Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda

THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979). Director: James Bridges.

Reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) is doing a routine story at a nuclear power plant in Southern California, when an "accident" occurs that has everyone working there quite nervous. Kimberly and her brash photographer, Richard (Michael Douglas), are convinced that there was more to the incident than anyone is saying, but Kimberly's superiors are understandably afraid of lawsuits or worse. Still, it develops that plant employee Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon) has uncovered certain unsafe conditions that could lead to disaster if the facility goes back up to full power, leading to a tense confrontation with the higher-ups and a delicate situation in the control room. The China Syndrome became famous when the incident at Third Mile Island happened not long after its release, turning the picture into a must-see at the time. Although it's well-made and well-acted -- Lemmon is especially good, with Fonda on the money as well -- time has somewhat blunted its impact. Scott Brady [Mohawk] is fine as one of Lemmon's associates at the plant, and for better or worse Wilford Brimley, as another plant employee, also got a higher profile from this picture. Michael Douglas is okay, but doesn't make that much of an impression. The Stephen Bishop song that plays over the opening credits is pretty awful and almost sinks the movie from the start.

Verdict: Has its moments. ***.

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