- Alternate Character Interpretation: Professor Groetescheleon the face of it, he appears to be a Jerkass academic who's more interested in being proven right about his analysis of nuclear strategy and diplomacy than avoiding the nuking of Moscow. At the same time, based on his interaction with Evelyn in the car, he considers the topic of nuclear holocaust to be Serious Business and does not seem to have a death fetish in the least. The book fleshes out his character more, that while he's decidedly more pessimistic than his colleagues (being a German Jew who narrowly avoided getting trapped with the Nazis will do that to you), he doesn't particularly relish the idea of a real-life nuclear exchange. He's just doing his job of thinking the unthinkable in order to make sure the US survives nuclear war.
- Anvilicious: Mutually Assured Destruction is a flawed concept and can accidentally be triggered by mechanical failure due to our paranoia and over-reliance on machinery and computers.
- Nightmare Fuel: The entire ending sequence. The incredibly resigned, almost robotic monotone in which General Black counts down over images of everyday New Yorkers going about their business, followed by Black killing himself out of the sheer guilt and anguish of what he's just done. It's absolutely haunting. To say nothing of the freeze-frame montage just before the credits roll...
- Retroactive Recognition:
- An especially bizarre one, as Dom De Luise shows up to deliver a message in his film debut.
- Dana Elcar also appears as a Senator hosting a dinner party Groteschele is attending in the beginning of the film.
- Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: The film is the serious version of Dr. Strangelove, and actually depicts the horror of a nuclear attack, as it has both Moscow and New York City getting blown-up.
- Stock Footage Failure:
- Very little screentime is devoted to shots of aircraft in flight and the like (this is not necessarily a bad thing), and they're all accomplished with stock footage, which leaves some room for issues.
- The fictional Vindicator bombers are portrayed by footage of B-58 Hustler supersonic bombers. While the B-58 was a contemporary aircraft and fits with the mission profile of the Vindicators in the film, the stock footage used to portray them does not match the quality of the film stock, and can be seen either overexposed or color-inverted. During one scene in the climax, the footage shown is of an aircraft that decidedly does NOT look like a B-58.
- The fighter squadron going to afterburners is shown by a squadron of fighters simultaneously launching missiles instead (you can see the camera tracking the missiles rather than the planes towards the end of the shot).
- During the climax where Grady and his crew spoof the gigantic mass of nuclear anti-air missiles launched at them, there's a shot of an Soviet ICBM shedding its boosters as it climbs. It's trying to portray the Soviet missiles trying to track the American missile, but falling behind.
YMMV / Fail Safe