Film Review – THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979)

THE CHINA SYNDROME (1979, USA) ****
Drama, Thriller
dist. Columbia Pictures (USA), Columbia-EMI-Warner (UK); pr co. Columbia Pictures / IPC Films; d. James Bridges; w. Mike Gray, T.S. Cook, James Bridges; pr. Michael Douglas; ph. James Crabe (Metrocolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.85:1); ed. David Rawlins; pd. George Jenkins; rel. 6 March 1979 (USA), 20 July 1979 (UK); BBFC cert: PG; r/t. 122m.
cast: Jane Fonda (Kimberly Wells), Jack Lemmon (Jack Godell), Michael Douglas (Richard Adams), Scott Brady (Herman De Young), James Hampton (Bill Gibson), Peter Donat (Don Jacovich), Wilford Brimley (Ted Spindler), Richard Herd (Evan McCormack), Daniel Valdez (Hector Salas), Stan Bohrman (Pete Martin), James Karen (Mac Churchill), Michael Alaimo (Greg Minor), Donald Hotton (Dr. Lowell), Khalilah ‘Belinda’ Ali (Marge (as Khalilah Ali)), Paul Larson (D.B. Royce), Ron Lombard (Barney), Tom Eure (Tommy), Nick Pellegrino (Borden), Daniel Lewk (Donny), Allan Chinn (Holt).
Fonda plays a TV reporter who, with her cameraman (Douglas), finds what appears to be a cover-up of safety hazards at a nuclear power plant. Lemmon is the plant’s senior technician who looks to spill the beans, whilst the corporates try to silence him. This absorbing cautionary tale of the dangers of nuclear power plants benefits from an excellent script that balances its message with character motivation. It is aided by three excellent central performances – notably Lemmon who wrestles with his conscience as he uncovers shortcuts taken in safety checks – and a superb support cast. Whilst the drama may veer toward melodramatic thrills in its final act, the film’s message has an impact that is undeniable.
AAN: Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Lemmon); Best Actress in a Leading Role (Jane Fonda); Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Mike Gray, T.S. Cook, James Bridges); Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (George Jenkins, Arthur Jeph Parker)

Film Review – CROSSFIRE TRAIL (2001)

CROSSFIRE TRAIL (TV) (USA, 2001) ***
      Distributor: Turner Network Television (TNT); Production Company: Turner Network Television / Brandman Productions / TWS Productions; Release Date: 21 January 2001; Running Time: 92m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: Mono; Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Spherical; Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1; BBFC Cert: 15.
      Director: Simon Wincer; Writer: Charles Robert Carner (based on the novel by Louis L’Amour); Executive Producer: Michael Brandman, Tom Selleck; Producer: Steven J. Brandman, Thomas John Kane; Director of Photography: David Eggby; Music Composer: Eric Colvin; Film Editor: Terry Blythe; Casting Director: Sean Cossey, Lisa Freiberger, Iris Grossman; Production Designer: Roy Forge Smith; Art Director: Tracey Baryski; Set Decorator: Janice Blackie-Goodine; Costumes: Elsa Zamparelli; Make-up: Gail Kennedy; Sound: Garrell Clark.
      Cast: Tom Selleck (Rafe Covington), Virginia Madsen (Ann Rodney), Wilford Brimley (Joe Gill), David O’Hara (Rock Mullaney), Christian Kane (J.T. Langston), Barry Corbin (Sheriff Walter Moncrief), Joanna Miles (Melissa Thompson), Ken Pogue (Gene Thompson), Patrick Kilpatrick (Mike Taggart), Rex Linn (Luke Taggart), William Sanderson (Dewey (the bartender)), Daniel Parker (Taggart Gang (as Daniel T. Parker)), Marshall R. Teague (Snake Corville (as Marshall Teague)), Brad Johnson (Beau Dorn), Mark Harmon (Bruce Barkow), Kyla Wise (Millie (the barmaid) (as Kyla Anderson)).
      Synopsis: Rafe Covington promises a dying friend that he’ll watch over the man’s wife and ranch after he’s gone.
      Comment: A handsomely-mounted Western with a strong central performance from Selleck, but an overly melodramatic villain in Harmon. Selleck honours a promise he makes to a dying man to look after his ranch and wife (Madsen). On arriving in town Selleck sees that Madsen has come under the influence of land-grabber Harmon. The result is a battle of wills that leads to the inevitable shootout finale. Whilst there is much here that is predictable, this is still an entertaining and old-fashioned tale that coasts on Selleck’s charm. There is a good support cast headed by Brimley as a wizened cowhand who helps Selleck get the ranch up and running. Director Wincer is best known for his work on the TV mini-series Lonesome Dove. Shot in Alberta, Canada.