Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Blogging for me is like exercising - I do it religiously for a while then I take a day off or 2 days off and then it's a week and then it's difficult to exercise or post. It's worse when I sign onto Blogger and start reading everyone's posts and get so absorbed in what everyone else is doing that I forget to post something of my own.

And there's my obsession with Spider Solitaire as well.

Oh, well. The good news is I am back to running semi-regularly. My goal is 5 days a week. It's hard to run on the weekends because I have shows. Weekdays, the kids are in school so that makes it easier. I'm not sure what I'll do next week when school lets out but my show will be over so that will free up some weekend time.

Anyway, I've been meaning to write about Sydney Lumet's Fail-Safe, a movie that came out in 1964. I've been trying to watch more Sydney Lumet films. It's fascinating to watch a movie for the direction. It's odd for me to say, especially since I'm in theater, but I've never really followed a director or his or her direction before. What I mean to say is, I can't look at a piece (a film or a play) and say, "Ah, yes, this is definitely a Sydney Lumet film or a Des McAnuff play."

But as I watched Fail-Safe, I noticed some similarities with 12 Angry Men which came out in 1957 and is also directed by Mr. Lumet. The obvious similarities are that both films take place in one day, both have largely male casts, and both take place mostly in confined spaces. 12 Angry Men is filmed in the jury room while Fail-Safe has a few locations: an underground bunker in DC, a nuclear operations command post in Nebraska, the cockpit of a plane flying over Russia and a few others.

Fail-Safe concerns a malfunction in the computer system that sends a stray aircraft squadron into Russia to drop nuclear missiles. It's a tense day as military commanders and the President (played by Henry Fonda) try to stop the squadron from completing it's mission. Once the squadron has left their fail-safe point, they have been instructed to disregard all voice commands (lest the Russians mimic the President's voice). The President has the added burden of trying to convince the Soviets that this is indeed a mistake. The compromise he comes up with, to gain the Soviets trust is shocking and desperate. I'm glad I didn't know it going to into the film; it gave the ending a greater impact.

It's a well-done movie and many of the camera angles are reminiscent of 12 Angry Men. He juxtaposes long shots with very tight close-ups which can be jarring and yet work well for the suspense of this film. Some of the acting is dated but that didn't bother me or take away from the film itself. Walter Matthau plays a political scientist insisting on bombing Russia in order to preserve the American way of life as at costs. I forget that neoconservatism started long before President Regan. Larry Hagman does a credible turn as a translator.

If you want to watch old Sydney Lumet films, I'd definitely recommend 12 Angry Men over Fail-Safe. But I wouldn't discount this film either. I really enjoyed it. It wall depends on what you like in a film. Fail-Safe came out the same year as Dr. Strangelove and both have very similar plots so much so in fact that when I was watching Fail-Safe I kept thinking, oh Dr. Strangelove must be spoofing this film. But no. So, if you like Sydney Lumet or enjoy black and white suspense films then check it out.

1 comment:

  1. The book fail-safe was a page-turner. Not so much the movie. Twelve angry men is always a classic to enjoy.