Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@ddmcd.com) consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management. Follow him on Google+. He publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain and volunteers with the Alexandria Film Festival. He is also on Linkedin. To subscribe to emailed updates about additions to this web site click here.

Sidney Lumet's FAIL-SAFE

By Dennis D. McDonald

This black and white doomsday adventure from 1964 tells about a U.S. bomber crew sent by accident to destroy Moscow and how the U.S. president (played by Henry Fonda) deals with the situation.

We now know that the early warning glitches that initiated this fictional situation occurred more often than we knew at the time (read Richard Rhodes DARK SUN, for example), but fortunately none led to the horrific outcome depicted here.

What make this film retain its punch despite the outdated technology are the taught direction and photography, excellent performances, and superb dialog. Yes, the story is outrageous at times, but Director Lumet keeps things moving, and Fonda as the President lends an air of credibility.

The black and white images on this DVD are very crisp and clear. Director Lumet uses many close-ups. This is where the black and white photography really shines by showcasing lines, wrinkles, and reflections from beads of sweat and eyeballs. As explained in the commentary, much of his technique dates back to live television, and it shows; compare the imagery here to SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, another political thriller of the day.

 

 

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