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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

NOT-SO-SECRET SANTA REVIEW SWAP BLOGATHON: Black Sunday (1977)


I just thought that the Good Year blimps did would tell us that “Ice Cube’s a pimp”. However, I was a dead wrong. It’s apparently a WEAPON OF DESTRUCTION!!

After stumbling upon a possible terrorist plan, Israeli anti-terrorist operative Major David Kabakov (Robert Shaw) decides that it’s time to take matters into his own hands and catch who exactly it is that’s behind this, what their plan is and when exactly their going to pull this all off. Even though he doesn’t know yet, we do, and it just so happens to be a very angry, very evil Dahlia Iyad (Marthe Keller) who’s been setting up this plan of her own for awhile, but hasn’t gotten the “go-to” just yet. But once almost every person that’s above her in the food-chain perishes, gets found out, or simply backs away from this plan, she too decides to take matters into her own hands, enlisting a Vietnam vet (Bruce Dern), who also happens to be a frequent pilot for a Good Year blimp that goes over football stadiums on the day of the games, just to get a couple of nice action shots here and there. And heck, the Good Year blimp is so awesome and handy to have around, they even enlist it to do its job on the most special football Sundays of all time: The Super Bowl. See where this one’s going?

Get your head in the game dammit!

Get your head in the game dammit!

What may have seemed like a pretty illogical and nutso idea to have back in the days of 1977, gives off a very creepy, slightly eerie feeling watching it now, in the 21st Century. For instance, back in those days, the idea of a group of terrorists taking over the same Good Year blimp that hovers over the Super Bowl, where all sorts of fans, players and even high-ranking politicians go to sit back and relax, and attaching the bomb to it with all intents of a mass murder, seemed like one of those Hollywood, big-budget movie-making “what if” ideas. It would have been the same idea some guy probably made to a hot-shot executive saying how the people would love it and totally venture out to go and witness just what it’s all about.

However, in the year 2013, where things like 9/11, school shootings, the Afghanistan war and the Boston Marathon Bombings, seem to pop-up in every U.S citizen’s minds on a day-to-day basis, not only would it not be played for such a “gee, wouldn’t this be crazy?”-feel, and more of a “this could actually happen” one, and therefore, never get made. That’s why movies like these, no matter how dated they may actually be or feel, still hold plenty of thoughts and ideas that can be looked at in a current-mind, rather than one that’s just looking at it as if it was 1977 all over again. That’s not the type of world we live in now, and that’s why, at times, this movie was definitely a little hard to watch.

All of that thought-provoking yammering aside, this movie is still a movie and it should definitely be taken in as that, regardless of when it was released and the subject content it involves.

If you’re going to have a movie that’s all leading-up to a huge, bloated and disastrous climax, it makes sense to want to build-up to it by creating characters, spending time developing them, as well as the situation, what’s at stake here and why everything we are seeing and hearing now matters, especially when we know that everything’s going to blow up into itty bitty pieces during the last 20 or so minutes. And for the most part, the movie does a relatively effective at job at doing that, however, it does take quite awhile to get going and even when it does actually get its foot moving, it never really escalates to much.

Actually, that’s incorrect, because there are quite a couple of cool, tense and action-packed sequences that happen here, and made me feel like it was working to something big, while also still giving us tiny pleasures in between. There’s a chase-sequence between a terrorist member and the whole police squad that starts off in a hotel, then spills out onto the gritty streets of L.A., and then, for one reason or another, ends up on a beach in the most ironic scene of all. It’s a nice scene that practically comes out of nowhere, however, it grabbed me by the throat and took me for a ride. There’s even another scene like that in the form of a boat chase that doesn’t look half-as-bad as it sounds. So yeah, there are some moments where this movie really kicks into high-gear, before going balls-out crazy in the end, and it kept me sticking with this all, even though I felt like there was nothing really interesting happening underneath this at all.

Mainly though, I have to discredit the writing for that, because while these characters do seem pretty standard in terms of their motivations for doing the things that they do, there’s never really much more to them. The late, great Robert Shaw is the determined agent who doesn’t take crap from anyone, and dishes out more violence and pain than the actual violence and pain he’s trying to stop from happening, and has a couple of scenes where you get that he’s trying to stop these terrorists because it’s his right as a citizen and as a human being, but it doesn’t go much deeper than that. We know he had a wife, two kids and has a daughter that he rarely so often sees, but there’s not much more to the guy other than that he wants to stop this terrorist attempt from actually happening. It does make him a great guy and all, but not a very interesting one to watch, despite how hard Shaw tries to make this guy practically jump-off the screen at us. Instead, he’s just jumping onto Good Year blimps, but more on that second.

Pen exploded I'm going to assume?

Pen exploded I’m going to assume?

Same that I say about Shaw’s character, can’t quite be said about our two terrorists for the whole two-hours-and-a-half, although they do seem pretty standard in their own rights as well. I’ll give credit to the writers for at least giving us bad-ass chick that not only screws her way to the top, but makes the most of her time looking down on those beneath her and doesn’t piss and moan about how she doesn’t get as much respect as the dudes. Yeah, she’s a terrorist and all that’s trying to kill thousands of innocent people, but the movie does make it seem like she’s basically doing this to gain some street-cred for the d-bags that authorize her what, and what not to do. Bruce Dern probably gets off a bit better as the disgruntled vet that, wait for it, wants to get back at his country and teach them a lesson that they’ll never forget. Dern does find some real heart and humanity within this character and we get the sense that underneath all of the disturbing memories and PTSD, that he was actually a nice, kind, gentle and warm-hearted man; it’s just that the war beat it all out of him. Literally.

But while we’re waiting for this climax to eventually happen, we’re all subject to these people just doing the usual chit-chat where they say what they’re going to do next, why and when exactly. It all feels like exposition, and rarely ever feels like actual human beings talking to one another; let alone human beings that are about to be apart of something as big and as terrifying as the Good Year blimp running into a football stadium and killings thousands of people. Even when the climax does come up, it is the fun, exciting and tension-filled spectacle you expected to get, but then, it suddenly becomes a bit goofy. I know it was 1977 and all, but the special-effects for this were just a bit too cheesy and after awhile, it began to take me out of this story that was supposed to be happening up in the air above thousands of football fans, and just made it seem like I was watching something that happened in an L.A. sound-stage with only 15 or so more people watching. Also, to top it all off, we have one of John Williams’ first scores and while it can be a doozy at times, it feels wrong for the material because of how dark, cold and brutal events we’re seeing on screen. But to him, it was just another battle between Luke and his daddy. Oh, the days of vintage-Williams.

Consensus: While it holds a very scary, threatening light in today’s society, Black Sunday is still a supposed “epic” that’s not as thrilling as it should be, nor is it as interesting either. It just moves along a steady-pace, telling its story and has us all awaiting for the huge, bloated and over-the-top climax that delivers, and then somehow, doesn’t.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sunday3

Quite fitting, don’t you think?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

To see all of the other various reviews and picks going on with the Not-So-Secret Santa Review Swap, check out my buddy Nick’s site, the Cinematic Katzenjammer! It’s a good time, no matter what the occasion may be!

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9 responses to “NOT-SO-SECRET SANTA REVIEW SWAP BLOGATHON: Black Sunday (1977)

  1. Ted S. December 19, 2013 at 6:54 am

    This movie’s one of my favorite action flicks of the 70s. Not sure if you knew but it’s based on a novel by Thomas Harris, same dude who wrote all those Hannibal Lecter books and he based the book on the attacks of the Israelis athletes at the 1972 Olympics. If you remember, Spielberg made a film about that event in Munich.

    Anyhoo, sorry for the history lesson, back to Black Sunday; I thought it’s a great thrill and it stayed very close to the novel. The book gave more background story to each of the characters and why they did what they did. I hope Paramount will release it on Bluray soon, it’s one of John Frankenheimer’s best films.

    • CMrok93 December 21, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      I know about the book, although I never read it. However, the movie being made was a very bold move and I think it deserved credit for at least keeping the tension going for a good portion of its run-time.

  2. movierob December 19, 2013 at 9:23 am

    great review. Love this movie

  3. lauren December 19, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    Hi I’ve nominated you for the Sunshine Blog Award, to accept it and follow the rules go to http://mykindofmovie.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/sunshine-blog-award/

  4. ctc1965 December 19, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I enjoyed the hell out of this flick when I was a kid. But I haven’t seen it since the ’70s. It’s on Netflix now; I should check it out again.

  5. geelw December 29, 2013 at 3:38 am

    Heh. Merry Super-Mas! I was your not-so-secret Santa and it was a BEAST trying to find a film because Netflix STINKS. Ask Nick about our facebook chat when EVERY film I threw at him (old to newer) as a choice wasn’t on NF! I don’t use it at all because of that (and my home connection is CRAP). SO Black Sunday was kind of down on a list of about 75 films (I think it was number 41 or something, but I jumped down to it because I took a chance that since it’s Super Bowl related, it comes up as a “holiday” film of sorts).

    You should be glad Two Minute Warning wasn’t on NF, as that was a few films up on the list. Yes, there were TWO films about big football game being attacked made within a year of each other. This one was about a sniper, so it’s a lot more disturbing (yet implausible in how some aspects are handled) if you see it with modern eyes. I’ve always found BS’ blimp bomb funny in an “Oh really” manner. Trust me, it’s REALLY friggin’ hard to steal a blimp. I’ve asked around.

    Anyway, warts and all I’d say this holds up as a decent example of the post-JAWS “event” movie and although I’m not a football (or other major sports) fan now, I really dug that the film’s climax was partly shot at an actual stadium with the teams coaches, TV crews and crowd present (which helps take some of the load off the cheesy effects away).

    Still, It’s too bad Albert Whitlock wasn’t available to do work on this, as he made The Hindenburg watchable because of his beautiful shots of that doomed blimp floating gracefully through the skies. Well, I don’t think this is getting a remake any time soon (as you noted, people would freak out and the NFL wouldn’t be having any of that blow up the stadium nonsense), but I can see someone maybe redoing the effects down the road (as long as they stay away from 3D, I’m fine with that)…

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