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The China Syndrome
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A modern nightmare nearly becomes reality in this tension-filled story about an "incident" at a nuclear power plant. Jane Fonda stars as Kimberly Wells, an ambitious TV reporter covering a story on energy sources, who is present at the nuclear plant when a startling accident occurs that nearly causes the meltdown of the reactor. A newsreel cameraman accompanying Wells (Michael Douglas) captures the incident on film but the television station won't air the footage. Though the plant's corporate heads are quick to deny the possibility of any real danger, Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon), the plant's veteran engineer, discovers faulty equipment at the plant. Attempting to tell others about his findings, an attempt is made on his life. In desperation, he forcibly takes control of the power plant and invites the media to hear his ceremony. But the corporation is determined to stop him in a taut and shocking climax!
Laurent Bouzereau, the first guru of DVD-extras production, deftly pulls together the facts about this film some 25 years later in a two-part documentary. Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda scoop on how their two separate projects melded into this film, and key supporting players also weigh on the acting ensemble and the film's design. Unfortunately, two key players have already died--writer/director James Bridges and Jack Lemmon--but Bridges's partner Jack Larson does an excellent job in filling some of the gaps. A few deleted scenes are shown, ones that at the time Lemmon was especially miffed about being cut. The transfer is spot-on and the upgrade of sound to Dolby 5.1 makes the finale even more frightening. --Doug Thomas
- Two new documentaries including interviews Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas
- Deleted scenes
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At the time "The China Syndrome," was released in 1979, the questions it posed were considered unimaginable. Then, on March 28, 1979 - twelve days after the film's release - disaster struck the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. Since then, there have been at least 16 major accidents, some with ongoing catastrophic after-effects, at nuclear plants throughout the world. Those "unimaginable" questions posed by "The China Syndrome" have now unfortunately become a far-too-frequent reality...
As the story of "The China Syndrome" opens, a minor earthquake rattles the area near a fictional California nuclear power plant. A reporter and her crew from a local TV station just happen to be at the plant preparing a story on energy production. They experience the tremor firsthand, and immediately become witnesses to the actions and reactions of one of the plant's supervisors and his crew of technicians as they attempt to determine what, if any, damage has occurred, and what must be done to contain it.
"The China Syndrome" is imbued with uniformly superb performances from a strong ensemble cast. Jack Lemmon is magnificent in his Academy Award-nominated role as the intense, dedicated plant supervisor Jack Godell. I really enjoyed Jane Fonda in her Academy Award-nominated part as the naïve but devoted news reporter Kimberly Wells. For Michael Douglas, "The China Syndrome" was one of his first major movie roles, and he displays many of the same superb acting attributes that have made him one of the best and most popular film actors of the last thirty years.
"The China Syndrome" has been accused by its harshest critics of being a blatant piece of anti-nuclear political propaganda. I disagree with this assessment. "The China Syndrome" always manages to tell its story in a reasonably balanced manner. Some of the corporate officials are stereotyped as greedy, win-at-all-costs types, but there seems to be no escaping that cliché in a film industry that's notorious for its liberal bias. Overall, though, "The China Syndrome" brings both credit and justifiable criticism to all parties involved - the media, the nuclear power industry, and corporate America in general.
"The China Syndrome" is an excellent film in every way; highly recommended.