Reviews of Fail-Safe (1964) and related work

Fail-Safe (1964Moving picture, 112 minutes)

Machines have become too fast and too complex for human monitoring. Russians and Americans co-operate to try to stop a bomber group which is entering Russia with incorrect orders. The possibility of failure prompts the President to set up a contingency plan: A fair trade to prevent World War III.

Cold War turned hot, diplomatic thriller. The serious twin of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).

A parade of obvious flaws, falling just short of kitsch. The only action scenes are repetitive stock footage, and very inaccurate! There is no way the President would have been stashed in a tiny room with a single stranger that whole time, without access to the ridiculous strategic display, and so on. The script has some nice moments though, and much of the concept is attractive. The idea of fair trade to prevent escalation was a real plan, thought up at RAND.

References here: Story of Science Fiction (2018).

moving picture fiction

Fail Safe (2000Moving picture, 86 minutes)

An imitation with big Hollywood names. Shot in real time, black and white (with obvious errors! A repeated line is cut midword after a long silence), repeating the mistakes of the original and adding some hilarious new ones. The stock footage is more appropriate and there is no melodramatic bullfighting dream, but there is also less of it: no action. Basically no improvements, not even in the choice of Hank Azaria as the nut bar. The character’s boffering of an emo hedonist in the original, excluded in this version, is at least memorable. So why this, instead of a good film based on the bones of the original, or failing that, nothing?

moving picture remake fiction