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Dick Anthony Williams
Black Sunday is the powerful story of a Black September terrorist group attempting to blow up a Goodyear blimp hovering over the Super Bowl stadium with 80,000 people and the president of the United States in attendance.
When a senior Russian official, Gen. Marenkov, decides to defect to the west, CIA agent Harry Wargrave is sent to lead the team to get him out. Malenkov reveals that the Russians are trying to develop biological weapons. Wargrave decides that Malenkov should travel across Europe by train, on the "Atlantic Express", in an attempt to try and lure the Russians into attacking the train so that they can discover who the Russian secret agents in Europe are. During the journey they must survive terrorist attack and an avalanche, all planned by Russian spy-catcher Nikolai Bunin. Written by
Star Robert Shaw was very ill during filming and died during its production. His voice was so weak and his delivery was so shaky because of his illness that his voice was dubbed by actor Robert Rietty, although Rich Little also dubbed three words near the end of the picture ("Harry, come on") and six words in Shaw's own voice were deemed usable ("Too hot in that train" and "Harry"). See more »
During the avalanche scene, the train driver is seen attempting to accelerate the train out danger. However the speedometer is reading zero. See more »
With a cast as talented and diverse as the one assembled for this espionage-cum-disaster caper, the expectations are great. The execution is sadly lacking. Robson's last film concerns a Russian military defector (Shaw), aided by CIA agents (Marvin, Evans & Connors principally), pursued by a Russian patriot (Schell) determined to capture or kill his quarry. Amid all the frantic chases, double-crosses and narrative cul-de-sacs, an avalanche threatens to derail a train carrying the defector and his minders. Cobbled patchwork of a feature film, with erratic editing and a plot so riddled with contrivances, that you're confounded by the fuss. Why it wasn't made more simply is obvious - the storyline is so aimless and superficial, there's just not enough material to sustain a feature length movie.
Disappointingly pedestrian performances from Shaw, Marvin, Evans and Connors lend very little to the quality of the picture, while Schell at least applies some effort in his stereotypical Cold-War silhouette. He also has the best of the uninspired dialogue. Former NFL star Joe Namath isn't bad as one of the good guys, and Kristina Nel (where's Marthe Keller?) makes a reasonable terrorist. With names like Horst Buchholz, Claudio Cassinelli and Vladek Sheybul in bit parts, the opportunities for success were endless. Sadly, none of it comes to fruition.
If you were expecting some improvement from the foreshadowed avalanche, you'll be disappointed to learn that it's anticipation is more exciting than the execution. Although there's a few decent action sequences and colourful location work, mostly the film is just talky and pointless. Notwithstanding the well documented challenges encountered making this film (i.e. the death of both director Robson and star Shaw), it's difficult to imagine how much better this film could've been had they both lived to see completion. Maybe better they didn't, although it's a great shame that this underachievement is their collective swansong.
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