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Sunday, 22 July 2012

The China Syndrome - Spotlight on...Trailblazers

"It's my story! It's my exclusive! I want to do it!"  - Jane Fonda (as Kimberly Welles in 'The China Syndrome')

'The China Syndrome' is the 1979 drama/thriller directed by James Bridges and starring Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and Jack Lemmon.

Jane Fonda as TV news reporter Kimberly Welles &
Michael Douglas as photographer Richard Adams
The title refers to the China Syndrome, which describes a worst-case scenario in a nuclear meltdown, where components melt their containment structures, through the floor of the plant, and into the earth travelling all the way to China.

Jane Fonda stars as Kimberly Welles, a determined and driven TV reporter who is visiting a nuclear power plant in California with her cameraman Richard Adams (played by Douglas). During their visit, they witness an emergency shutdown, due to an incident, which the power plant attempts to cover up. Richard secretly films the shutdown, despite being asked not to, and shows it to an expert who claims the power plant were close reaching the China Syndrome. The rest of the film involves the plants attempt to cover up the event, with Kimberly and Richard determined to uncover the truth with the help of shift supervisor Jack Godell (played by Lemmon).

Watch the trailer:

Release controversy

The release of 'The China Syndrome' sparked some controversy when a real life nuclear accident occurred 12 days after its release at Three Mile Island in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. What's even more ironic is in the film, physicist Dr. Elliott Lowell (played by Donald Hotton) says the China Syndrome would make "an area the size of Pennsylvania" permanently uninhabitable.

Absence of a music soundtrack

Something I really like about this film is there is no traditional music soundtrack which the audience hears, and the characters do not.  Although there is some music heard at different points, the music originates from sources within the film, which the characters can hear, such as music playing on car radios, bar jukeboxes, TV commercials, etc.  Even the end credits roll in complete silence.

Did you know...

  • Michael Douglas also produced this film
  • Richard Dreyfuss was originally meant to play Richard Adams

Awards nominations...

  • Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (Jack Lemmon)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (Jane Fonda)
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
  • Academy Award nomination for Best Writing; Original Screenplay
  • Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) nomination
  • Cannes Film Festival winner Best Actor (Jack Lemmon)

Closing remarks

'The China Syndrome' is a wonderful film. I find it distorts your perception around big business corruption and makes you wonder how many incidents like this may really occur, and are kept quiet and covered up by those with money and power.  Heart pounding suspense and superb performances by Fonda, Douglas and Lemmon make 'The China Syndrome' compelling and engaging viewing.

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