World War III is an American television miniseries, directed by Boris Sagal and David Greene and first broadcast in 1982.
It stars David Soul as Colonel Jake Caffey, Rock Hudson as President Thomas McKenna, Brian Keith as Soviet leader Gorny and Cathy Lee Crosby as Major Kate Breckenridge.
Running for three and a half hours over two nights, World War III depicted a fictitious conflict initiated by Soviet troops against the United States.
The catalyst for this attack is the 1980 grain embargo of the Soviet Union, imposed by Western nations in retaliation for the Afghanistan invasion.
The embargo has caused food shortages and political unrest inside the Soviet Union. Hardliners in the Soviet military and KGB, acting without the knowledge of the Kremlin, order Russian commandos into Alaska. Their objective is to capture the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which provides the US with millions of barrels of oil. They believe that Washington will lift the grain embargo if oil supplies to the US are jeopardised.
Several dozen Soviet paratroopers land and begin their mission. With severe weather preventing conventional forces from reaching the area, the Soviets are engaged by Alaskan National Guardsmen commanded by Colonel Caffey. Meanwhile, US president McKenna and Soviet leader Gorny begin to mobilise their military forces, despite both men wanting to avoid a full-scale war.
As the Soviet troops attack a pumping station in Alaska, McKenna and Gorny hold secret peace talks in Iceland. Their efforts to maintain peace are thwarted when Gorny is assassinated by militant KGB agents. President McKenna learns that Gorny is dead and the Soviets in Alaska have captured the pipeline. Soviet coup leaders launch a full nuclear strike, which is reciprocated by McKenna.
The shooting of World War III was marred from the outset by the death of director Boris Sagal, who was killed after walking into helicopter rotors. The series was neither a commercial success nor critically popular. Political commentators and television critics condemned its cartoonish portrayal of the Soviets, who shoulder almost all of the blame for starting the eponymous World War III. The invasion scenario is unlikely, as are the battle scenes.
Nevertheless, World War III does reference actual events and conditions, such as the 1980 grain embargo and the stagnating Soviet economy. It provides a fictional but plausible example of Cold War brinkmanship, Soviet political instability and factors that might have triggered a third world war.
- David Soul … Col. Jake Caffey.
- Brian Keith … Secretary General Gorny.
- Cathy Lee Crosby … Maj. Kate Breckenridge.
- Jeroen Krabbé … Col. Alexander Vorashin.
- Robert Prosky … Gen. Aleksey Rudenski.
- Katherine Helmond … Dorothy Longworth.
- James Hampton … Richard Hickman.
- Rock Hudson … President Thomas McKenna.
- Harry Basch … Adm. Vernon Blanchard.
- Frank Dent … Tim Hardy.
- Rick Fitts … Maj. George Devery.
- John Lehne … Brig. Gen. Gard Roberts.
- Marcus K. Mukai … Sgt. Johnny Parson.
- William Traylor … Maj. Nicolai Saamaretz.
- Lee Wallace … Dr. Jules Farber.
- Kai Wulff … Konstantin Sculoff.
- Richard Yniguez … Capt. Angel Cordobes.
- Director Boris Sagal was killed early in the production, in a helicopter accident in Oregon.
- Brian Keith was cast as Soviet Premier Gorny because he spoke fluent Russian.
- The scenes where David Soul (Col. Caffey) is shown his quarters, where his office was in Alaska and the hall where the US President (Rock Hudson) and the Russian Premire (Brian Keith) meet were all filmed at the former Naval and Marine Corps Reserve Centre, Encino, CA. The address is 6336 Balboa Blvd, Encino, CA.
- A lot of the extras in Army uniforms were actually US Navy personnel. Notice the blue doors and door jams in the office scene.
- The series ends abruptly because, originally, the ending was suppose to imply that the world ends but also leave the door open for a potential sequel mini-series or even a full weekly TV series but poor reception of the mini-series ended those plans.
World War III Miniseries
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): David Green and Boris Sagal.
- Producer(s): Bill Finnegan, Patricia Finnegan, Bruce Lansbury, and Scott Winant.
- Writer(s): Robert L. Joseph.
- Music: Gil Melle.
- Cinematography: Stevan Larner.
- Editor(s): Robert L. Kimble and Parkie L. Singh.
- Production: David Greene Productions, Finnegan Associates, and National Broadcasting Company (NBC).
- Distributor(s): NBC.
- Release Date: 31 January 1982 (Part 01) and 01 February 1982 (Part 02).
- Running time: 200 minutes (total running time).
- Country: US.
- Language: English.