Convicts & File Clerks

Fail-Safe 1964 poster

I took the time to watch Sidney Lumet’s Fail-Safe a while ago; I was really pleased. It’s well-written, well-acted and intense. ( has an excellent 50th anniversary review and comparison with Doctor Strangelove.)

This is my favorite quote by the asshole of a scientist, Dr. Groeteschele, played by Walter Matthau:

Who would survive? That’s an interesting question. I would predict… convicts and file clerks. [male guest laughs] The worst convicts. Those deep down in solitary confinement. And the most ordinary file clerks. Probably for large insurance companies, because they would be in fire-proof rooms, protected by tons of the best insulator in the world: paper. And imagine what will happen. The small group of vicious criminals will fight the army of file clerks for the remaining means of life. The convicts will know violence, but the file clerks will know organization. Who do you think’ll win? [long pause; he laughs] It’s all hypotheses of course, but fun to play around with. Source

View the scene at TCM. (The video autoplays and I can’t figure out the code to stop it, otherwise, it would be embedded.)