The China Syndrome
By Robert Lane
James Bridges (Urban
Cowboy, Bright Lights, Big City) directed this 1979 film
that became a worldwide sensation when, just weeks after its release, the Three
Mile Island nuclear accident occurred. Jane Fonda (Klute, Julia)
plays a television news reporter who is not taken very seriously until a
routine story at the local nuclear power plant leads her to what may be a
cover-up of epic proportions. She and her cameraman, played by Michael
Street, American President), hook up with a whistleblower
at the plant, played by Jack Lemmon (Save the Tiger, Missing).
Together they try to uncover the dangers lurking beneath the nuclear
reactor and avoid being silenced by the business interests behind the
plant. Though topical, the film (produced by Douglas) works on its own as
a socially conscious thriller that entertains even as it spurs its
audience to think.
Released only weeks before the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, a
scene in the movie features an actor ironically stating that an
"area the size of Pennsylvania would be left uninhabitable."
The China Syndrome received Academy
Awards nominations for Actor (Jack Lemmon), Actress (Jane Fonda),
Writing (Mike Gray, T.S. Cook, James Bridges) and Art Direction/Set
Decoration (George Jenkins, Arthur Jeph).