Blu-Ray Review: The China Syndrome

Jane Fonda was undoubtedly one of the most successful actors working in Hollywood during the 1970s. During that decade, she won two Oscars (for Klute and Coming Home) and was nominated for a further two gongs. With that success came great power and influence. Fonda was, and continues to be, active in many left-wing causes; including the civil rights movement, feminism and environmental politics. Her objections to nuclear power led her to take the lead in James Bridges’ film The China Syndrome.

Whilst visiting a power plant outside of Los Angeles to film a puff-piece, a local reporter Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) and her cameraman Richard (Michael Douglas) witness what looks like an emergency. Richard surreptitiously captures events as Shift Supervisor Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon) and his team narrowly avoid catastrophe. Kimberly’s boss (Peter Donat) refuses to run the footage without further evidence, but as the pair dig deeper their suspicions continue to mount. Meanwhile, Jack’s own misgivings grow as the days count down to the plant going back on-line.

On release, The China Syndrome proved to be eerily prescient. The Three Mile Island incident, the most significant accident in U.S. nuclear power plant history, happened just twelve days after it opened. This raised its profile and contributed to it becoming a huge success and being nominated for four Oscars. It’s a gripping drama and one which feels all too feasible for comfort. The China Syndrome is a well-acted and cleverly-written disaster movie waiting to happen.

Indicator Limited Edition Special Features:

• High Definition remaster
• Original mono audio
• Alternative 5.1 surround sound track
• The John Player Lecture with Jack Lemmon (1973, 80 mins): archival audio recording of an interview conducted by Philip Oakes at London’s National Film Theatre
• Assessing the Fallout (2018, 18 mins): Professor Tony Shaw, author of Rotten to the Core: Exposing America’s Energy-Media Complex in ‘The China Syndrome’, discusses the film and the issues it raises
• A Fusion of Talent (1999, 28 mins): documentary about the making of the film, featuring interviews with cast and crew, including Jane Fonda, actor-producer Michael Douglas, executive producer Bruce Gilbert, and actor Jack Larson, partner of director James Bridges
• Creating a Controversy (1999, 30 mins): a look at the film’s impact and the real-life events which occurred just after its release publicity stills and promotional material
• Deleted scenes (4 mins)
• Theatrical trailer
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Neil Sinyard, notes on the rejected score by Gergely Hubai, an interview with Bruce Gilbert, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
• UK premiere on Blu-ray
• Limited Edition of 3,000 copies

The China Syndrome is released on Blu-ray by Powerhouse Films as part of their Indicator Series on 18 June.

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