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Special Bulletin (1983)

TV Movie  |   |  Drama  |  20 March 1983 (USA)
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A TV reporter and cameraman are taken hostage on a tugboat while covering a workers strike. The demands of the hostage-takers are to collect all the nuclear detonators in the Charleston, SC... See full summary »



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Title: Special Bulletin (TV Movie 1983)

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Won 4 Primetime Emmys. Another 3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Woodley
Susan Myles
Steven Levitt
Dr. Bruce Lyman
Dr. David McKeeson
Rosalind Cash ...
Frieda Barton
Jim Seaver
Diane Silverman
Robert Kay ...
George Takashima
J. Wesley Huston ...
Bernard Frost
Frank Dent ...
Dr. Jason Halpern
Charles Lanyer ...
Merritt Cunningham
Mie Hunt ...
Ellen Stevens
Bruce Fields ...
Walter S. Letteau


A TV reporter and cameraman are taken hostage on a tugboat while covering a workers strike. The demands of the hostage-takers are to collect all the nuclear detonators in the Charleston, SC area so they may be detonated at sea. They threaten to detonate a nuclear device of their own of their demand isnt met. Written by Keith Chang <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

20 March 1983 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


When this film was first broadcast, the network superimposed the word "dramatization" on the bottom of the screen every few minutes and ran disclaimers after every commercial break, to remind people it was only a movie. That didn't stop some people in Charleston, S.C. from panicking anyway. See more »


When the RBS newsroom transfers to their reporter Megan Barclay in Charleston, she begins her report saying; "The situation began approximately 1 hour ago". The report then screens some video from their reporting team and then shows some Super-8 footage which was filmed by a tourist on a sightseeing boat. Super-8 is a film, not video, format. Normally the cost of the film cartridge included postage to a Kodak laboratory where it would be developed and then mailed back to the owner. In this instance, After the boat had reached shore, it would have been necessary to take the film to a Kodak developing facility to be processed, after which it could be taken to the news studio. Due to the time required to get the film to a laboratory for processing and then to get to the news studio it would have been impossible to do this within the time allowed. See more »


Susan Myles: Good evening, this is News Watch. Emergency efforts continue in Charleston, South Carolina, where 3 days ago a nuclear explosion destroyed the heart of the city. Estimated at an yield of 23,000 tons of TNT was seen and heard up to 400 miles away and created a firestorm that is still burning in several areas. Due to early evacuations, the number of dead is estimated at less than 2,000, but at last count there were more than 25,000 injured. Many of those are burnt and have been flown to hospitals...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opens with a commercial advertising shows for the fictional RBS network, followed by the title "Special Bulletin" as the commercial is interrupted. There are no opening credits, making this one of the first TV movies ever produced without some sort of opening credits. See more »

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User Reviews

fascinating and generally still effective, though dated
19 December 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This blew me away the first time I saw it in 1983, and if it effected me less this time, that's a mix of my knowing how it would unfold and the fact that news is different now and thus Special Bulletin often seems dated.

The movie actually captures the TV news of the time pretty well. The female anchor is a little annoying, but then Zwick and Herskovitz have always had problems creating likable, realistic women.

While done like a documentary, the drama unfolds with, well, more drama than one would expect in real life. The terrorists are well educated and sincere (in the 1970s terrorism often seemed to attract well-read, articulate nut-jobs, as opposed to today's illiterate whack jobs). Tensions rise rather more precipitously than is probably realistic, but it does make for a more interesting story.

Special Bulletin gets better and better as it progresses, with a rising of tension and horror that is hard to bear by the last half hour. The documentary device is well done and, in spite of dated qualities, does give you a sense of watching unfolding events.

Highly recommended.

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