This unnerving procedural thriller painstakingly details an all-too-plausible nightmare scenario in which a mechanical failure jams the United States military’s chain of command and sends the country hurtling toward nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Working from a contemporary best seller, screenwriter Walter Bernstein and director Sidney Lumet wrench harrowing suspense from the doomsday fears of the Cold War era, making the most of a modest budget and limited sets to create an atmosphere of clammy claustrophobia and astronomically high stakes. Starring Henry Fonda as a coolheaded U.S. president and Walter Matthau as a trigger-happy political theorist,Fail Safeis a long-underappreciated alarm bell of a film, sounding an urgent warning about the deadly logic of mutually assured destruction.
Black & White
New 4K digital restoration, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
Audio commentary from 2000 featuring director Sidney Lumet
New interview with film critic J. Hoberman on 1960s nuclear paranoia and Cold War films
“Fail Safe” Revisited,a short documentary from 2000 including interviews with Lumet, screenwriter Walter Bernstein, and actor Dan O’Herlihy
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing