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t1g3r5fan

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Mychal Bowden
After a critically acclaimed and auspicious debut with 12 Angry Men (1957), director Sidney Lumet was launched on a legendary career. Coming in just shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis, Fail Safe is a very somber look at what might happen if a misunderstanding leads us into nuclear combat. Originally released on DVD by Sony years ago, Criterion has licensed the film for inclusion into their collection and given the movie its Blu-ray debut.



Fail-Safe (1964)



Released: 07 Oct 1964
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 112 min




Director: Sidney Lumet
Genre: Drama, Thriller



Cast: Dan O'Herlihy, Walter Matthau, Frank Overton, Edward Binns
Writer(s): Walter Bernstein (screenplay), Eugene Burdick (from the novel by), Harvey Wheeler (from the novel by)



Plot: American planes are sent to deliver a nuclear attack on Moscow, but...

Continue reading...
 
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skylark68

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Great review of this fine film. I agree with your assessment, it looks and sounds wonderful. It’s much better than the old DVD release I’ve had for years. The only bonus feature I would have loved to have is the 2000 remake included as well. I’ve had that dvd for a long time as well and saw it during its live performance. I suppose it would have probably just have been ported over in SD but it would have saved me some space in my library...
 

t1g3r5fan

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@t1g3r5fan You mention problems during the release. Was that the legal issue you mentioned or something else? I have always liked this film and agree with @skylark68 that it would have been nice to have the live broadcast version too.

The legal problem was that the movie, according to both Stanley Kubrick and Peter George, too closely resembled Dr. Strangelove and was the basis of a copyright infringement lawsuit. The case ended up being settled out of court and Dr. Strangelove was released first, but the damage was done to Fail Safe and it basically ensured the latter movie would not have much success at the box office.
 

Jeffrey D

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Strangelove and Fail Safe are both fine films. I still think it’s a shame that Lumet never won an Oscar- great filmmaker (Network should have beaten Rocky at the Academy Awards).
 

Johnny Angell

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The legal problem was that the movie, according to both Stanley Kubrick and Peter George, too closely resembled Dr. Strangelove and was the basis of a copyright infringement lawsuit. The case ended up being settled out of court and Dr. Strangelove was released first, but the damage was done to Fail Safe and it basically ensured the latter movie would not have much success at the box office.
I would have thought that since the movie was based on a novel, that there wouldn’t have been a legal problem. Also, Strangelove and Fail-Safe are very different movies.

The novel had been serialized in either Life or Look magazines and it was a big seller. It’s not like the plot came out of nowhere.
 

lark144

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mark gross
Anything should have beaten Rocky at the Academy Awards.
Not to take this thread away from FAIL SAFE (& Mychal, now that I've read your excellent review I can't wait to see it again) but at the MOMA press conference for his retrospective back in '76 or '77, Yoji Yamada was asked what was his favorite American film was, and he responded ROCKY, but of course the director of Tora-San would feel very sympathetic towards a depiction of a hard-scrabble working class family, and ignore the film's swagger, inauthenticity and phony uplift.
 

Johnny Angell

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I watched this last night. What a marvelous job of ratcheting up the tension this film does. All the cast is fine, but seeing Don De Louise takes me out of the film a bit. Of course a casting director can’t look into a crystal ball and see the actor’s future career.

OMG, this film’s budget needed a few more bucks. Those big screens were terribly distracting and I recognized some of the oldest stock footage there is. That’s the only negative I have about the film.

Listened to the director’s commentary for about 15’ and found it boring. Too much “what a lovely person he is” and not enough about the film. Perhaps it gets better.

If there were an Oscar category titled “Yeah, I Believe This Guy is POTUS” then Henry Fonda wins it hands down for all time with Fail Safe.
 

Reed Grele

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This was one of those films of my childhood (1960's) that scared the pants off me! The monster movies that my Mom said would give me nightmares never bothered me a bit. Even at a young age I could discern between fantasy and reality. But it was the great acting and the buildup of tension it caused that made my skin crawl. For years afterwards, I would always look skyward in fear when I saw a military jet fly over, or heard a sonic boom, always wondering if that was the prelude to an all out nuclear war! You didn't need special effects or CGI back then to make a scary movie.
 

bujaki

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I used to book films for my boarding school, ages 12-18 (I was 15), so I booked Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove two weeks apart. Beautiful 35mm prints with subtitles, of course, this being Puerto Rico.
Fail Safe was a resounding success. I received a physical beating from the "savages" after Dr. Strangelove. It seems I was the only one laughing.
 

Johnny Angell

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I used to book films for my boarding school, ages 12-18 (I was 15), so I booked Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove two weeks apart. Beautiful 35mm prints with subtitles, of course, this being Puerto Rico.
Fail Safe was a resounding success. I received a physical beating from the "savages" after Dr. Strangelove. It seems I was the only one laughing.
That’s a tough audience.
 

Jack P

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The live 2000 version is available on DVD and because it was "live" it can't look better on a Blu-Ray. Frankly the live version came off as unbelievably pointless to me, because "Fail Safe" is a product of its time speculating about a possible future event within the contemporary setting it was made. To remake it as a period piece set in 1964 when that *isn't* what happened is just silly IMO, especially since all it did was recycle the film script but it had to shorten it to accommodate the TV slot (and in the process the Groteschele character lost all traces of nuance and became a one-note nut; on top of that the character of Colonel Cascio is altered and gets a terrible performance as well). It's one thing when you had a live TV production in the 50s expanded into a feature production, but to take a film that is still largely no different from a live TV production to begin with and then contracting it into a more restrictive format with a shorter script (and making it a total anachronism as well) decades later comes off only as the pet George Clooney ego project that it ultimately was (he wanted to do it, so he had the clout to get it done even though there was no need for it)
 

Johnny Angell

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It is my recollection that for the live TV version, it was performed twice, once for eastern and central times zones, and again for the western time zone. I also recall that there was an intentional line or two of dialogue that was different in the western time zone version.
 

Robin9

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. . . . . Listened to the director’s commentary for about 15’ and found it boring. Too much “what a lovely person he is” and not enough about the film. Perhaps it gets better.
Most commentary tracks either bore me to tears or irritate me enormously so normally I don't bother with them. I found Mr. Lumet's excellent. He gives details about how they made the film and - to me - interesting points about composition and camera placement.
 

Jeffrey D

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Most commentary tracks either bore me to tears or irritate me enormously so normally I don't bother with them. I found Mr. Lumet's excellent. He gives details about how they made the film and - to me - interesting points about composition and camera placement.
His tracks for Dog Day Afternoon and Network are good ones too.
 

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