The first film adaptation of Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler’s “Fail-Safe,” which was serialized in the Post in October 1962, was released in 1964 and starred Walter Matthau, Frits Weaver, and Henry Fonda as the American president. While it failed to gain much critical acclaim, the 2000 made-for-TV remake lured several award nominations, including a Golden Globe for Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV, three Emmy nods, and two Emmy wins.
Set during the Cold War, the remake stared Walter Cronkite, Noah Wyle, Brian Dennehy, George Clooney, and Richard Dreyfuss as the president scrambling to avert World War III when the United States accidentally drops a nuclear bomb on Moscow. Filmed in black and white, the mini series was actually broadcast live to television audiences, a feat since the set took up two sound stages on the Warner Brothers lot. Harvey Keitel was often running between the two stages just to make his cue.
Despite its positive critical reception, the mini series didn’t do so well with audiences, who had seen Columbia Pictures’ Cold War satire, Dr. Strangelove, earlier the same year. With its strikingly similar plot, audiences assumed Fail Safe was equally ridiculous and stayed away.
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