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John Frankenheimer
Robert Shaw, Bruce Dern, Marthe Keller
Writing Credits:
Ernest Lehman, Kenneth Ross, Ivan Moffat

A terrorist group plots to blow up a Goodyear blimp hovering over the Super Bowl.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English LPCM Stereo
English LPCM Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 143 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 3/28/2023

• Audio Commentary with Film Scholar Josh Nelson
• “It Could Be Tomorrow” Featurette
• “The Directors” Documentary
• Image Gallery


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BDT220P Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Black Sunday [Blu-Ray] (1977)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 12, 2023)

45 years ago, a movie about a massive terrorist attack on US soil probably sounded pretty far-fetched. Unfortunately, after 9/11, such a concept became far too real.

That factor should make 1977’s Black Sunday gripping and compelling. However, the film largely fails to explore its subject in a satisfactory way.

In Beirut, 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.

Disgruntled US military vet 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.

This doesn’t eliminate all of them, though. The remnants of Black September pursue a plan to create havoc at the Super Bowl while others attempt to foil this scheme.

Back when Black Sunday hit screens in 1977, 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, as 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 21st century state of world affairs would make Sunday more tense and disturbing, but unfortunately, the film’s glacial pacing robs of it any power. At 143 minutes, Sunday offers a fairly long movie, and it takes its own sweet time to go anywhere.

The whole thing is essentially a cat and mouse chase. However, 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, especially since the whole movie should have been nipped in the bud at the start. I’ll avoid spoilers here, but the story stretches credulity in its attempt to keep the plot alive.

But unfortunately, that would have made sense, and Sunday rarely displays any logic. Many artificial obstacles pop up along the way to draw out the chase, and 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 sputter.

Occasionally I feared we’d end up watching the entire football game. 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 Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Black Sunday appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not a great-looking movie, the Blu-ray appeared to replicate the source.

Sharpness usually worked fine, as the movie showed reasonable delineation. While it rarely looked particularly distinctive, the image felt fairly well-defined.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Grain seemed natural, and outside of issues inherent to the source – mainly via process shots – the movie lacked print flaws.

Colors went with the subdued side of natural, as a bright palette wouldn’t make sense for a grim drama such as Sunday. Though the hues lacked much vivacity, they came across appropriately for the movie’s intentions.

Blacks were sufficient – if a little too dense at times – while shadows offered fairly positive clarity. Again, nothing here looked especially great, but the end result suited the story at hand.

Taken from the monaural source – which also appears on the Blu-ray – the DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix worked pretty well. The soundfield mostly featured audio in the front channels, where the score fared particularly nicely, as the music showed solid 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 mostly waited for bigger sequences to add much to the mix. For example, football games brought a fine feeling of environment. Some earlier scenes managed an effective sense of place via the back channels too, though.

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.

The score worked especially nicely, as the score presented tight and full music. The track broadened the source’s horizons in a modest but appealing manner.

How did the 2023 Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2003? Audio showed similar scope but brought moderate improvements to quality, as the lossless DTS-HD MA version felt a little richer.

Visuals offered superior delineation, colors, blacks and cleanliness. For a circa 2003 DVD, that release looked fine, but the 2023 Blu-ray easily topped it.

While the DVD included no extras, we get a few on the Blu-ray, and these start with an audio commentary from film scholar Josh Nelson. During his running piece, Nelson covers the source novel and its adaptation/path to the screen, cast and crew, genre domains, period political domains/controversies, and a mix of production notes.

Note that I didn’t call this a “screen-specific” commentary. While Nelson refers to the action occasionally, this happens too infrequently to meet the criteria for “screen-specific”.

As such, Nelson provides more of an audio essay, and he creates a terrific chat. He offers a dynamic, well-researched view of the movie that becomes a fascinating listen from start to finish.

It Could Be Tomorrow runs 29 minutes, 30 seconds and delivers notes from film critic Sergio Angelini. He looks at production basics as well as an appreciation/interpretation of some aspects of the film.

Because Nelson told us about so much about Sunday, inevitably parts of “Tomorrow” become redundant. Nonetheless, Angelini brings us enough new content to make the program worth a look.

Next comes The Directors, a 2003 documentary that spans 58 minutes, 35 seconds. It brings comments from director John Frankenheimer, producers Martin Manulis, Robert Cooper and Edward Lewis, wife/actor Evans Frankenheimer, and actors Kirk Douglas, Samuel L. Jackson, Roy Scheider, Rod Steiger, Angela Lansbury, Fredric Forrest, Frank Sinatra, Salome Jens, Clarence Williams III, and Ann-Margret.

“Directors” delivers an overview of Frankenheimer’s career. Despite the large batch of participants, Frankenheimer himself dominates.

And that seems fine with me, as Frankenheimer offers an engaging take on his work. This becomes a broad but useful synopsis.

We conclude with an Image Gallery. It provides 45 stills and publicity elements to become a mediocre compilation.

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 Blu-ray features generally positive picture and audio along with a small but worthwhile set of 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.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of BLACK SUNDAY

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