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.
Terrorist organization Black September is planning an attack on the United States. A woman called Dahlia is the one overseeing the operation. She was in the Middle East with the other members of the organization, discussing the operation when some Israelis came in; the leader, Major Kobakov had his gun on her but didn't shoot her. Kobakov then informed the US what they found. Though they don't know what their operation is, Kobakov assures them that it will be devastating. So, with FBI man, Corley, they try to find out what it is before it's too late. But they both have different ways of doing things, and since Kobakov is the visitor, he is warned to watch it. Dahlia's "partner in crime" is Michael Lander, a Vietnam P.O.W., who is psychologically scarred by that experience, thus making him very susceptible to her machinations.Written by
The number of extras and background artists appearing in the stadium sequence totaled around 10,000 extras. They worked for free as per arrangements made with The United Way charity. See more »
Two Goodyear blimps were used for the suspenseful conclusion. The base scenes where shot in Carson, CA using the Columbia. The Super Bowl scenes were shot in Miami, FL using the Mayflower being a much smaller blimp than Columbia. So the blimp shrinks, gets big again and then shrinks again in size. See more »
(Israeli National Anthem)
Traditional Hebrew melody
Words by Naftali Herz Imber
Briefly Played and Sung in Hebrew by an offscreen group in Miami See more »
A long shelf-life
This is such a disturbing film, based on a very disturbing book by Thomas Harris, the creator of Hannibal the Cannibal. I read the book in 1976 and actually believed that cunning terrorists might be able to think up a really spectacular way of killing a whole lot of people at one time, but we'd be able to see it coming and stop them, just like in the book. Little did we know . . .
I imagine what it would have been like to see a mid-1930s era movie about a carrier-borne air-strike against an American naval base. It would have seemed so far-fetched, and it would have drawn fire for smearing the race or nationality of the aggressors. Yet, here's Thomas Harris's novel of a disgruntled POW who is hired by Palestinians to set off an enormous shaped charge, packed with steel darts, into the crowd at a Super Bowl. With John Frankenheimer's skill and a great cast of actors, Harris's story really does come to life, and even with the occasional special effects flaw and some really unpleasant violence, it works! I remember being so excited about the movie--it had Bruce Dern and Robert Shaw and that gorgeous woman from Marathon Man, Marthe Keller. The art work was so imaginative! Even in dopey little Spokane, Washington, the Fox Theatre put up a billboard sized blimp on their roof. Frankenheimer even shot two scenes of the President of the United States coming down to watch the action--one, a Jimmy Carter lookalike and the other, Gerry Ford. The movie felt real, even with, as a I mentioned before, some special effects cheese that, for its time, couldn't be avoided.
In January 1977 I had not seen The Manchurian Candidate--I didn't even know who Frankenheimer was; the only directors I knew were Don Siegel (because I loved Dirty Harry) and Roman Polanski (because of--my chronology might be off here--his little dust up with an underage girl at Jack Nicholson's house, or something like that). If I had seen TMC, I might have noticed certain similarities between Candidate and Black Sunday--the damaged war veteran, the cold manipulators, the driven investigator of the truth, and the interspersal of violent, ugly images. Yet, Black Sunday is truly an action movie; its relation to The Manchurian Candidate stops as the bombs and bullets start tearing up the place.
Finally, it's strange to say that casting Bruce Dern as a psychologically damaged former carrier pilot was inspired--the man got rich and famous off playing wackadoodles--but Dern is more tortured, more pathetic than anything I ever saw him in. His character is so sad, so torn up by his experience in the Hanoi Hilton that, while it doesn't excuse his perfidy, he is as three dimensional as Sgt. Raymond Shaw. But Shaw did right at the end; Lander dies trapped by his own anger and hate.
So, if you can find it, I would strongly suggest renting this film. It is disturbingly topical, intense and suspenseful, and an example of a good movie made about an attack against the Super Bowl, unlike the other winter 1977 football disaster, Two-Minute Warning.
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