their report, whilst the plant's bosses will stop at nothing to ensure information on the incident remains undisclosed. Plant engineer Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon) is determined to expose the cover-up, however, and persuades Kimberley to help him. Both Lemmon and Fonda earned Oscar nominations for their performances, in a film that saw reality overtaking it just weeks after its theatrical release - with the breakdown of the nuclear reactor on Three Mile Island.
James Bridges (Urban Cowboy, Bright Lights, Big City) directed this 1979 film that became a worldwide sensation when, just weeks after its release, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident occurred. Jane Fonda (Klute, Julia) plays a television news reporter who is not taken very seriously until a routine story at the local nuclear power plant leads her to what may be a cover-up of epic proportions. She and her cameraman, played by Michael Douglas (Wall Street, American President), hook up with a whistleblower at the plant, played by Jack Lemmon (Save the Tiger, Missing). Together they try to uncover the dangers lurking beneath the nuclear reactor and avoid being silenced by the business interests behind the plant. Though topical, The China Syndrome (produced by Douglas) works on its own as a socially conscious thriller that entertains even as it spurs its audience to think. --Robert Lane --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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THE CHINA SYNDROME holds the nuclear power industry to account as a potentially disastrous nuclear "event" is surreptitiously captured by news reporter Jane Fonda and her maverick cameraman Michael Douglas. Throughout the film, Jack Lemmon's by-the-book power station supervisor slowly unravels, wrestling with his conscience before deciding he must blow the whistle on the dubious tactics being employed by the power station's owners to conceal the severity of what actually happened.
It goes without saying that Fonda, Douglas and Lemmon each give fine performances, with Fonda's Kimberley Wells character also providing the platform with which to take a number of satirical swipes at the broadcast news industry and in particular its attitude towards women.
The Region One edition of THE CHINA SYNDROME is the one which the movie's British fans will want to possess as it includes an excellent two-part documentary discussing the making of the movie and its subsequent impact, particularly as the film seemed to uncannily predict the nuclear accident on Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, which occurred a couple of weeks after the movie opened in cinemas. The docmentary includes considerable input from both Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas and their ongoing belief in the THE CHINA SYNDROME's message is undiminished more than 30 years later.
All in all this is an excellent DVD release for one of the great conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s.
The cast features Scott Brady, James Hampton, Peter Donat, Richard Herd and Wilford Brimley. The film was directed by James Bridges and written by Bridges, Mike Gray and T. S. Cook.
It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Lemmon), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Fonda), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (George Jenkins, Arthur Jeph Parker) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. It was also nominated for the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival, and Lemmon won Best Actor for his performance. The film's script won the 1980 Writers Guild of America award.[unreliable source?]
The film was released on March 16, 1979, 12 days before the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. Coincidentally, in one scene, physicist Dr. Elliott Lowell (Donald Hotton) says that the China Syndrome would render "an area the size of Pennsylvania" permanently uninhabitable. The basis for the film came from a number of nuclear plant incidents and in particular the Brown's Ferry Alabama Nuclear Power Plant Fire which occurred four years earlier in 1975.[unreliable source?]
"China Syndrome" is a fanciful term—not intended to be taken literally—that describes a fictional worst-case result of a nuclear meltdown, where reactor components melt through their containment structures and into the underlying earth, "all the way to China."
In addition to Lemmon, whose performance here as the conflicted, loyal company man ('I love that plant, it’s my whole life’) is up there with his great, non-comedic, late career performances in films such as Save The Tiger, Missing, Glengarry Glen Ross and Short Cuts, Jane Fonda is also excellent as the ambitious news reporter, Kimberly Wells, torn between 'glamorous career ambition’ (baited by Peter Donat’s sexist boss, Don Jacovich) and serious investigative reporting. Bridges’ film is particularly perceptive in its juxtapositioning of the news media’s tendency to undermine its (potentially) serious role with frivolous trivia.Read more ›