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19

THURSDAY

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The Matrix, The Terminator, WarGames—if Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that humanity’s overreliance on futuristic technology will almost always result in a nuclear apocalypse. One would think we would have learned our lesson decades ago with Sidney Lumet’s 1964 thriller Fail-Safe. When a malfunctioning computer accidentally orders a squadron of B-58 Vindicator bombers to blow Moscow off the map, the president of the United States (Henry Fonda) and the U.S. Strategic Air Command must race against time to shoot down their own pilots—or face cataclysmic Russian retaliation. If Fail-Safe’s plot sounds familiar, that’s because it is: Lumet’s adaptation of Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler’s novel bears such a resemblance to Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (released that same year) that Kubrick threatened to sue for plagiarism—even though Fail-Safe’s bleak, humorless depiction of Cold War America stands in stark contrast to Kubrick’s satire. Fail-Safe screens at 6:30 p.m. at the National Museum of American History’s Carmichael Auditorium, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Matthew Borlik)