Cinema Odeon > 11:00


Sidney Lumet


Monday 31/08/2020


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

In early 1963, almost immediately after the apocalyptic rush of the Cuban Missile Crisis, two great American films about an accidental nuclear war go into production. The funny one, Dr. Strangelove, comes out first. The not-so-funny one, Fail-Safe, premieres less than a month before the 1964 election and casts Henry Fonda as the acting president. “Fail-Safe comes across as a pure thriller, dynamic and unrelenting. A US bomber group is reaching its assigned fail-safe points at the borders of Soviet airspace, when a computer blows a chip and transmits an attack code. As American and Soviet officers collaborate in pursuing the bombers, the American president – installed in a White House bunker, connected to the Soviet premier by telephone – tries with increasing desperation to avert the inevitable. […] First emerging as a tall black shadow down the hallway, the president is seen from behind as his young interpreter stares at the back of his neck, the private face a silver smear in the elevator door. With Fonda confined to the bunker, Lumet uses his star’s height and slimness geometrically, and then bores in with close-ups, huge views from the vantage of a mesmerised fly, as Fonda attempts to negotiate apocalypse by phone”. At its peak, “past and present are joined, and epiphany crafted – with nothing but a hand, a voice, and a shadow. All the submerged intensities of Fonda’s performing history return to fill the scene, to expand its dramatic and political contexts. […] We’d like to plumb the moment, take it apart, find its cogs and springs. But it’s impossible: we cannot quite ‘see’ what we are seeing. Rather, we feel what we are not seeing – that hum of history, that Lincoln tone still thrumming beneath the machine noise of Fail-Safe, of American life as it is now, as it is about to become; a heroism that hates to kill, that instead of boasting ‘Bring it on’ asks, ‘What do we say to the dead?’”

(Devin McKinney, The Man Who Saw a Ghost)

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo (1962) di Eugene Burdick e Harvey Wheeler. Scen.: Walter Bernstein. F.: Gerald Hirschfeld. M.: Ralph Rosenblum. Scgf.: Albert Brenner. Int.: Henry Fonda (il presidente), Dan O’Herlihy (generale Black), Walter Matthau (Groeteschele), Frank Overton (generale Bogan), Edward Binns (colonnello Grady), Fritz Weaver (colonnello Cascio), Larry Hagman (Buck), William Hansen (Swenson), Russell Hardie (generale Stark), Russell Collins (Knapp). Prod.: Max E. Youngstein per Columbia Pictures. DCP 4K. D.: 112’. Bn.