CAST
Dan O'Herlihy-Brigadier General Warren Black
Walter Matthau-Professor Groeteschele
Frank Overton-General Bogan
Ed Binns-Colonel Jack Grady
Fritz Weaver-Colonel Cascio
Henry Fonda-The President
Larry Hagman-Buck
William Hansen-Secretary Swenson
Russell Hardie-General Stark
Russell Collins-Gordon Knapp
Sorrell Booke-Congressman Raskob
Nancy Berg-Ilsa Wolfe
John Connell-Radioman Thomas
Frank Simpson-Sullivan
Hildy Parks-Betty Black

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The story line for this movie is remarkably close to the story line for Dr. Strangelove but this is by no means a comedy, black or otherwise. Fail-Safe didn't do well at the box office because Columbia Pictures decided to placate Stanley Kubrick, who was upset about the story similarities, and push Dr. Strangelove at the expense of this motion picture. This is, however, a movie that is definitely worth watching.

There are many fine actors in Fail-Safe including Walter Matthau in an uncharacteristically serious role as Professor Groeteschele. You will also see a young Larry Hagman and a young Dom DeLouise. The best performance is by Frank Overton as General Bogan.

Fail-Safe begins in Omaha, Nebraska with Congressman Raskob (Sorrell Booke) being given a tour of the Strategic Air Command's control facility by General Bogan. 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. The Omaha staff recall the planes and it looks for a while like they've succeeded. They then notice that one group of planes, Group Six, is still flying toward the Soviet Union. The group is unable to receive the recall code because the Russians are experimenting with new radio jamming procedures. 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 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 Omaha people eventually help the Russians try to destroy Group Six.

While there is a disclaimer at the end of the movie stating that the events depicted couldn't happen because of the safeguards in place, we have, probably more times than we're aware of, come perilously close to the scenario shown in Fail-Safe. In the sixties, Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line radar sites picked up something coming over the horizon over Norway. Computers said there was a 99% probability that we were under attack by the Soviet Union. The anomaly turned out to be the moon. On another occasion, the entire defensive system of the United States was put on alert when a 95 cent computer component failed. I believe we got to Defcon 3 at that particular time. At one time, during a test of the Civil Defense broadcast alert system, someone put in the wrong tape which said we were under attack and all commercial radio and television stations were ordered to cease broadcasting and go to the Civil Defense system. Very few did. So, despite the disclaimer at the end of the movie, these electronic accidents could and did happen.

Even though the "Cold War" is supposedly over and people have become complacent, there are games still being played by the military. Our fast attack submarines still shadow the Russian submarines and vice versa. We still have the guided missile submarines going out to sit at the bottom of the ocean for a few months at a time and so do the Russians. The threat of accidental nuclear war is diminished but not eliminated.

Fail-Safe is a gripping reminder that something still could happen and it will probably make you stop and think.

The television adaptation of this movie was amazingly close to the original script. Brian Dennehy was excellent as General Bogan while Richard Dreyfuss' performance as the President was somewhat lacking. All in all, though, it was very well done. It was shown in black and white as was the original.

 

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Wav Sound Files (11KHz)

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Mr. Foster: "In a nuclear war, everyone loses. War isn't what it used to be."

Professor Groeteshele: "It's still the resolution of economic and political conflict." (86K)
Congressman Raskob: "Fail-safe?"

General Bogan: "Fixed points in the sky on the perimeter of the Soviet Union which are changed from day to day."  (81K)
Communications Officer: "Request permission to authenticate on secondary channel."

Colonel Grady: "Permission granted."  (44K)
Mr. Knapp: "That blip up there at ten o'clock, it's headed into Russia."  (53K)
General Bogan: "Group Six is now about two hundred miles past fail-safe, Mr. President. We still can't make contact."

President: "Do you know what went wrong?"

General Bogan: "No, Sir, we do not."  (98K)
President: "But if the bombers don't respond, then what?"

General Bogan: "The fighters would be ordered to shoot them down."  (67K)
Mr. Foster: "The President says he may have to order our fighters to shoot down Group Six. He wants our opinion."  (83K)
Omaha Staff: (cheering)

General Bogan: "Shut up. This isn't some damn football game. Remember that.  (99K)
Colonel Grady: "I can no longer receive tactical alterations by voice."

President: "I know that but........"

Colonel Grady: "What you're telling me I've been specifically ordered not to do."

President: "Damn it, Grady. This is the President."  (96K)

 

Wav Sound Effects From the Movie (11KHz)

Small plane taking off.  (81K)
Car door shutting.  (8K)
Bottle and can being dropped into sink.  (11K)
Sound of jet engines.  (43K)
Fail-safe box warning signal.  (62K)
Door shutting.  (8K)
Water being poured into a drinking glass.  (39K)
Switch being turned off.  (2K)
Large explosion.  (111K)
Piece of paper being torn.  (11K)
Radio interference noises.  (129K)
Radar sound.  (159K)

 

Trailer   (8,664K)

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CLICK ON MOVIE BELOW FOR A MOVIE REVIEW FROM DESTITUTE GULCH

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CLICK ON MOVIE BELOW FOR A COMEDY MOVIE REVIEW FROM TIGER SWEAT

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The Mouse That Roared (1959) Smallest country in the world declares war on the U.S. and wins.
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The President's Analyst (1967) A prominent psychoanalyst becomes the psychiatrist for the president.
Raising Arizona (1987) An ex-con and a policewoman kidnap a baby to raise as their own.
Support Your Local Sheriff (1969) A drifter on his way to Australia takes the post as sheriff of a western boom town.
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