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Thursday September 19th 2019

The China Syndrome | 2012

The China Syndrome film location: Hinano Cafe, Washington Boulevard, Venice Beach, California
The China Syndrome location: the 'Ventana' power plant's local bar: Hinano Cafe, Washington Boulevard, Venice Beach, California

With no melodramatic music score, James Bridges’ thriller works brilliantly as a tense nailbiter. Initially accused of anti-nuke hysteria, a couple of weeks after its release the ‘impossible’ meltdown at Three Mile Island turned it into a terrifyingly accurate warning.

Not surprisingly, there was no location filming in a real nuclear plant, though the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant on the Columbia River in Rainier, Oregon, hosted tours and allowed the film’s Production Designer to take research photos which provided the basis for the astonishing two-story Control Room set built at the Sunset-Gower Studios in Hollywood.

The long shots of the white-domed ‘Ventana Nuclear Power Plant’ are matte paintings but the main exterior, seen during the media scrum at the end of the film, and the Turbine Room are those of the Scattergood Power Plant, 12700 Vista del Mar – the coast road running by Los Angeles Airport – at Playa del Rey.

‘Harmon’s’, the bar in ‘Ventana’ where TV journalist Kimberley Wells (Jane Fonda) bumps into power plant employee Jack Godell (Jack Lemmon) and begins to pump him for information, is Hinano Cafe, 15 Washington Boulevard at Speedway, in Venice Beach.

Aspiring screenwriters, take along your laptops. This is where Richard Kelly wrote much of the script for Southland Tales, his bizarre follow up to Donnie Darko (that could be a recommendation or a warning, depending on your point of view).

The licensing hearing for the parent company’s new ‘Point Conception’ plant, picketed by anti-nuke protesters, is held at the California Institute of the Arts, 24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia, north of Los Angeles.

Jack Odell lives in the dully unprepossessing housing development called Valencia Fairways, alongside the roar of the I-5 in Santa Clarita. His anonymous home is off Sand Wedge Lane.

Increasingly paranoid Jack realises his car really is being tailed and makes a quick diversionary turn behind a fire-truck on the I-210 Foothill Freeway at Paxton Street, San Fernando. The Freeway had just been completed but wasn’t yet opened, so the production had one day to film the whole chase sequence.