I was born in the mid-fifties, with a father who joined the military in 1942 and who, by the time of this film, was in charge of maintenance for all the B-58 Hustlers at Carswell AFB in Fort Worth, These were the planes used to represent the "Vindicators" in the film. To our family the cold war (which had almost become a nuclear war in 1962) was a real fact of life. It created an underlying tension that people today can't imagine. An admittedly weak metaphor would be that of not paying the rent and living day-to-day wondering if the landlord would suddenly show up and toss you out. It was something you lived with. Fortunately for us kids, the booming days of the fifties and sixties provided plenty of distractions, so we didn't think about it much, but when we did, we knew that the SAC base ten miles away would mean that if there were a nuclear war, we would definitely be among the casualties. Fail Safe does an extremely good job of dramatizing the possibilities. It is stark, harsh, and the fact that it is in black-and-white emphasizes this. The overly sardonic attitude of Matthau's character (from the days when good-guy actors such as himself and Fred Macmurray were still playing bad guys) is particularly biting. O'Herlihy's Colonel Black has an interesting connection to Hagman's translator character, in that both are characters with which the audience can identify - a person caught up in a situation that they would rather avoid but feeling helpless and duty-bound to carry out their job. Weaver's character, while somewhat overdramatic, represents another side of the audience - taking us to the state where we would be if we allowed our emotions to take control. If one were to assemble a series of films to educate the public on the factors that contributed to the culture of the twentieth century, Fail Safe - along with Thirteen Days - would be high on the list.
Drama / Thriller
Drama / Thriller
American planes are sent to deliver a nuclear attack on Moscow, but it's a mistake due to an electrical malfunction. Can all-out war be averted?
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April 8, 2019