“Fail Safe” is a nuclear war movie released in 1964. It was directed by Sidney Lumet. It is based on the novel by Eugene Burdrick and Harvey Wheeler. Amazingly, it came out a few months after “Dr. Strangelove” and looks like the serious older brother to that film. Because of this dynamic, “Fail Safe” was a box office failure as the public did not take it seriously. Talk about bad timing for a good movie. It did garner positive reviews.
The title refers to the geographic point that nuclear bombers would be sent to await a “go code” to proceed to their targets in Russia. An off-course air liner appearing on radar screens as a UFO triggers the order to go to the fail safe point. Then a computer glitch sends a group of bombers on to Moscow. Russian jamming prevents reception of abort orders.
The rest of the movie jumps between claustrophobic locales. The White House underground bunker, the Pentagon war conference room, the SAC war room and a single bomber cockpit. Fascinatingly scary decisions have to be made as the situation escalates. The President (Henry Fonda) decides the best of the bad options is for U.S, fighter to shoot down our own bombers.
“Fail Safe” is a chilling depiction of hazards of reliance on technology in the nuclear age. It is excellent in portraying how a crisis can escalate beyond imagination. The movie is good for people who did not live through the Cold War to watch to get a perspective on what could have happened. It will make you appreciate the less tense world we now live in now. The movie should be viewed as a companion to "Dr. Strangelove”, but unlike moviegoers in 1964, it would be better to see this one first.
Yes. The second picture is Lancaster and Gable ACTING like they are getting along. In reality, Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster did not get along during the shoot. Lancaster made jokes about Gable’s age. Gable refused to work past 5 and would leave in the middle of a scene. Since Lancaster was a co-producer and the film ran overtime and overbudget, this became frustrating. Gable did not want to play a captain that lost his command, he felt it did not fit his image. He sat out two days over this issue and only returned when the script was changed so the captain lost command because of a head injury. (Another example of an actor insisting on something that made the plot worse.)
“Lawrence of Arabia” is considered one of the great classic movies. It is #7 on AFI’s latest list of the greatest movies. It is #1 on the Epics list. The film is considered to be the best of director David Lean’s awesome resume (which includes “Bridge on the River Kwai”). It is loosely based on T.E. Lawrence’s “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. The screenplay was first written by Michael Wilson, then Robert Bolt was brought in and changed virtually all the dialogue and characterizations. Wilson was uncredited partly because he was blacklisted for communist sympathies. His contribution was not credited until 1995. The movie’s desert scenes were filmed in Jordan and Morocco. King Hussein of Jordan provided a brigade of the Arab Legion as extras. Peter O’Toole was not the first choice for Lawrence. Albert Finney was unavailable and Marlon Brando turned the role down. Anthony Perkins and Montgomery Clift were considered. Jose Ferrer agreed to appear in it only after being guaranteed pay that ended up being more than what was paid to O’Toole and Sharif combined! The movie took over two years from start to finish. In one scene the O’Toole that finishes at the bottom of a staircase is two years older than he was at the top of the staircase. The desert shoots were difficult. There was the 130 degree temperatures and the sandstorms and the critters. At one point, O’Toole was thrown from his camel and only was saved from being trampled by the camel standing protectively over him. By the way, O’Toole had to sit on a sponge pad to survive all the riding (the Arab extras called him “Lord of the Sponge”). It was all worth it as the film was universally acclaimed. It won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director, Art Direction, Cinematography (Freddie Young), Score (Maurice Jarre), Editing, and Sound. It was nominated for Adapted Screenplay, Actor (O’Toole lost to Gregory Peck for “To Kill a Mockingbird”), and Supporting Actor (Sharif).