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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fail Safe (released in 1964) - Starring Henry Fonda, and Walter Matthau - the horrible cost of a nuclear war and mutual mistrust

Fail safe is a film released in 1964, starring Henry Fonda, Walter Matthau and others. It is about a fictional cold war scenario which escalates to nuclear war and is adapted from the book of the same name by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler; the ultimate horrors of a nuclear exchange and the quest to avoid a suicidal war.
The strategic Air Command or SAC notices a suspicious aircraft heading to America from Europe. American bombers are deployed to counter the plane. According to the routine, six fighter planes are deployed around strategic points called the fail safe points around the Soviet Union. If the attack is innocuous the bombers are recalled back to the fail safe points.
Due to a technical transgression the attack code CAP 811 is transmitted to the six fail safe planes. The planes are the vindicator bombers with nuclear war heads commanded by Colonel Grady. Colonel Grady gets the code and tries to confirm it through radio. Since the frequencies are routinely jammed by the Soviets it fails to get through and he puts the attack in motion. Accordingly the bombers are dispatched to bomb Moscow.
According to the attack procedure, once the bombers are cruising towards the target they refuse to accept any audio alterations to their mission. It is felt that the enemy may use impersonators to distract them from their mission.

In America the whole establishment is in a tizzy. The president calls on the Soviet Premier to make him understand the accident. General Black, the Air chief fears that if Moscow is bombed the Soviets may launch nuclear missiles on America. To make them understand the sincerity of American operations six planes are deployed to shoot down the planes. But due to fuel constraints these planes fail and are lost. American President assures the soviet Premier that all of it was an accident and if Moscow is bombed he himself will order the bombing of New York. The Soviets are thus convinced of his sincerity.
Initially the Soviets refuse American help but turn around to ask for assistance. Americans help them to shoot down the plane. Five bombers are shot down and the President through the radio asks Gray to desist from the bombing. But Gray following orders says that he cannot take audio orders anymore fearing it to be an impostor. Soon the soviets detonate nuclear bombs in the air to avoid being hit, but Gray passes through and detonates the bomb over Moscow. When Moscow burns the American Ambassador's phone melts giving a shrill tone.
The Soviet Premier tells the President that he acknowledges that it was an accident and he does not blame anybody. Both the heads of state promise not to depend overtly on machine controls anymore. However, there is a price to be paid to avoid a nuclear war.
The President orders General black to bomb New York City as he had promised the Soviet Premier as a show of solidarity. The First Lady and Black's family are in New York, putting them in harm's danger. Black bombs new York city and commits suicide. The last haunting scenes are the lively scenes of New York City, all to be incinerated in the back drop of the shrill sound of the melting phone.
A classic and haunting film highlighting the cost of distrust.

Fail Safe (released in 1964) - Starring Henry Fonda, and Walter Matthau - the horrible cost of a nuclear war and mutual mistrust

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