World War III (TV Mini-Series 1982) Poster


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Way Above Average Cold War Era Fantasy
Squonkamatic14 June 2008
Great made for TV miniseries from NBC. I vividly recall this movie from when I was in maybe the 10th grade and being absolutely riveted by it's superbly plotted story about a group of National Guard soldiers trying to fend off a Russian invasion of Alaska with about 10 bullets per man. It still holds up, and is one of the best made for network TV action thrillers from that now bygone era.

Some of the studio sets depicting the frozen wastes are a little cheezy -- you get Roger Ebert's Captain Video Effect of the same fake rocks arranged in different formations a few too many times -- but there is an impending sense of urgency to the proceedings, which are staged in a surprisingly sober manner. The movie is also a lot more violent than one might expect, with nearly R rated gunshot wounds that are a lot more bloody than one might see on television today. Kudos also to the production team in getting together an integrated cast for the American troops that doesn't seem like gratuitous politically correct meddling.

Once you get down to it though this was another one of those Hollywood Cold War era doomsday fantasies that inevitably has a character announcing that "war is over forever" before being blown away by a crooked plant in their own platoon, which then sets the movie's inevitable global annihilation climax phase into motion. Rock Hudson is very sympathetic as a President who cannot stop the avalanche of doom once it gets started, with Brian Keith well cast as his Russian counterpart who is literally just a figurehead leader of a military oriented Soviet bureaucracy who look upon nuclear war as a justifiable risk.

Made at the height of US/Russian cold war tension (remember the Korean air liner jet incident?), this miniseries along with Nicholas Meyer's THE DAY AFTER and Edward Zwick's mesmerizing SPECIAL BULLETIN helped to define the decade for many of us who were growing up at the time, helping to convince me at any rate that a global apocalypse was unavoidable. I still am amazed that we made it out of that era without a nuclear war.

There is sadly a real-life tragedy that hangs like a pall over the film, and perhaps makes its sobriety all the more telling: Original director Boris Sagal, a competent and talented filmmaker who's talents had graced such made for TV favorites as Rod Serling's NIGHT GALLERY and the brilliant ode to D.B. Cooper, DELIVER US FROM EVIL, and the Charlton Heston favorite THE OMEGA MAN, was killed in a bizarre accident involving a helicopter during early 2nd unit location filming in Oregon. His death and the unwholesome accident that claimed the life of Vic Morrow & two Vietnamese-American child actors on the set of Steven Spielberg's THE TWILIGHT ZONE movie would lead to changes in how helicopters -- inherently dangerous contraptions -- would be used in major Hollywood productions.

I recommend anyone who perhaps wants to get a feel for the mindset of the early 1980s to seek this movie out and take a look. It's too bad that NBC has not managed to find time to issue it or SPECIAL BULLETIN on a DVD because there really are lessons to be learned here. Not so much about how to fight a skirmish in Alaska so much as how to make a really really good movie that maintains interest for a relatively long period of time (3 hours) with what was really a modest TV movie budget: $8 million, at the time, with some big names in the cast (David Soul, Cathy Lee Crosby, Brian Keith, Katherine Helmond, Robert Prosky, and of course the late Rock Hudson). Definitely more meaningful than it had to be, and deserving of a modern day audience.

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Eccellent mini-series with David Soul,Brian Keith and Rock Hudson.
nlstock17 June 2004
A eccellent two part mini-series starring David Soul,Brian Keith and Rock Hudson about the Soviets trying to take control of the Alaskin pipeline to try and blackmail the U.S. . They send troops in to try and secure the pipeline and the U.S. responds to the threat by sending it's troops in and so a powderkeg confrontation occures which could start World War III,hence the title. The snow scenes are well done. It reminds me a bit of Ice Station Zebra which was about another Soviet-US confrontation. It is nice to see Brian Keith and Rock Hudson again and I hope that one day it will be released to DVD.
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Well conceived, well edited
cesareborgia73 March 2003
This film made an enormous impression on me at 12 yrs old, so much so that it sticks with me 21 years later. The film is suspenseful. The cinematography is top of the line. The climax (no spoilers follow) involves an application of military strategy dating from ancient times, which seemed imaginative to me at the time. And the cold of Alaska, the threat of Soviet invasion, the stakes of nuclear holocaust... all had me on the edge of my seat. I'd love to buy the film, but alas, there are no releases on DVD or video.
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Exciting film.
sonofagun13 August 2003
I've always enjoyed this film mainly due to the fine acting of David Soul (Kudo's Dave!). Many other fine performances are also present - Kathy Lee Crosby's sexy and rugged portrayal gets high marks too. But here's something interesting: the film is good, but if you liked it, you must get the book and read it. The only reason they didn't film it as in the novel is a limited budget (read the book, you'll see what I mean). There were something like 800 russian troops against 50 or so GI's but they had more ammo, weapons, and choppers! And the finale is even more exciting! Read it!
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cold war thriller
WW III is a film about political brinksmanship in the face of nuclear war and a thriller about battling against overwhelming odds. The film is about a President who relies on a national guard unit low on ammo to battle russians sent into alaska to destroy the alaska pipeline. The russian premier also relies on his men in alaska as political bargaining chips as well. The film goes from political bargaining to gun battles in the arctic snow of alaska. WW 3 also deals with infighting within the soviet union as the two super powers hurtle towards a nuclear exchange. This film marks one of Rock Hudsons better film roles.
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David Soul shines (again) in Cold War Epic
daniel-kyle30 July 2008
I agree with everyone else: a great TV-movie, with the always excellent David Soul, and I am SHOCKED that it never received a DVD release (or even VHS as far as I know, but I haven't checked eBay recently). At the time, circa 1982, with Reagan in the White House, and the following year's "The Day After" and ongoing anti-Nuke protests, the military conflict between the US & USSR was very relevant. Perhaps I should say extremely relevant: my generation's Cuban Missile Crisis. I am always amazed when I talk with someone under-30, who says "Reagan? Cold War? Huh???". I had friends who literally lived in a hole in the ground part of the year, with their bottled water and dried food stash. A bit crazy even for the day, but I was in the military reserve, and the mindset of the country, be you a pacifist or a warrior, was in agreement that the nuclear fireball was on it's way by warhead any day. Not to give any support to Bush #2, but in another 20 years we'll look back at the first decade of the 21st Century and tell our grandchildren about the Terrorist Attack(s), and they will have NO CLUE what we are talking about. This excellent TV-movie is a good reminder of those long years of living with the threat of nuclear war. I'm glad that it can be viewed now as an entertaining history lesson.
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A chillingly credible job
Nozz11 June 2001
I can believe that this is how it would happen... the approach of the end of the world, propelled by miscalculation, obstinacy, and pride, set in motion at a half-forgotten army base and snowballing along unknown to almost everyone but a handful of footsoldiers on the one hand and a handful of world leaders on the other.

A chillingly credible job of work, this series was.
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terrific - terrific movie
ppasq2 February 2007
This is one film that can be watched over and over again because it is the best. The story is top of the line. I also loved the barren locale. It just added to the story. The sound track was also top of the line. I think of it now while I am writing these comments. This movie is just like Failsafe.The drama and tension are tops. The main setting is this barren area of Alaska where a troop of Russia soldiers have invaded with the intention of capturing a pumping valve station and destroying it thereby cutting off oil supplies to the lower United States. How they are stopped and the horrible consequences that follow are what makes this such a great movie. The impasse at the end where the Soviet and American commanders agree is great but not long-lasting.

Why is it not available on DVD? The music also??. I know that it was a made for t.v. movie by NBC> Is there any way that NBC be contacted?
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Dated But Interesting
Eric-62-23 September 1999
Thankfully, this 1982 miniseries no longer has any contemporary relevance unless you're doing a study of Cold War era movies (I won't comment on the dated aspects of the political outlook, since I've done that with other movies like "2010" and "Dr. Strangelove"). I have to wonder though if the previous reviewer is confusing Brian Keith's performance in "Meteor" with this one, because that was the film where he spoke only Russian. In this one, it was just accented English.

Rock Hudson is credible as the president, though there's really not much to brag about from the rest of the cast. I do have to give the producers credit for their metaphorical depiction of the end. Gil Melle's music accompanying the images is probably the most frightening sounding I've ever heard in a TV score. It's much more eerily effective than the graphic attempts at realism in "The Day After" (and reminiscent of the ending of "Fail Safe").
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Plausible script, even in 2015
russmillerwy-957-68243929 December 2014
Like many other reviewers, I loved this when I was a child (about 11). The Carter grain embargo had just ended, the Soviets seemed to be unopposed in Afghanistan, and the Cold War could go either way. I had collected toy soldiers by the hundreds and could gravely reenact the film's last stand battle over and over again. Now that it's finally easy to buy on DVD, I saw it again. In spite of how long it's been, every word of dialog had stuck with me and I hung on each one. This is a very well-written story that refuses to follow tried and true Hollywood formulas. The actors, with Rock Hudson in his last role, gave some of their finest performances for this weightiest of subjects. The heroic little battle reminds me of movies like Zulu and other classic Army fort vs. Native siege flicks. The larger and even better story is the spiraling tensions between the world leaders caused by the this desperate, badly miscalculated gambit. As in Fail-Safe, neither side can win if total war breaks out and cool heads seem to have the upper hand. The constantly shifting assumptions about who is a trustworthy negotiator and who can truly afford to back down is what really makes the movie fascinate like only something like a major plane crash can. This should not happen. Responsible people will of course prevent this from happening. So why haven't they been able to stop it yet? Watch it to find out whether the world gets saved or not. But is it still relevant?

Today's newly militarized Russia is tied down in Ukraine and its economy is tumbling as it blames surprisingly effective Western sanctions. The US is likewise happy to be even more dependent on domestic oil production than in 1982, so a showdown over dwindling essential resources could be as plausible now. I have since added a hitch as a soldier, a political science degree, and three decades more experience in the real world, so I should be so much more skeptical of almost forgotten TV miniseries scripts, right? Not this one. It's like a great novel. The more often you replay it for its depth and unique combination of realistic elements, the more you enjoy it.
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Effective Cold War Drama
nukeman18 September 1999
Warning: Spoilers
World War III is an effective drama depicting a Soviet invasion of Alaskan oil feilds. Rock Hudson stars as the President of the United States. Even though it doesn't show the actual nuclear explosions, World War III is still an exciting movie. It ends like the movie Fail Safe, with freeze frames of people in different countries. I highly recommend this movie.
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Quite Enjoyable
bwo21 July 1999
Enjoyed it all those years ago. Would really like to see it run again. Rock Hudson's final scene showed some of his finest acting, and the fact that Brian Keith spoke fluent Russian blew me away.
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stunning, resonant cold war thriller
tfinance18 October 2010
David Soul and Rock Hudson star in this low budget, yet epic in scope miniseries about a Soviet invasion of Alaska to occupy an American oil valve station. I first watched this as a kid and was amazed at how seamlessly the script, the music, the acting all worked together to create more than the sum of its low budget parts. I bought a copy on VHS and have re-watched it many times. There is not much that can compare to the suspense that the script ratchets up scene after scene, until the final horrifying conclusion. Rock Hudson indeed gives his finest acting job, as other reviewers have noted. David Soul as usual is very underrated as an actor and leading man. The script is also a star here...only a little bit of Drama involving Cathy Lee Crosby, who is just adequate here. Of course it is a bit dated (this was before cellphones and internet widespread) but is still highly enjoyable and far superior to 99% of the miniseries out there. And it makes you think. Some scenes here will resonate deeply long after the viewing is over.
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Still scary after all these years
dunsuls-15 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
When I originally saw this 1982 TV movie that runs 200 minutes,I was scared silly.Today its kinda dated and has the TV film feel, BUT it still is a scary cold war film and far more believable than "Red Dawn"ever was. Deep cover KGB plant,elite Russian KGB shock troops,native eskimo week end warriors,grain embargoes,miss reads by politicos,a none elected former VP now president,and on and on.Anchoring it all is a military romance by Army officers thrown into the breech so to speak against determined and desperate Russian troops fighting for a pipeline in Alaska.Its still scary because it shows just how fragile peace can be and add nukes,its a wonder we are all still here.See it,but be scared,be very scared.The cast?? B+ anchored by Rock Hudson and David Soul.
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Attractive miniseries though something of a relic of the Cold War
Andy-29631 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this miniseries as a child and I find it beguiling at the time. This was in the early 1980s, at the height of the Cold War, and the plot, though perhaps unlikely, did not sound as far-fetched as would now seem. Basically, after the US decides to impose a grain embargo on the Soviet Union (remember this really happened after the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979), the Soviets decide to retaliate by invading Alaska (!). Tensions rise, and an urgent meeting between the president of the United States (Rock Hudson) and the Soviet leader (Brian Keith) in Greenland does not defuse the situation. Given the title of the movie, I'm not revealing much if I say the movie does end in a rather bad note. Well made and entertaining, though a bit of a product of its time.
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This Movie Deserves DVD Release!
peterlake28 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I was a freshman in high school when this movie aired, and my friends and I were certain we'd never live to 20 due to the threat of nuclear holocaust. Maybe that's why this movie left such a lasting impression on me, particularly the Alaskan scenes with soldiers stationed in overlapping pipes to narrow their field of fire and conserve ammunition. Few TV movies have achieved that level of suspense.

It's a little ironic all these years later that my two favorite TV miniseries both starred David Soul. He was absolutely believable in this film, and he does a wonderful job of coaxing the viewer to empathize with his military unit's predicament. My other favorite from the era, Salem's Lot, still gives me goosebumps thanks to a wide DVD release.

To think of all the junk that is getting released on DVD these days, it's a shame that this film hasn't.
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A very cheesy and poorly timed film
jseph123415 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
From the opening credits and the musical intro, you know that this is going to be a bomb. I picked up this movie thinking that it would be a classic Nuclear war classic film but all I got was a bunch of small scale skirmishing and these conference rooms shots of the President and the Russian Premier engaged in tension packed discussion about nuclear warfare. I had just watched "Threads" for the second time and another great BBC documentary that discussed the true horrors of Nuclear conflict and was looking forward to a similar quality film but this is just so low budget and with just some familiar actors in this obviously canned film for the time, I can not recommend this film in any way, shape or fashion.
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Hail Mary, bring on the end of the world
bkoganbing17 June 2015
America entered what will now go down in the history books as a brief period of jubilation when in less than a decade the Soviet Union collapsed rendering this exact scenario that occurs in World War III out of date. But now with Vladmimir Putin rattling sabers in the tradition of Khrushchev and America electing neo-cons like George W. Bush World War III has assumed a new relevancy.

America's economy is what did in the Soviet Union and here a grain embargo that Canada and Australia are cooperating with has brought the Soviets to a starvation point. As KGB man Robert Prosky remarks the slogan Peace, Land, and Bread put Lenin in power, now it might just topple them.

The Soviets try a hail Mary gambit by sending in some elite troops into Alaska under bad weather conditions with the objective of blowing up the Alaska pipeline and robbing the lower 48 of fuel. An invasion on American soil itself a really desperate thing. The troops are led by Colonel Jeroen Krabbe and opposing them is Colonel David Soul with a bunch of National Guard troops who are all that's available.

World War III shooting starts with them. But the heads of government and their respective staffs led by President Rock Hudson of the USA and Secretary-General Brian Keith for the USSR. Unlike Failsafe where all we saw was Henry Fonda with interpreter Larry Hagman at the Hotline here we see both leaders with their war/defense councils. Neither wanting to back down first in this game of nuclear chicken.

As for World War III I remember seeing it on television when first broadcast with my mother and she said at the time this is how it's going to end with leaders making the crucial decisions without consultation and without knowledge of what is really going on on the other side.

World War III the movie survived the Cold War, let it not survive the planet.
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Dated, B-grade at best, but haunting
rgarrett991 January 2014
I saw this on TV in 1981 or whenever it was on. It haunts me still. It's tense and claustrophobic up close where this action is depicted (to wit, it appears mostly filmed inside the studio while taking place mostly outdoors), but the overarching danger is apocalyptic. The soundtrack is lean and terrifying. The B-actors (except for the chick who doesn't appear much) actually pull it off quite well once the action is in the field. It's the only role I've seen Rock Hudson play it straight, strained, dramatic, and quite human, and I am impressed.

I attribute the success to (out of necessity, given it's failings) a good script, direction, and theme. And editing I suppose to the degree I'm aware of it. I highly recommend it if, for instance, you like Carpenter's "The Thing" as it has the same mood about it that never leaves me. If you're a kid into mostly special effects, large-scale action, and other cartoons, or if you have no conception of what the Cold War was like and could have been like, you probably won't think much of it, and I understand that. But I liked it a lot.
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Tick. . . Tick . . . Tick . . .
Cinnyaste26 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Released during the presidency of that lovable rouge, the rootin'-tootin'-bonzo-starrin'-we-start-bombin'-in-five-minutes Ronnie Reagan, "World War III" is a fascinating time piece. A revisit to this 1982 paranoid cold war thriller creates a sense of nostalgia for the clarity of the 'enemy'. Back then, M.A.D. was the umbrella under which the world shivered, and humanity lived by the beat of the advancing Doomsday Clock.

Although relentlessly outdated, this Eighties TV film is a raw depiction of death in the most brutal, chilly way. A small National Guard force battles a crack Soviet company whose goal is to take out an Alaskan pumping station and thus cripple the critical oil pipeline. Their action is ordered by high ranking KGB officials in retaliation for a US grain embargo.

The Pres, Rock Hudson, stares down the Soviet Premier, Brian Keith, in a poker game played with nuclear chips. The Premier does not really hold the government's reigns, and the tense situation escalates into war as depicted in a trite montage of smiling faces and pretty sunsets; Cut To Black. BOOOOMMMM!!! (Inferred)

"World War III" is packed with your favorite marginal Eighties stars on their way down the career ladder. It's the post "Don't Give Up on Us" David Soul, late of "Starsky and Hutch," as the Colonel in command of the American forces defending their homeland. A foxy-in-uniform Cathy Lee Crosby is an intelligence officer, and the Colonel's former flame. (She went from this to guest commentator on TV Wrestling in 1986.)

A red blooded film, "World War III" saves the jingoism by portraying both sides as insane: US uses food as a weapon; starving Russians respond.

This work pulls no punches yet labors within the venerable TV Miniseries framework. The 7 Star rating reflects the work as such. "World War III" is a passable time-waster for those who remember the Eighties and wish to take a trip down memory lane. (And maybe cheered when the US took Olympic Gold in 1980 by miraculously defeating the Russkies.)
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