Frank Overton

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Fail-Safe (1964) Review


Extraordinary
An underseen classic, Fail-Safe is based on a very similar story (though not the same book) as filmcritic.com's #1 movie, Dr. Strangelove. (In fact, Kubrick sued Sidney Lumet and co. over the similarities between the films, before either ever came out.) But Fail-Safe plays it straight, to equally powerful effect: An accident sends a bombing team on its way to Moscow, and the U.S. wrestles with what to do when it can't be recalled. Walter Matthau is a scene stealer, playing a rare serious role as a civilian advisor to the Pentagon who advocates all-out war. Jaw-dropping and tense, despite some rough production values.

To Kill a Mockingbird Review


Excellent
Smack dab in the middle of the Civil Rights Era came a pile of films that preached recognition of racial equality. Two of the favorites repeatedly viewed to this day are Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and To Kill a Mockingbird.

These films effectively argue for multi-ethnicity from different vantage points. The former is a daughter asking her parents to accept her black fiancé. The latter defends an obviously innocent African-American charged with raping a young white girl. Both feel more like plays than big screen cinema, with their tiny handful of locations, lack of visual effects, and explicitly heavy-handed dialogue. Though society has changed since their release, and "statement films" now rally for more current political causes, the strength of the issues relayed in these classics doesn't lose its appeal.

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