Walter Bernstein

Walter Bernstein

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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.

Fail Safe (2000) Review


Very Good
CBS -- of all places -- remade the original, masterful Fail-Safe, a cautionary tale about nuclear war, jammed full of big name movie stars (check out that cast!), and shot in black and white from Walter Bernstein's original screenplay. It's a very faithful remake, even though the production values (it's shot on video) are atrocious. It's a fabulous original film and a worthwhile redo -- but it comes about 20 years too late. Why waste time remaking a tale about nuclear war with the Soviet Union -- a country that no longer existed -- in this millennium? Still, it's worth a look if you're a fan of the original.
Walter Bernstein

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