Monday, May 31, 2010

The Best Cold War Film Ever

In 1964, Stanley Kubric's amazing satire Dr. Strangelove hit the theatre. It poked fun at the cold war mindset, at the paranoia and fear-mongering of the military complex, and the laughable, horrifying idea that someone thought there could be winners in a nuclear war. Some say that it was the single best film about the stupidity of the cold war.

I used to agree with them. Then I saw Fail-Safe.

Also shot in 1964. Also about the cold war. Not a satire, but a riveting drama that haunts you for days afterwards. It died at the box office because Stanley Kubric found out about it and insisted his movie be released first. A serious movie released after a satire on the same subject does not make a box office smash.

The two books upon which the movies are based, Red Alert (which became Dr. Strangelove) and Fail-Safe are nearly identical. So much so that the writer of Red Alert sued the writers of Fail-Safe for plagerism. It was settled out of court.

Despite that dubious honour, Fail-Safe is an incredible film. Directed by Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men), the use of lighting, close-ups, and silence drive the tension in this film sky-high. And the ending will leave you shocked.

If you like, you can see it on Google Video, but you'll have to watch it in pieces. I say, rent it or find it, and watch it all the way through. It's incredible.

Here's the opening:

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