Shake the Scene: Black Sunday


Black Sunday (1977)

blacksunday1977The Scene: Super Bowl Terrorist Attack

Why We Love This Scene: With Super Bowl Sunday upon us this weekend, I decided to revisit an underrated action classic, Black Sunday. Directed by John Frankenheimer and starring Robert Shaw and Bruce Dern, it’s a taunt action-thriller that tells the story of Palestinian terrorist group Black September aided by Goodyear (Good year? No, the worst) Blimp pilot and disgruntled ex-Vietnam POW (Dern) to kill 80,000 attendees at Super Bowl X using the blimp as a metal dart explosive devise. 

What’s extraordinarily cool and rare in this thriller was it actually was filmed at the actual Super Bowl in Miami when the Steelers beat the Cowboys 21-17. There’s a ton of cameos from the players and coaches like Terry Bradshaw, Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Mean Joe Greene, Ed “Too Tall” Jones as well as Joe Robbie and commentator Pat Summerall. (I think I also saw Mike Ditka) It certainly gives this action movie more gravitas having actual filmed events as the backdrop. Hell, even president Jimmy Carter is presented in a very brief cameo. Yes, Jimmy Carter has a cameo in a Bruce Dern action movie. But I guess that’s nothing compared to other presidents’ cameos like this.

So rewatching it again today I found myself really enjoying it. It’s quickly paced and well-acted and has a decent story and plot. It kinda gets silly towards the end and the plot of Dern and his Palestinian girlfriend gets too easily convenient for them. Dern is a Goodyear pilot but loses out his chance to fly on Super Bowl Sunday to another pilot. Seems like the type of crucial detail to make sure they achieve for such a plot. When he tells the girlfriend he’s pretty calm about it and says they can try again next year (I suppose they’ll just let the tons of plastic explosives sit in the garage for another year). After a rather hokey emotional breakdown from Dern they decide that they’ll [SPOILERS] simply kill the other pilot in the hotel room the morning of the Super Bowl so he can be the pilot. Meanwhile, Shaw (who plays an Israeli Mossad agent) is on the hunt for them and the whole Super Bowl is heavily-guarded and at heightened security poised for an attack. Dern simply tells his blimp team that the other pilot had a crazy night of drinking and some woman poked him in the eye and he was in the hospital. You would think that Goodyear would have better security measures for this kind of clearance when they know of a potential threat. So yeah, it gets rather silly by the end. And the special effects are certainly on the low end of impressive even for the late 70s but otherwise this is a fun little 70s flick to watch still.

Another bit of interesting trivia for this 40-year-old gem. It was based on the first novel from acclaimed novelist, Thomas Harris, author of those Hannibal Lecter books.

This clip shows the rather laughable scene of the blimp “attacking” the Super Bowl. It luckily doesn’t spoil the whole ending so you can certainly seek this out and enjoy the rest on your own.

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