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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
John Frankenheimer
Cast:
Robert Shaw, Bruce Dern, Marthe Keller, Bekim Fehmiu, Fritz Weaver, Steven Keats, Michael V. Gazzo
Writing Credits:
Thomas Harris (novel), Ernest Lehman, Kenneth Ross, Ivan Moffat

Synopsis:
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.

Robert Shaw plays an Israeli commando who discovers the plot, masterminded by Marthe Keller, with the help of deranged Vietnam veteran Bruce Dern. Director John Frankenheimer creates a chilling portrait of people obsessed with a cause for which they will die.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Monaural
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 143 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 10/14/2003

Bonus:
None


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RELATED REVIEWS


Black Sunday (1977)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 10, 2003)

30 years ago, a movie about a massive terrorist attack on US soil probably sounded pretty far-fetched. Unfortunately, such a concept now seems far too real, and that factor should make 1976’s Black Sunday gripping and compelling. Unfortunately, the film largely fails to explore its subject in a satisfactory way.

Sunday starts in Beirut on November 12. We meet the members of a Palestinian terrorist organization called Black September. With Dahlia (Marthe Keller) in command, they plan a big attack on America, and she records a message that will run after this occurs. A disgruntled US military vet named Michael J. Lander (Bruce Dern) wants revenge on the US for their poor treatment of him after his experiences in Vietnam. He remains in America, so he’s not around when an Israeli counter-terrorist team led by Major Davis Kabakov (Robert Shaw) enters the Black September compound and takes out many of its members.

However, Dahlia survives and heads to America to continue the plan. Unfortunately for them, she couldn’t retrieve a tape recording she made that announced the plan, and Kabakov captures it. This gives him and his group some loose information about the plot, so he follows to the US to trail the terrorists.

The rest of the movie follows the plot. We see Dahlia and Lander attempt to bring things to fruition as they plan their attack on the Super Bowl at the end of January. Kabakov and his partner Robert Moshevsky (Steven Keats) try to figure out the identity of Dahlia and then find her and stop the plot.

Back when Black Sunday hit screens in 1976, I was nine and I recall I really wanted to see it. I used to love the disaster flicks that were all the rage at the time, and the film’s promos made it seem like it’d be an entry in that genre. I never was able to check out Sunday due to its rating; my parents figured nine was too young to take in an “R”-rated picture.

I doubt anything in Sunday would have corrupted my young mind too badly; the movie’s violence doesn’t seem especially traumatizing. However, I’m glad my parents didn’t let me see the flick just because it might well have bored me to death.

One might expect the current state of world affairs would make Sunday more tense and disturbing, but unfortunately, the film’s glacial pacing robs of it any power. Sunday is a fairly long movie, and it takes its own sweet time to go anywhere. The whole thing is essentially a cat and mouse chase, but both animals seem only barely interested in the pursuit, and the procedures move terribly slowly.

Really, it feels like the movie goes out of its way to extend things. Heck, the whole movie should have been nipped in the bud at the start. Kabakov corners Dahlia during that initial raid, but for reasons unknown, he lets her go. Shoot her there and that’s that!

But unfortunately, that would have made sense, and Sunday rarely displays any logic. Why’d Dahlia record a message in November that won’t air until the end of January? Solely so Kabakov can find it, to be truthful; there’s no sensible reason for this to occur in the real world. Many other artificial obstacles pop up along the way to draw out the chase, but these seem silly and pointless.

Even when the flick heads towards its big Super Bowl attack climax, it dawdles terribly. Director John Frankenheimer displays endless images of game-related activities for no apparent reason. Actually, I suppose he does this because they went to all that trouble to film at the real game so he wanted to make the most of the footage. That’s not a good reason for filmmaking purposes, and it causes the movie to drag terribly. Occasionally I started to fear we’d end up watching the entire football game, as Frankenheimer simply can’t tear the movie away from the contest.

There’s a good story at the heart of Black Sunday, but don’t expect to see it in this dull and tedious film. It moves exceedingly slowly and takes far too long to go anywhere. Even when it gets to that point, it fails to delve into its topic with any sense of urgency or tension. Too much of the movie seems obvious and the flick fails to ever become even moderately satisfying.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus F

Black Sunday appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film betrayed its Seventies roots at time but nonetheless generally looked pretty positive for its age.

Sharpness displayed no problems. The movie seemed nicely crisp and detailed at all times. I noticed no signs of softness or fuzziness. I also detected no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, but some mild edge enhancement seemed apparent during parts of the flick. Given the movie’s age, print flaws appeared minor. Occasional examples or specks and grit popped up, but these didn’t cause many issues. Grain looked a bit heavier than normal, but since much of the film came in low light conditions, that didn’t surprise me.

Since many scenes came in dark situations, I was pleased to see that blacks seemed reasonably deep and dense. Shadows occasionally looked a little murky, but they mostly were nicely developed and appropriately defined. Colors tended to be a bit drab. At times the hues looked nicely distinct and concise, but oddly, some outdoors shots – which usually present the strongest tones – tended to be somewhat flat. The colors varied but mostly seemed acceptably accurate. Not much about the image of Black Sunday stood out from the crowd, but it appeared good in general.

I also felt positively about the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Black Sunday. Paramount usually makes their remixes tasteful, and Sunday fit into that mold. The soundfield mostly featured audio in the front channels. The score fared particularly well, as the music showed very nice stereo imaging and seemed cleanly delineated. Effects also broadened well, as the mix created a good sense of general atmosphere. The track kicked into life decently when appropriate such as during the raid on the Black September base. Surround usage also waited for bigger sequences to add much to the track. For example, football games brought a fine feeling of environment.

Audio quality varied but was mostly good for the age of the source material. Speech occasionally demonstrated a little edginess and generally seemed a bit thin. Nonetheless, the lines always remained easily intelligible and appeared average for their era. Effects displayed modest distortion during louder scenes, especially those with explosions or crowds. Otherwise the elements usually sounded fairly accurate. Music worked especially nicely, as the score presented deep and tight audio. Highs were clean and bass response was surprisingly dynamic and tight. The track presented too much distortion to merit a grade above a “B”, but it still featured some generally solid audio.

Black Sunday includes no supplements. No trailer, no commentary, no documentary – nothing!

At its heart, Black Sunday features an intriguing plot, and given the state of world affairs, it should offer a chilling and exciting examination of its topic. Unfortunately, the movie presents a silly and disjointed affair that takes forever to progress and never becomes tense or compelling. The DVD features slightly dated but mostly very good picture and audio, but it lacks any supplements. Fans of the flick should feel pleased with the positive treatment accorded the movie itself, but I can’t recommend this dull dud to anyone else.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8421 Stars Number of Votes: 19
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