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on 30 June 2010
Maybe it was the impact of President Nixon and the Watergate scandal, but no decade has presented the genre of the "conspiracy thriller" as grippingly as the 1970s. Whether it be THE PARALLAX VIEW, ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR or this, THE CHINA SYNDROME, each film managed to combine really thought-provoking themes with well-choreographed helpings of buttock-clenching paranoia to leave cinema-goers satisfied.

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.
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on 8 February 2002
A surprising drama/thriller from director James Bridges. Produced by and starring Michael Douglas, but the main leads are a terrific Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon showing us once again how diverse he is. The film has some good stand-points on the power of the media and also the politics and morals of those big money makers. It's a must see, and has one of those climaxing endings which makes my heart thump every time I see it.
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on 8 October 2009
As amazon has again dumped all the reviews of the bare bones edition under the graphics for the region 1 SE i will let you know of the extras on the SE disc.It has deleted scenes(3:51) and a 2 part making of which lasts nearly an hour.Hope this helps someone who might actually want the SE.
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on 13 March 2014
The China Syndrome is a 1979 American thriller film that tells the story of a television reporter and her cameraman who discover safety coverups at a nuclear power plant. It stars Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas, with Douglas also serving as the film's producer.

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.[3] 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.[4] The film's script won the 1980 Writers Guild of America award.[5][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.[6][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."
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 July 2015
Another film I saw ages ago near its release in 1979 and had forgotten just how good it is. Rewatching it again recently, I was expecting a dated, maybe too predictable, clichéd narrative, but despite James Bridges’ film looking 'very 70s’ and providing a good deal of 'in your face’ melodrama, it is also a perceptive (genuinely thrilling) piece of cinema, not just around its principal subject of conflicted whistleblowers (here, the marvellous Jack Lemmon as nuclear worker Jack Godell), but also touching on the foibles of news media, unscrupulous capitalism and worker loyalty. The film was also, of course, ground-breaking, being one of the first on the subject of potential 'nuclear accidents’ (as opposed to the threat of nuclear war), as well as being an uncanny portent of the Three Mile Island incident (which occurred just days after The China Syndrome’s release).

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. Elsewhere, Michael Douglas is solid as Wells’ hot-headed photographer sidekick, Richard Adams, whilst there are impressive character turns by Wilford Brimley as loyal 'company man’ and Godell’s long-time friend, Ted Spindler, and by Richard Herd as the unscrupulous nuclear company boss, McCormack.

The film perhaps overdoes the melodrama (and plotting) in its denouement, but it is undeniably gripping and moving (Lemmon, Fonda and Brimley all excelling) and the final juxtapositioning of the serious and the trivial provides a fittingly ironic finale.
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on 6 June 2011
This is a terrific film. For anyone who has concerns over the safety or otherwise of nuclear power, then I'd strongly recommend this film.

Over 30 years old now, the issues it raises are still very relevant today, especially after the disaster in Japan.

All 3 stars, Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas give superb performances, especially Jack Lemmon, a portrayal that I think is one of his best ever.

The balance given to the arguments for and against nuclear is excellent, showing on the one hand, how the possibility of a disaster is always there but on the other, the systems that prevent these from happening are many.

But then corporate greed comes into the picture and safety no longer takes number one priority.

It's interesting to note that this film is rarely shown on TV (well here in the UK at least), that might have something to do with the current plan to increase substantially the number of reactors we have here.

A terrific thriller, and the end of the film will have you sitting on the edge of your seat!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 December 2012
Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas provide the drama here for this excellent fthriller from 1978 involvingh the dangers of nuclear energy and the powers of television news. Even to this day, the film is a powerful display of the collusion that government and big business may go to in order to shield the general public from information they would rather not be known.
Jane Fonda stars as the news reporter who has covered a few too many light stories and is determined to make her name with a meaty story. On entering Vandana, she is confronted with mysterious goings on in the heart of the plant and her cameraman secretly films the frantic events. Michael Douglas stars as the cameraman accompanying Fonda on her reports with Jack Lemmon as a manager at the plant.
Sure, the film certainly has all the late 70s fashions and all but the topic covered is still very relevant today. I have only seen this film once, but will surely see it again sometime.
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on 1 March 2008
I don`t realy want to go too far into the plot, except to say that it`s premise is almost inevitable in real life, a routine breakdown in a neuclear power plant spirals because no-one wants to take responsibility. The screenplay is as precise and accurate as a swiss timepiece, but it`s the quality of the acting that sucks you in, particularly Jack Lemmon`s, performance. You find yourself mentaly and physicaly responding to what he`s gong through, SO convincing is he. Fonda and Douglass are both beautifuly pitched, and would steal any other film, but at his best, and this is at his best, Lemmon was unparralelled. He is everyman in an impossible situation. The story is tense and exiting, believable and definately not dated. The result is totaly engrosing. Sometimes you want a duvet night with beers or candy floss, and why not. Sometimes you want a duvet night with a glass of wine and someone to hold on to. This is for those nights.
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on 27 September 2011
Saw this film on its initial UK cinema release and was hooked from the start. Then bought it on VHS and finally on DVD. Its a moral dilemma really do we accept Nuclear Power or are there safer alternatives. I am in my 60's and from the generation that was looking forward to free power from North sea Gas. Now we sit back and let the power companies increase prices and convince us all over again that we need a cheaper cleaner alternative.
The film presents three characters Michael Douglas plays Richard Adams,Jane Fonda plays Kimberly Wells and my favourite Jack Lemon plays Jack Godell. A TV crew sent to give a glossy makeover report on a new Nuclear Power Station when a vibration is felt. Is it disaster looming or a consequence we may have to live with. Are safety standards adequate enough or could one man actually take control of that switch and create another 3 Mile Island,Chernobyl and Japan disaster.
To my mind this film could do with a Re-make with a powerful line-up of todays stars. So Michael if you want to invest some of that money you won't go far wrong re-visiting The China Syndrome.
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on 15 February 2014
An engineer tries to remedy serious flaws he discovers in a nuclear power station, but big business interferes What happens is filmed by a television crew.

It is a very thought provoking film about what could happen when big business and nuclear physics have a confrontation.
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