Fail-safe (Special Edition)
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One of the greatest anti-war thrillers ever Fail-Safe stars Henry Fonda Walter Matthau Dan O Herlihy Larry Hagman and Fritz Weaver (in his film debut) as a group of military men on the verge of World War III.When a military computer deploys a squadron of SAC bombers to destroy Moscow the American President (Fonda) tries to call them back. But their sophisticated fail-safe system prevents him from aborting the attack so he must convince the Soviets not to retaliate. In desperation the President offers to sacrifice an American city if his pilots succeed in their deadly mission over Moscow. A four-star techno-thriller that builds tension and suspense with every tick of the nuclear clock.System Requirements:Starring: Dan O Herlihy Walter Matthau Frank Overton Ed Binns Fritz Weaver Henry Fonda Larry Hagman and William Hansen. Directed By: Sidney Lumet. Running Time: 111 Min. B&W. This film is presented in "Widescreen" format. Copyright 2000 Columbia TriStar Home Video.Format: DVD MOVIE Genre: DRAMA Rating: G UPC: 043396054240 Manufacturer No: 5424

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 blacklisted 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:

  • Better than original
    Viewed Fail-Safe a few days after Dr. Strangelove and found the movie actually better than I remembered from before. ...more info
  • Poignant (but a little on the 'Talkie' side)
    I have always been fascinated with the Cold War, especially the nuclear side of things. The fact that the US and the USSR engaged in 'Nuclear Upmanship' during the 1960s would mean increasing the nuclear stockpile on both sides. Of course, accidents can (and have) happened.

    With a great deal of thought, planning, systems implementation, checking and control, a system was implemented ensuring that even in a 'DefCon 1' situation (that's where Nuclear War has been declared), the deployment of nuclear weapons, so it was thought, could be 'controlled' and accidents could be avoided.

    So, what happens if that 'fail-safe' does actually fail? What implications are there when one of your own bombs Moscow? What options do you have? Do you continue? Do you stop? If you continue, the end result is fairly obvious; if you stop, what would you do to pay for your 'accident'?

    This is the kind of situation this film explores, and it does a darn good job at it. It is impactful, but just a little on the talkie side. Don't expect scenes of billowing mushrooms and people being vaporised (ala Threads or Day After), but do expect excellent performances from all involved!...more info
  • Classic
    A true classic. I would rate it as one of the best movies ever made. First class story and acting. I enjoy Dr. Stranglelove and highly recommend it but you won't be laughing at the end of this gem....more info
  • Gripping, timeless
    One of my favorite movies and as gripping now as when it was made nearly 50 years ago. No special effects were used or were necessary. The powerful story, convincing dialogue and acting do the job without them - would that more films were like that nowadays!

    The end of the cold war may be temporary and, even if it isn't, all those nuclear weapons still exist, will always exist and the numbers of countries with them is increasing. So we all still live with the real threat of atomic annihilation either by an accidental chain of events like those depicted in this story, or by design. One can only hope that when we get to that point, someone as steady as Henry Fonda is in the White House and Larry Hagman is there to translate for him! ...more info
  • Brilliant, chilling "what-if" Cold War film.
    When machines break down and accidentally unleash the nuclear genie out of the bottle, it's up to the President(brilliantly played by Henry Fonda) and his top military and government officials to prevent all-out war. Tensions heighten when military men like Colonel Cascio(Fritz Weaver) crack under the strain; a civilian "hawk" (Walter Matthau) argues for total committment while a military pacifist General(Dan O'Herlihy) adamantly insists that unleashing the H-Bomb would spell the end of the world. When it becomes clear the B-58 Vindicator Bombers mistakenly sent against Moscow will reach their target, the President must make the gravest sacrifice to prevent Armageddon. Lumet's directing and the all-star cast bring to life a nightmare situation that almost happened a number of times in real life. Well worth your viewing!...more info
  • Masterful Suspense...
    I sat on the edge of my seat throughout most of this movie. I actually saw it for the first time many years ago, but it seems when I watch it over again, it is like the first time.

    The story is chillingly real-very much something that could have happened. A group of bombers fly fast the 'failsafe' point armed with nuclear bombs and headed for Moscow. The whole set of events that is set in motion by this is so artfully and suspensefully woven together, that once you start watching it, you really can't stop.

    All the actors are perfect for this film, especially Walter Matthau as a cynical political strategist who believes that the USSR and America could survive a nuclear exchange. You will also see a very young Larry Hagman as a Russian translator (pre-"Jeannie" days) who spends most of his time in the movie with the President played by Henry Fonda.

    All in all today's movies even with their special effects can't match the psychological suspense of movies like this. This is one for your library.
    By the way, be sure to get the 1963 version and not the remake. Some things are better left alone even if somewhat dated. ...more info
  • Unforgettable and powerful.
    This is a powerful movie about an accidental attack upon the old USSR by a wing of American strategic bombers. Both sides scramble to avert world war three, as the bombers streak towards their target. There are no memorable special effects here, but everything looks incredibly authentic. The effect of reality is nearly total.

    The movie is in black and white. This adds subtly to the sense of authenticity that the movie achieves. I don't know how it would have been in color.

    I personally did not like Henry Fonda as the President, but that may be a matter of personal preference. I find him annoying, particularly in this movie. But no matter--this is a taut thriller that moves smartly to its startling conclusion.

    One notable thing about this movie is its crisp story line. Almost every single scene is integral to the story. No long dreary interludes such as almost every European movie seems to have. Here, everything we see is there for a reason--the storyline literally races towards the unforgettable ending.

    This is one you don't want to miss. Buy it and own it....more info

  • Very relevant to the present
    This is a classic and is very relevant to the current climate in America. The characters were reasonable men, with the exception of Walter Mattau's part as the academic special advisor to the dept. of defense. ...more info
  • It's a Classic
    Dan O'Herlihy and Walter Matthau were spectacular in this classic. This and Dr. Strangelove are what started the whole nuclear film revolution. The way they put this film together will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. In the film, a computer error had caused SAC bombers to accidentally launch beyond their fail safe points. Their destination was moscow. Henry Fonda (The President) struggled to convince a Soviet leader that the attack was a mistake. There were only two downfalls of the film. One was the complete and utter debasement of of the fine acting qualities of Hildy Parks (Betty Black). The other was the ending of the film. I like big visually stimulating explosions to depict a nuclear explosion. In Fail Safe, this aspect is left up to the viewers imagination. This is a film that every concerned American must see....more info
  • Don't Miss the Litigation!
    The movie earns five stars on its merits. Our technology lets us down, and we end up having to create a hideous human solution to allow the continued existence of the race. Hey, so far no one has likened the sacrifice of New York City to our current situation in New Orleans (September 2005)...

    Anyway, what no one's mentioned so far is the well-known litigation. Some of the commentary here on the DVD addresses this.

    Didn't it strike you as funny that this movie and Dr. Strangelove had similar plot lines? That's because they were both based on the same story, "Red Alert." This movie was a commercial flop, where Dr. Strangelove was a big commercial success.

    The makers of "Dr. Strangelove" sued this movie Their suit asserted that this film risked wrecking their chances for audience acceptance and commercial success, and that it was "intentional" in a legal sense.

    They lost.

    Why does this matter to us? It's really important: our First Amendment intends to encourage the protection of creativity and intellectual property, but it does not intend to stifle independent thought. Since the sale of "Red Alert" to both parties was OK (it was not "exclusive"), either buyer could do whatever it wanted with it. So, if one movie makes the other one look ridiculous, that's as American as apple pie.

    Movie fans benefit from this. And, interestingly enough, "Fail Safe's" reputation has only advanced over the years, as viewers (and I'm one of 'em) take the film on its own merits, not just as the setup line for Stangelove's macabre joke.

    On its own merits, this is well-written, well-acted film. Sidney Lumet shows his stuff as a great director of thoughtful films, and the viewer is forced to think about nuclear capability in a very personal way....more info
  • Cold War Nostalgia
    Feeling nostalgic about the Cold War? Take a weekend to watch Fail Safe, then read Pat Frank's "Alas, Babylon". ...more info
  • LOOOOOOOOOOONG, but the end makes up for it!
    Just like the book, this movie is SOOOOOOOOO LOOOOOOOOOONG in its storytelling. Unless you are REALLY into this type of movie (Pseudo-Soviet 1960's warfare) it is just not worth the watch. The end, though, is rewarding. It's as though the director gives you compensation for sitting through the movie by handing you an ending that is real, dramatic, timely (1962, pre-Kennedy Assassination New York), and most of all, satisfying. Just like the end of The Omen, the end leaves so much spectulation about the future (the flashing images gave me nightmares about New York's demise, just like Damien's apparent bonding with the President in The Omen!). You want to know what happens next, what the country does, how the American people react, but you are happy nonetheless that the end so elequantly is slammed to you. I recomend this one to all history fans, ESPECIALLY those with an affection for the Cuban Missle Crisis!...more info
    In 1965, a serious nuclear movie called "Fail Safe" was released. Henry Fonda is the President. A computer glitch launches The Bomb for the U.S.S.R. Fonda cannot recall it, and apologizes to the Soviet premier. His wife is visiting New York City, and in one of the worst political decisions in Hollywood history, Fonda tells the Soviets that in order to prove to them it was an accident, he will drop a 30-megaton nuclear bomb on the Big Apple! He carries through with his decision, despite his wife's presence there. The Soviets are portrayed as suffering their fate with dignified resolve....more info
    I've seen this film several times, and it NEVER ceases to scare me... it concentrates on the true power technology holds in the world, and the devastating results that can occur when technological problems arise. An error in our defense system sends an erroneous message to fighter pilots patrolling our airspace, who obey it and head off to bomb Moscow! The situation is handled, if not resolved, with a truly horrifying result.

    No shortage of GREAT acting here... Henry Fonda as The President... Larry Hagman as the translator who helps during phone conversations between The President and his Russian counterpart. And Walter Matthau as a Civilian Advisor. As always Matthau is brilliant, as are all the actors. Dom DeLuise appears as one of the techs at the US Air Defense HQ; this is the only "serious" role I've seen DeLuise play.

    This film goes further than the mere "technology runs wild" theme; it brings up the frightening questions, "What's REALLY going on up there (or ANYwhere)?" and "What can REALLY happen??"

    I recommend this film one-hundred-per-cent....more info
  • Is it possible...
    "Fail-Safe" has often been described as "Dr Strangelove" without the laughs - even in the Amazon review above! - well, as much as I'm a huge fan of "Strangelove," I feel that this description does "Fail-Safe" a terrible disservice. In "Strangelove" Kubrick took the Cold Ward doctrine of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, and turned it into a megaton black farce, whereas "Fail-Safe" takes the same concept and presents it as frighteningly banal reality. And it's this very ordinariness that makes "Fail-Safe," in my humble opinion, the superior and far more chilling film.

    The basic set-up is simple; it's the early 1960's and the Cold War is pretty frosty. During the standard investigation of a UFO by the military, a possible incursion into US airspace by the Soviets, the nuclear bombers that are always in the air are sent towards their "Fail-Safe" points, about which they orbit while waiting to be sent to their targets if the UFO turns out to be a pre-emptive attack by the USSR. The alert turns out to be false, an off-course commercial airliner instead of the Red Hoards, and the various flights are recalled. But a technical error occurs, and one flight of 6 aircraft, armed with multiple 20 megaton nuclear weapons, passes beyond its "Fail-Safe" point and heads towards it's assigned target of Moscow.

    What happened?! Is this a deliberate act of aggression on behalf of the USA, or is it a "glitch" as they claim, or are they running a double bluff, disguising an act of war as a technical error, or has the situation been engineered by the Russians as a pretext for a devastating counter strike; what are the Americans and the Russians to do, can they possibly trust each other? These are the central questions of the film.

    The emotional core of the film is Henry Fonda as "The President;" the decent humanitarian personified. It's as if his character, "Juror No. 8/Mr Davis" from "12 Angry Men," has been made Commander In Chief. As he's desperately trying to convince the Soviet Premier that the nightmare of global destruction they're rushing toward is the result of a dreadful accident, he even uses the same line repeatedly that his character in "12 Angry Men" uses; "Is it possible?!" And these, by far, are the most riveting parts of the film, The President, locked away in his bunker beneath the White House with his interpreter, superbly played by a VERY young Larry Hagman, talking to the Soviet Premier on the Kremlin "Hot-Line."

    Knowing that the Russians are watching, the President sends US fighters after the bombers to shoot them down before they can reach Soviet airspace; the attempt fails as each of the fighters runs out of fuel and ditches in arctic waters, losing the crews. He then contacts the Premier and explains the situation, the accident, and discusses what can be done to stop a nuclear war if Moscow is bombed.

    And this scene, by far, is one of the most chilling ever filmed. The President, speaking through his interpreter, makes a desperate offer to the Soviets; a terrible sacrifice of blood will be made if even one of the bombers gets through and drops its payload on Moscow. I don't want to say anything else about this wonderful film and ruin it for you if you haven't already seen it, suffice to say, that this scene, almost 40 years on, still has the power to make your blood run cold.

    But as superb as Fonda's performance is, the film is not wholly dependent upon him. There is a wonderful ensemble cast headed by Dan O'Herlihy - "The Old Man" from RoboCop - Walter Matthau, Frank Overton, and, in his first staring role, Fritz Weaver. Of the supporting cast, Walter Matthau, as the right wing Hawk, Professor Groeteschele, desperately urging the President to take advantage of the screw-up and nuke the Soviets to dust anyway, thus ensuring the final victory of Capitalism over Communism, almost steals the show; a wonderful performance. And Fritz Weaver, in his first staring role, takes his part and runs with it, as an uptight Colonel, gradually coming undone as the countdown towards WWIII accelerates.

    This film, superbly acted by all concerned, even Dom DeLuise in a bit part as a weapons technician, and flawlessly directed by Sidney Lumet, is an almost forgotten masterpiece. Filmed in stark black and white, it has an almost documentary feel about it, and with the story set in just 4 main locations, there's a suffocating feeling of claustrophobia about the whole enterprise. This is, without a doubt, along with 1965's "The Bedford Incident" - WHEN are we going to get a DVD release?!?!?! - the greatest of the Cold War thrillers, and I recommend it without hesitation....more info

  • No special effects -- just greatness
    In an age when many movies are digitized and Bruckheimer-ized to death, I can pop "Fail-Safe" into the DVD player and enjoy a time when a great story and superior acting carried a movie. "Fail-Safe" is a take on the age-old theme of men discovering, perhaps too late, that they are the victims of the very machines and systems they created. Henry Fonda is unforgettable and utterly believeable as a President who is trying to avert all-out nuclear war by convincing his Soviet counterpart that an American bombing run on Moscow is a mistake. Other reviewers rightfully laud performances by Dan O'Herlihy and Walter Matthau, but for my money Frank Overton's portrayal of SAC commander General Bogan, though often overlooked, is as strong as any I've seen.
    Thank goodness this film was made in 1964 (in stark black-and-white) instead of today with our special-effects temptations....more info
  • Intelligent; Realistic; Frightening; Fantastic!!!!
    This is an underrated gem from Sidney Lumet. This film could very easily have departed from its ultimately brilliant course, and been turned into an overblown, over-the-top, unrealistic "Doomsday" farce. But Lumet holds on to reality and presents us with a very realistic, and quite frightening look at what could possibly happen if one of our bombers should get a false message to attack Moscow. Henry Fonda is totally believable as the U.S. President trying to avert a catastrophe. And check out a young pre-"I Dream of Jeannie" Larry Hagman as the Russian interpreter! I liked Larry very much in this role. He, like everyone else in this good cast, remains completely realistic and believable. I don't think this film would have had as great an impact on the viewer had it been shot in color. The stark, brooding black-and-white photography adds volumes to the mood and setting of the film. Buy this one NOW! And if you have never seen it before, watch it immediately upon getting it!...more info
  • Great movie from a great book
    Most books, even the great ones, unfortunately do not translate well onto the big screen. Fail Safe is a happy exception to the rule.

    The story is now two generations old. Mechanical error sends six bombers towards the Soviet Union (remember them? they used to be our one mortal national enemy). The President and the government try all they can to recall them, to no avail.

    Emotions understandibly run high. Men get stretched to the breaking point, and some snap. The President makes a terrible sacrifice, to convince the Russians that it WAS an accident. The price of this ticket it incredibly high.

    Forget about the comparisons with Dr. Strangelove (which is a great movie in its own right). They belong together only by their contrasting styles.

    This movie is chilling in Black & White. You will never think of J.R. Ewing again the same way, after seeing Larry Hagman in the role as the President's translator....more info

  • A Sci-Fi in times of the Cold War
    "Fail Safe" (1964 - 112 minutes), photographed in Black & White, is a drama of science fiction directed by Sidney Lumet from the script of Walter Bernstein, based on the book of Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler. Fails in the system of the Strategical Air Force Command of the United States sends orders for six B-58 bombers, equipped with nuclear ogives, to bomb Moscow. General Bogan [the actor Frank Overton], Commander of the Air Force, tries desperately to establish contact by radio with the bombers pilots, but they had been taught that once exceeded the "security limit" any order of reversion must be disrespected, because the enemy can know how to imitate the voice of the commanders and even of the president. Running against time, the president [the actor Henry Fonda], helped by Buck, an interpreter [Larry Hagman], informs to the Russian prime minister the imminent nuclear disaster. Working with the Strategical Air Force Command, the Russians send all their antiaircraft armory to knock down the American bombers. Unhappyly, an aircraft commanded by colonel Grady [Ed Binns] escapes and continues in its fatal mission. Perceiving that Moscow is doomed, the president takes then a radical decision to prevent the Third World-Wide War.
    In Time: There was a remake of "Fail Safe" produced in live with 85 minutes by CBS in 2000, directed by Stephen Frears. In this film, also in times of the Cold War, an unidentified flying object intrigues the American army that orders some bombers to investigate. When they arrive, they discover that it was only a commercial airplane out of its route. However, a fail in the computers of the Department of Defense sends to a squadron of bombers a transmission of the codes of a nuclear attack. The orders are irreversible and indicate that the target is Moscow. From now on, the Pentagon and the proper president of the United States fight to prevent the Third World-Wide War.


    ...more info
  • Truly one of the great Cold War movies
    This film is remarkable in it's own right, and frankly, where Dr. Strangelove can seem rather dated nowadays, "Fail Safe" is still as distressingly and blood curdlingly contemporary as it ever was.

    The complete lack of music, the hard cuts (no fades), the long, painful close-ups on Henry Fonda, the long silences in the dialog, give this film a stunning verisimilitude, and make it far more absorbing that it might have otherwise been.

    And if the last 30 seconds of this film do not leave you feeling as if a bomb had been dropped on you... well, it will, believe me....more info

  • Nail-bitting nuclear nightmare with a shocking end
    It's strange how two movies covering the same subject are released months apart in the same year. Especially how one of the two films are successful at the box office. The other, not so successful. That is the case of two films being released by Columbia Pictures in 1964, when the United States Of America was still recovering from the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War was still at an all time high. The two films were none other than Stanley Kubrick's Cold War satire Dr. Starngelove (made entirely in England) and Sidney Lumet's classic anti-war picture Fail-Safe. While the late Kubrick's picture dealt with the madness of nuclear war on the black comedy level, Fail-Safe approached the subject from a much more serious perspective. The results led to the movie going public being scared out of their wits, for fear of something like this actually happening. Kubrick's film dealt with man going mad and declaring war. Lumet's film dealt with the machines breaking down and leading the human race on the road to global annihilation. Or to be more precise, it shows us what the consequences are when humanity puts too much trust in the machine and its systems. There is always a margin for error when man and machine are moving too fast and become dependent on one another.

    Fail-Safe begins in Omaha, Nebraska with a US Congressman being given a tour of the Startegic Air Command's control facility by the commanding officer. What seems to be a minor electronic malfunction occurs during an alert when SAC bombers are flying at their fail-safe points. From there, the situation rapidly worsens and bombers are given an order to fly to their targets in the Union of the Soviet Socialistic Republic. The President and the Omaha staff try desperately to recall the planes and it looks for a while like they have succeeded. They then notice that one group of planes, Group Six, is still flying toward Russia. The group is unable to receive the recall code because the Russians are experimenting with new radio jamming proceedures. The supporting fighter planes are returning to their base in Alaska when they are informed of the dilemma with Group Six. They are ordered to turn around and try to intercept the group wing and shoot them down if necessary. Everyone involved knows that this is a desperate measure because the fighters are low on fuel. They fall into the Arctic Ocean before even getting close to Group Six. The President and the people at NORAD eventually help the Russians to try to stop Group Six. What follows is a shocking end that will bring back memories of September 11th, 2001 AD. One wishes that the city of Los Angeles was the victim instead of....well, you'll just have to watch the movie to find out.

    With its multi-dimensional screenplay (based precisely on the original 1962 novel) and solid acting from the astounding cast (Henry Fonda, Larry Hagman, Fritz Weaver, Frank Overton, Dom DeLuise, Walter Matthau, Dan O'Herlihy, Sorrell Brooks, Edward Binns, and Dana Elcar), Fail-Safe still brings the message across after forty years. Not only does it reflect the political and social issues of the time, it still states that sometimes our weapons can grow faster than our wisdom. The Cold War maybe over, but the human race still face the possibility of a nuclear war with the likes of the entire Middle East and North Korea.

    Fail-Safe is still a gripping reminder that something tragic as this could still happen. It will also make you stop and think....more info

  • A Masterpiece
    This movie rises above what could have been just a polemic against letting machines get away from us and letting patriotism goad us to killing the "enemy." It evolves into a singular, gripping drama.

    The one false note is Walter Mathau's early reaction to a woman sensually in love with death, a woman craving finishing climax. All that is a gratuitous artsy touch. And then there is a lapse or two in logic. As other reviewers have pointed out, the bomber pilot who is pushing through with what he thinks are his orders, could have proven to himself that it is in fact his wife and not a Soviet imposter trying to tell him to stop, trying to tell him it was all just mechanical failure. He could have simply asked the woman pleading with him some questions that only he and his wife would have known the answers to.

    But these minor quibbles aside, Sidney Lumet was absolutely at the top of his form with this movie. He is the master of projecting us into the gritty tragedies of so-called civilization. With Fail Safe, he plummets us into the ultimate tragedy.

    The acting is brilliant. For me, this is Henry Fonda's defining role. He is supremely Presidential, considered, able to withstand the pressures of jingoism and to put human life first. He is the statesman one can only wish our real Presidents were. Although as this movie illustrates, having a wise leader can't always avert disaster....more info
    I wonder how many years we would have waited for Director Sidney Lumet's FAIL SAFE to be released in the DVD standard if the 2000 remake hadn't be shot. Holy Mysteries of the global economic laws, I suppose ! But, let's stop the sarcasms and enjoy this black and white political-fiction drama adapted by Walter Bernstein -one of the numerous talented screenplay writers Hollywood put on the "black" list during the fifties- from a best-selling novel.

    Sidney Lumet and John Frankenheimer directed in the early sixties some of the most powerful serious movies of the period and FAIL SAFE hasn't lost its impact for the 2001 audience. Contemporary TV networks offer us by the dozens political debates permitting to serious university professors to expose their personal theories about nuclear wars and limited strikes while they enjoy their drinks in the cozyness of the studio. In this perspective, Walter Matthau's character has got an extraordinary prophetic dimension. Just see his apocalyptical show, at the really beginning of FAIL SAFE, in front of an hypnotized audience. Matthau's performance is one to be remembered.

    The special edition of this DVD also offers a commentary track recorded by Sydney Lumet as well as a featurette with interviews of Lumet, Bernstein and interesting comparisons between FAIL SAFE and Stanley Kubrick's DR. STRANGELOVE. In my opinion, the tension produced by FAIL SAFE is more powerful than the black humor of Kubrick's movie. You won't feel good after FAIL SAFE's ending.

    Henry Fonda is as always exceptional and Larry Hagman's performance -as the translator- very sensible. In short, FAIL SAFE is a must if you are interested in the american film production of the sixties or in good political fictions.

    A DVD zone badaboom....more info

  • Fantastic Movie... Must see
    If you are into Pol-Sci, this is a must see. If you like nuclear war movies must see. I can go on. The 1964 version is so far supiriour to the remake of the same title. It is like you are living the cold war, even if you were not alive then. Like me for example I'm only 28, but it was so intense.

    Unfortinenetly, I have to order another copy, because, the one I got from Amazon would not, could not read or load. There is no way I'm going to wait a month for a refund, so I'm just going to order another one.

    Yes it is that good. stay away from the Goerge Clooney one....more info
  • The Ultimate Drama
    What a sobering view of the "Cold War"!

    Fail Safe is a far-too-real scenario that has almost happened a few times. On a few occassions, both America and Russia came within 2 minutes of starting World War III, due to technological
    "glitches", such as satellites mistaking the Sun's reflection off of clouds for the heat of an ICBM.

    The message the movie tries to make is that mankind was becoming too dependent upon technology. And we were going to pay the ultimate price for this. It's amazing that the authors of the novel the movie of the same name is based upon had such great "vision" and foresight.

    Fail Safe also does a fantastic job of showing the Cold War paranoia of both the American & Soviet military and government "higher ups".

    For those who have not seen it, the ending will send a chill down your spine, and may even bring tears to your eyes!

    There were great acting performances all around. The actors that played General Black & General Bogan, the two "voices of reason"
    in the military leadership are two of the best performances I've ever seen. Henry Fonda brought to life his role as the most powerful man in the world. The late Walter Matthau was outstanding as the politcal scientist-Pentagon advisor who wanted the U.S. to take advantage of the madness to wipe-out our
    "mortal enemy".

    Fail Safe is a movie "for the ages"!...more info

  • A reasonable rendition, slighly marred by filmography error
    Enjoyed the movie as much as when I first saw it in the 70s.
    I only encountered two problems:

    1) Original film quality
    A digital restoration of the original film print is in order, I noticed a lot of graininess and flecks in the image.

    2) Larry Hagman seems to be slightly confused with Gene Hackman in the filmography under 'special features'.
    For example, Larry Hagman is credited with an appearance in the 1978 Superman movie. Lex Luthor was played by Gene Hackman.

    Gaffes like these should be checked before shipping.

    ......more info

  • Great Video
    This movie, although released in 1964 is, in my opinion, one of the most terrifying movies I ever saw. What this movie shows in sometimes graphic detail what happens when we (the United States), create the ultimate system against war and yet that same system becomes our adversary rather than our ally. What I mean is this system named "Fail Safe" plunges the U.S. into a war with the Soviet Union. What I like is when the the President (Henry Fonda) tries to assure The Premier of the Soviet Union (in the movie the Soviet leader is referred to as, "Mr. Chairman") through his (the President's inturpreter "Buck" played by Larry Hagman) that the attack on his country (the Soviet Union) in general, Moscow in paticular,was an accident through a number of conversations via the offical "Hot Line" between Washington, D.C. and Moscow. In the meantime the Secretary of War, played by Walter Matthau, insists that we (the U.S.) should obliterate the Soviet Union including Moscow, from the face of the earth. The conclusion is exciting because we (the U.S.) have to sacrifice New York City because by that time Moscow and the Soviet Union are wiped off the face of the earth. I would highly reccommend this video to anyone who is into war and political movies....more info
  • Gripping and Devastating !!
    Awesome film. What got me hooked was Henry Fonda playing the President negotiating with the Russian President with the use of Larry Hagman as the interpreter. The ending ( which to me was totally unexpected) blew me away completely. A classic. A+....more info
  • A nightmarish drama !
    After Dr,. Strangelove , only two films are worthy to remark : Fail Safe and Seven days of May.

    The opening shots shows us bull baiting : allusive metaphor of what ii will come . Due to a crucial error ,a SAC plane is ordered to bomb Moscow . The awful mess once you opened the Pandora box is still to come .

    The final sequence is impeccable . the multiple shots and the elusive perception of the vanishing time until finally stops has been few times shown with so merciless anguish .

    A solid cast confers this work a high historic status .

    One of the best films of Sidney Lumet.
    ...more info
  • Gotta see it!
    What a movie! I have seen this film at least 10 times and my heart still races each time. This is one movie that had the guts to pull out all the stops. No happy hollywood ending here, they go all out, giving the viewer a good look at the cold war sixties, and the fallout of playing with nuclear fire. The small but powerfull role that walter matthau has is priceless. If you are looking for a good thriller, you won't be disapointed with this one....more info
  • Cold war turns red hot!
    A fault in a multi-million dollar nuclear bomber spirals the crew and the world into this tense and exiting cold war thriller. You may have heard the storyline before (Dr. Strangelove) but this film is deeper, darker and deadly serious!

    Henry Fonda provides a superb performance in this powerful drama which keeps you on the edge of your seat to the very last image on the screen. The tension unfolds minute by minute following the ill-fated crew from the beginning of their routine flight to their terror-filled battle through Soviet airspace towards their target - Moscow! Will they succeed, will they be recalled, will they be shot down? Superb acting and skillful writing combine to produce one of the best (anti) cold war films of our time.

    Special effects are minimal (compared to todays epics) and the sets are confined mostly to the NORAD Air Force control bunker and the bomber cockpit but never has a film been so effective in its powerful portrayal of tension, suspense, and fear as the President of the United States, the US Air Force and the Russians struggle to try to stop the rogue bomber from starting a nuclear holocaust.

    Striking black and white photography enhances the film rather than detracts from the experience.

    Don't miss it!...more info

  • Cold-War Thriller
    Preceded and overshadowed by the film "Dr. Strangelove," "Failsafe" provides a serious version of a nuclear weapons crisis between the United States and the Soviet Union. The plot in "Failsafe" is remarkably similar to it's satrical cold-war counterpart with the National Command Authority having to prevent full scale nuclear war after one its bomber squadrons accidentally receives the "Go" code to strike Moscow. A computer communication malfunction at the US Air Force's Strategic Air Command is the culprit, and within minutes, the President dispatches fighters to shoot down the bombers after his service chiefs recommend the course of action. The fighters are unsuccessful and the President begins working with the Soviet Premier to prevent the bombers from reaching their target. Under the President's orders, SAC is on line with the Soviet High Command to help intercept the bombers. After one of his Air Force generals predicts the likelihood of a bomber getting through, the President seeks a solution to prevent nuclear retaliation, which provides a shocking ending to the story.

    Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove" pulls no punches in its humor and portrayal of high-ranking government officials, its comedic treatment leaves viewers with the feeling that such a scenario would never come to life. "Failsafe" on the other hand projects a chilling atmosphere as the leaders and staffs of two major powers come to grips with the crisis, and overcome their cold-war rivalries to solve the problem.

    The story is portrayed in four places; the President's bunker, the Pentagon's operations center, the SAC headquarters, and the cockpit of the flight commander leading his bombers into Russia. The big star in this feature is Henry Fonda as the President; his performance is so convincing that he probably could have run for office. Other standouts are Walter Matthau, the civilian advisor who is the "Devil's Advocate" on the Pentagon staff, and Dan O'Herlihy as "Blacky," an insightful Air Force general and old friend of the President, who is eventually called upon to carry out the President's solution. The other significant player is Frank Overton as the SAC Commander, maintaining order in his headquarters while his air staff border on mutiny while assisting the Soviets in locating the bombers. There is Ed Binns as the bomber pilot, torn between his duties and doubts when the NCA and SAC attempt to recall him over open communication channels. Last but not least is Larry Hagman, who turns in a great performance as the President's translator.

    Included on the DVD is a bonus feature about the production of the movie, where the actors and writers discuss the movie's plot and it's similarity with "Dr. Strangelove" that resulted in a lawsuit. They also talk about having to bootleg footage for the aircraft depicted, because of lack of cooperation from the Air Force, resulting in most of the action represented on graphic display screens in the SAC headquarters and the Pentagon. Despite these constraints, they produced a movie that still puts viewers on the edge of their seats as time runs out with the bombers getting closer and closer to their target. The impact of the feature was enough to warrant a special message in the end credits to assure audiences that such an event could never occur....more info
  • Unmatched terror of Damocles
    No other movie brings back that terror we felt in those days where the madness of mutually assured destruction was the only thread of assurance we seemed to have. It may be argued that the possibility of nuclear anihilation has not gone away but we sem to seldom think of it as we did in those days at the height of the cold war. And never will there be a movie with such a shocking end that leaves you with that terror at what might have been. It is a masterpiece of dramatic suspense....more info
  • Review of Fail Safe
    This movie was very good to excellent, (VG++ on my reading scale).

    I did not give it 5 stars because there were some technical issues and minor character issues that kept me from giving it a whole hearted 5 star result.

    I had read in another review that it would have been helpful to have had some actual footage of the Vindicator bomber to make the movie more realistic. That is quite true, and in addition it would have been helpful to have had some soviet aircraft also. The only thing in defense of the director of this movie for not including actual footage of aircraft from each side is the fact that we forget this movie was made during the height of the cold war and there was a lot of paranoia over security on both sides. Therefore, it would have probably been impossible to show actual Soviet Backfire Bombers, fighters, or even actual Vindicator maneuver footage. This would have made the movie more interesting.

    I believe this movie will be considered extremely intense by anyone who lived during this time period. The fear of nuclear war was a very real fear, a very real frightening possibility. Just remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. We were very close to warfare at that time. Very close. I do not know how many people realize this, but nuclear war was certainly a possibility if we had sunk any of the Russian cargo ships. They surely had submarines with nuclear warheads prepared to defend these ships and we had the same prepared to defend our ships. One punch would have led to two then a flurry of punches. How do you stop this from escalating?

    I thought the acting was mostly superb. Even Walter Mathau's slap of the woman he drove home, which struck me as not necessary and idiotic, was ok if you consider he was probably being type-casted as a "moral" oriented person. Yet later in the story he favored us attacking the soviets, going all out now that we were mistakenly committed with those 6 bombers approaching Russia. This is not an indication of some one who is being type-casted as a "moral" person. When is war for war's sake moral? Therefore, I viewed this as a character flaw. Instead, if he had tried to make advances with her, but was then slapped by the woman, I believe that this would have been more consistent with his character. This might be considered a minor point, but the whole point of this story was the intensity of each person's response to the incredible pressures of a potential nuclear war breaking out. Consistency would have added power to this movie.

    One other point on technical matters. It was not clear whether or not the soviets used nuclear tip missiles against the bombers. It was shown as such - nuclear fireballs blooming a portion of the situation board. This was not discussed in the film. I think if the characters monitoring the situation boards had pointed this out or made issues of this, the use of nuclear tipped missiles against the bombers, this would have been a telling point that would have increased the overall suspense and approaching terror of what was about to occur - the bombing of Moscow.

    One last point, the Soviets had caused the bombers to enter Soviet airspace by scrambling the radio reception when they were at the fail-safe point, this prevented the bombers from getting an all clear signal. Thus, the bombers continued with their mission and it was the inflexiblity of their training that resulted in the situation getting out of hand. So the Soviets should have shoulder some of the blame for the situation occuring at all. Finally, when radio contact is restored, the wife of one of the pilots tired to tell her husband it was all a mistake. He would not listen because he was trained, indoctrinated to not listen to anyone in case the Soviets used this sort of thing as a ploy to fool the pilots in not dropping their bombs. Yet. if I was that pilot, I would have asked my 'wife' a simple question only she and I knew the answer to. If she answered correctly, I would know it was her calling me and not a Soviet ploy. Once the pilot realized it was all a mistake he then has one choice, return home, no one gets killed. That is how intense this story was, you just wanted this 'idiot' of a pilot to ask some key question, to use some smarts to avoid an obviously horrendous situation from occuring to begin with. So was he being a 'patriot' by blindingly following orders, or should he first be a member of humanity and try to avoid making a terrible mistake? Think of all the potential answers to this question.

    Joe Patane ...more info
  • A companion to Strangelove
    I think the two films work well side by side. "Strange" offers up nuclear disaster via the failure of the "human element" while "Fail Safe" shows us what happens when the human element is taken out of the loop....more info