Scripted by Walter Bernstein, based on Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler’s best-selling novel, Fail Safe tells in an utmost serious mode the story of a U.S. plane that’s accidentally ordered to bomb U.S.S.R., thus plunging heads of American and Soviet governments into crisis of decision-making as time runs out.
This high-tension drama, done in a bleak and grim mode, is directed with taste and intelligence by Sidney Lumet. It stars Henry Fonda (as the American President), Walter Matthau, Dan O’Herlihy, Fritz Weaver, Larry Hagman, and other gifted thespians.
Released by the same studio (Columbia) just seven months after the Kubrick farce, “Fail Safe” suffered at the box-office by following “Dr. Strangelove,” a wild farce based on similar premise. Rumor has it that Kubrick threatened Columbia with a plagiarism lawsuit, forcing the studio’s brass to release his film first.
Audiences opted for Kubrick’s biting, off-the-wall satire, though “Fail Safe” continued to enjoy life as a stage play. It’s a nice companion piece to Lumet’s earlier (and better) “12 Angry Men,” also with Fonda, and staged in similar style, relying on close-ups for creating a claustrophobic atmosphere.
Dan O’Herlihy as Brigadier General Warren A. “Blackie” Black, USAF
Walter matthau as Professor Groeteschele
Frank Overton as General Bogan, USAF
Ed Binns as Colonel Jack Grady, USAF
Fritz Weaver as Colonel Cascio, USAF
Henry Fonda as the President
Larry Hagmna as Buck, the President’s interpreter
William Hansen as Defense Secretary Swenson
Russell Hardie as General Stark
Russell Collins as Gordon Knapp
Sorrell Booke as Congressman Raskob
Nancy Berg as Ilsa Woolfe