Length: 143 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, Anamorphic
Audio: English DD 5.1, Restored English Mono, French Mono
Black Sunday is the gripping story of a terrorist group, known as Black September, attempting to blow up a blimp at the Superbowl. In attendance are some 80,000 people, including the President of the United States. “Dahlia” (Marthe Keller) is the mastermind of this plot, with an impressive Bruce Dern along to assist as troubled Vietnam Vet Michael Lander.
Attempting to foil the plot are Israeli commando David Kabakov (Robert Shaw) who stumbled onto information about the attack during a raid, and Sam Corley (Fritz Weaver), an FBI agent.
We aren’t subjected to the cliched incompetent government agents, here. These guys work together and think for themselves. We watch as they discover clues and interrogate suspects, and we cheer them on, because we already know the answers. The focus shifts back and forth, giving the viewer omniscient status over terrorists and agents alike. This works to great effect, substituting suspense and awe for mystery.
The film begins slowly, and ramps up the tension gradually. We finally realize how cold and calculating Dern’s character is when he unnecessarily kills an innocent man during a test of a new bomb design. This scene is one of the most memorable moments of cinema from the late 70’s, as is the finale - when a helicopter chases the explosives-laden blimp over the capacity crowd at the Super Bowl.
Based on a book by Thomas Harris, which in turn is inspired by the terrorist events surrounding the 1972 Olympics in Munich, the film is adeptly directed by John Frankenheimer with excellent performances by Shaw and Dern, and a nice musical score by John Williams.
Black Sunday is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is anamorphically enhanced. The source material is as close to pristine for an unrestored print more than 25 years old as you could ever expect to find. The picture is reasonably sharp for filmstock of this era, and there is no evidence of artificial sharpening. Fine grain is abundantly present, getting courser in some darker scenes, as from the original elements. The picture is bright, with generally good shadow detail, though detail occasionally suffers in the night photography. Colors are somewhat muted, but are rendered reasonably accurately.
Included are a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, and a restored English mono soundtrack. The 5.1 remix adds significant spaciousness to the film, especially the bulk of the last act with crowd noise at the Superbowl. LFE is used to decent effect for explosions and music. This is not an aggressive remix, which is a good thing. Surround and LFE information are not up to modern standards - but coming from a mono source, they sound pretty nice. The 5.1 remix, for those interested, gives just enough to modernize the soundtrack without coming off as gimmicky.
The restored English mono track sounds very nice. There is good, wide frequency response, and very little in the way of unwanted noise. Sounds are pinned front and center, where they belong.
There are no special features. This is a bare-bones catalog release.
I had never seen Black Sunday, except as modified for television. The film really needs a wide frame, and it was a treat to see it as it was intended, for the first time. It looks and sounds wonderful on this DVD from Paramount. This film has more relevance today than it did when it was made over 25 years ago.