This article is a Benefit, offered to chewer, Manny Fraker, who was the Grabber of the Month for the Graboid for January. His requested Benefit was a Movie of the Day for Black Sunday (2003), so here it is.
You too can be a Grabber of the Month if you play the game hard, believe in yourself and never give up. Or you pay off the right person.
The Film: Black Sunday (1977)
The Principals: Director: John Frankenheimer. Starring: Robert Shaw, Bruce Dern, Marthe Keller, Fritz Weaver, Steven Keats, Bekim Fehmiu.
The Premise: An Israeli counter-terrorist agent, Kabakov (Shaw) works with American authorities to stop a planned terrorist bombing of a target on American soil. Kabakov is especially dedicated to the mission because he staged a preemptive raid on the terrorist headquarters in Beirut, but failed to kill a key figure in the plot, Dahlia Iyad (Keller), even though he had her dead to rights. The terrorists are members of Black September, the same group that carried out the 1972 Munich hostage massacre. Dahlia is working with a disgruntled former Navy pilot, Lander (Dern), who is mad at the USA for his treatment both during and after the war. His plan with Dahlia is to stage a gigantic fragmentation bomb at the Super Bowl by using explosives smuggled into the country and mounted the Goodyear blimp. When Kabakov and the authorities find out the plan, it becomes a mad dash to stop the blimp from entering the Orange Bowl in Miami before it’s too late.
Is It Good: It’s quite engaging. John Frankenheimer was certainly no stranger to political intrigue films and Black Sunday is well crafted by him. What really stands out shot-wise is the copious amount of footage of Shaw and the other actors and action taking place during Super Bowl X. I’ve seen plenty of NFL films material on the subject, but there was still something about seeing the Steelers, Cowboys and Landry like they were extras, which they were really in a sense. There’s nothing like filming a major event like that and working it into the story. This is probably the best I’ve ever seen it done. Although it was funny later on when the fans were stampeding out of the orange bowl and they worked in some shots of extras portraying Steelers and Cowboys in the frenzied shots.
Acting is solid all around. And it’s hard to imagine that Robert Shaw passed away only about two years later. Because he was running around and killing shit and being very much the action hero here. If there’s one drawback, it’s that for the second half of the film, he didn’t really have a running buddy like Steven Keats’ Moshevsky off which to bounce key dialogue and character moments. Keller is also good as Dahlia, and able to hold her own against any of her male counterparts. But Dern steals this entire movie as Lander: volatile, disgruntled, determined and just barely hanging on to his sanity. You’re wondering how he kept from just wasting everybody in that VA hospital.
Frankenheimer constructs a methodical, mostly well-paced film. But at 143 minutes, some 22 minutes longer than his Ronin, which had considerably better characterization and intricacy of plot, it does tend to drag a bit in places. Still, the excellent working in of the Super Bowl as a backdrop does make up for most any flaw in the film, of which there are relatively few. John Williams does the score and while not one of his best, it does hit the right high notes when it needs to, particularly in te climax.
Is It Worth A Look: If you’re Cowboys fan maybe not. Otherwise, yes.
Random Anecdotes: Jimmy was shown to be the president, although Super Bowl X took place on January 18, 1976, when Gerald Ford was still in the White House.
Cinematic Soulmates: The Sum of All Fears, The Peacemaker, Munich