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Special Bulletin (1983)

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 »


Edward Zwick


Marshall Herskovitz (teleplay), Edward Zwick (story) | 1 more credit »
Won 4 Primetime Emmys. Another 3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Ed Flanders ... John Woodley
Kathryn Walker ... Susan Myles
Roxanne Hart ... Megan 'Meg' Barclay
Christopher Allport ... Steven Levitt
David Clennon ... Dr. Bruce Lyman
David Rasche ... Dr. David McKeeson
Rosalind Cash ... Frieda Barton
Ebbe Roe Smith ... Jim Seaver
Roberta Maxwell ... Diane Silverman
Robert Kay Robert Kay ... George Takashima
J. Wesley Huston J. Wesley Huston ... Bernard Frost
Frank Dent Frank Dent ... Dr. Jason Halpern
Charles Lanyer Charles Lanyer ... Merritt Cunningham
Mie Hunt Mie Hunt ... Ellen Stevens
Bruce Fields 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




Did You Know?


The film was part of a 1980s cycle of films about atomic bombs and nuclear warfare which had started in 1979 with The China Syndrome (1979). The films included Silkwood (1983), Testament (1983), Threads (1984), WarGames (1983), The Day After (1983), The Atomic Cafe (1982), The Manhattan Project (1986), Whoops Apocalypse (1982), Special Bulletin (1983), Ground Zero (1987), Barefoot Gen (Barefoot Gen (1983)), Rules of Engagement (1989), When the Wind Blows (1986), Letters from a Dead Man (Dead Man's Letters (1986)), Memoirs of a Survivor (1981) and The Chain Reaction (1980). See more »


The cameraman would not be able to film the explosion. Either the pyroclastic storm or the electromagnetic pulse would render the camera unusable, and at least erase the magnetic tape in the camera. See more »


Bernard Frost: Oh my God! This is incredible! In all my years I've never seen anything like this! It's incredible! People are burnt beyond recognition!
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 »

Alternate Versions

The video release omits the "dramatization" on-screen disclaimer seen throughout the original TV broadcast. The DVD released through the Warner Archive Collection does contain the on-screen disclaimers. See more »


Referenced in Under Siege (1986) See more »

User Reviews

7 October 2002 | by JohnnyRebSee all my reviews

I was in the studio of WMAR-TV the night this excellent "disaster" film was shown, due to the fact that the Management heard about our OTR Club and that we had WOTW in our collection. I was invited to watch the show and to compare it with the panic b/cast on the 11 o'clock news that followed.

I told them it was very well done, and was very realistic. Had they not had the disclaimers on the screen it could have well been taken for the real thing. I told them if they would have cast real reporters in the major roles it would have added something to the show. Orson Welles used real names of NY based reporters for the broadcast of WOTW which really gave it that authentic feeling. And with the "Secretary Of State" sounding like Roosevelt was the icing on the cake.

I pointed out that at the time Special Bulletin was aired the American public was not as gullible as they were in 1938.(We even played some clips of WOTW to compare it with Special Bulletin). We were on the brink of War and any program like that, would of course cause concern, which, unfortunately it did.

Al in all this film was very well done and was more or less a tribute to Orson Welles and WOTW.


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Release Date:

20 March 1983 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Boletín especial See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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