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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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 if their demand isn't met. Written by Keith Chang <changk@ucs.orst.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis







Release Date:

20 March 1983 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Plutonium, with a yield of 19 kilotons per kilogram, and the bomb on board having 5.2 kilograms of plutonium, the constructed bomb has a theoretical yield of 98.8 kilotons. The Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki contained 6.2 kilograms of plutonium and yielded only 20 kilotons, but with better technology and design refinements, the terrorists probably got substantially more than 20 kilotons (but nowhere near the "ideal" 98.8 kilotons). 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 »


Dr. Neils Johanssen: There is about a hundred pounds of explosives in there. geared to set off the chain reaction. They have just put a match under the WHOLE PILE.
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

Incredible recreation of a news event
2 June 2004 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There is no doubt in my mind that SB was one of the best tv movies ever made.

It was the first of a series of "nuclear war/nuclear confrontation" movies that aired within about a year of each other, including "The Day After", "Threads", "By Dawn's Early Light", and the sadly now-oft-forgotten "Countdown To Looking Glass".

But where all of those dealt with nuclear war or the onset of it, SB was about domestic terrorism. Ed Flanders, David Clennon, and David Rasche were excellent in their portrayals of the harried anchorman and two of the terrorists he spoke with on the live coverage of the event.

Shot to look like an actual news telecast, NBC freaked when they first saw it and put disclaimers everywhere, but people who tuned in late flooded local stations asking if it was real, though not on a scale that Orson Welles and company had happen when War Of The Worlds was broadcast in the thirties - and that's the difference between television and radio for you...

It's hard to believe that this movie, which won several Emmy awards including best TV Movie or Miniseries that year, was put together by the same team that later produced the intensely annoying "Thirtysomething" (and Clennon was also on that show). But when they do something right, they DO IT RIGHT.

As Leonard Maltin's review book puts it, "Way Above Average".

Now if we can just get them to release it on DVD....

My score: 12 on a scale of 1-10 (yes, that's how much I think of this movie...)

15 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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