Sunday, February 05, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Two-Minute Warning (1976)

I enjoy following my kids' college football teams, but have zero interest in pro football -- though I did enjoy taking in the post Super Bowl parade last year at Disneyland.

Super Bowl Sunday is always "movie day" for me! My choice this afternoon was TWO-MINUTE WARNING (1976), in which police captain Charlton Heston and SWAT sergeant John Cassavetes need to take out a sniper threatening the crowd attending a championship football game at the L.A. Coliseum.

The first hour of the movie is quite weak, reminiscent of Heston's EARTHQUAKE (1974). Heston is barely seen in the first 45 minutes or so, where screen time alternates between the first-person perspective of the psycho would-be shooter and introductions to a slew of people attending the game, most of whom it's hard to care about.

The spectators include Jack Klugman as a gambler who's going to be killed if he doesn't win enough at the game to pay off his debts; David Janssen and Gena Rowlands (Cassavetes' real-life wife) as a couple who can't decide whether to bicker or make love; Walter Pidgeon as a pickpocket; and Beau Bridges and Pamela Bellwood (DYNASTY) as a mildly bickering couple attending with their young sons. Marilyn Hassett, an actress I haven't thought of in ages, plays a young woman who flirts with a doctor (David Groh of RHODA) instead of her date (Jon Korkes).

There's a great deal of wasted screen time early on; indeed, I started fast-forwarding through the first-person scenes with the villain, which had no dialogue and went on and on...and on.

The most fun in the first hour comes from the flashbacks to my childhood, with Howard Cosell on the screen, Merv Griffin singing the national anthem, cigarette smoking everywhere (even in the tight quarters of the TV broadcast trailer), gigantic walkie-talkies, and of course the awful '70s fashions and hairstyles.

In one of the most amusing moments, Bellwood squawks over paying $5 for parking in an offsite lot near the Coliseum, to which Bridges retorts if they don't pay it they'll have to walk a mile. A quick Google search turned up the information that offsite parking near the Coliseum now ranges between $100 and $200. Yep, just to park on game day!

Watching the screens in the TV booth, I asked my husband if football game graphics were really that bad in the '70s...they looked so primitive! Incidentally, although it's ostensibly a pro game along the lines of the Super Bowl, one of the teams on the field is clearly the USC Trojans. The Trojan Marching Band is also seen on the field.

The second half of the movie was quite entertaining and made it all worthwhile. Once a member of the TV crew notices that the Goodyear blimp camera has picked up shots of a man with a rifle near the Olympic torch, it's a lot more fun, if silly at times. For instance, how is it that Beau Bridges is the only one of 90,000 spectators to notice the man with the rifle with his binoculars?!

Heston and Cassavetes' characters have a slightly prickly relationship, as they have differing philosophies, but they put minor differences aside to work together as a team. I really enjoyed the police procedural aspect as law enforcement coordinates its approach '70s style, including an officer watching the TV monitor and passing on the sniper's movements via walkie-talkie.

The scenes with stampeding crowds near the end are well orchestrated, including a crazy-looking mob scene crossing the football field.

There are many familiar TV faces in the large supporting cast, including Vincent Baggetta, Mitchell Ryan, Brock Peters, Robert Ginty, Larry Manetti, William Bryant, Tom Bower, and Brad Savage.

In a nice touch, the TV directors in the booth seem to have been genuine TV tech guys rather than actors. There's a great deal of overlapping dialogue in the TV booth scenes and I suspect it was easier coming from people who knew what they were talking about!

TWO-MINUTE WARNING was directed by Larry Peerce and filmed by Gerald Hirschfeld.

The movie runs 115 minutes. According to IMDb there was a padded TV version, which I vaguely recall airing back in the day, but trust me, this movie needed no additional scenes! The movie could easily have been tightened up further; for instance, why on earth did we need to watch Jack Klugman's annoyance at finding mustard on his stadium seat? (Update: Be sure to read the comment about the TV version following this post.)

Parental Advisory: The DVD box indicates the movie is rated R. There's a fair amount of cussing, though not as bad as R movies today, and some blood when people are shot, but again not that bad by modern standards, though a bit startling. I suspect if the movie were rated today it would be a PG-13, which seems about right.

I watched the widescreen DVD. It's also out on Blu-ray and can be streamed on Amazon.

There's a nice review of the movie by Jeff at The Stalking Moon. My name turns up there in the comments -- it sure took me longer to get around to seeing this movie than I'd planned! There's also an informative post on the movie's L.A. locations by Robby at Dear Old Hollywood.


Blogger Bill O said...

It's not that it was padded for tv, but rather the ENTIRE MOVIE'S PLOT was redone for tv - now focusing on an art theft. They even got Heston to film new linking material.It's so altered that both versions were released together on dvd.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Wow, are you kidding? That's hilarious, I had no idea. Maybe I need to see this! (I'll add a note to my post.) Thanks!

Best wishes,

9:13 PM  
Blogger Bill O said...

The sniper's still there, tho. You can find the gory details, or now non-gory details, at "dvddrive-in two minute warning".

10:11 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Bill!

Best wishes,

4:33 PM  
Blogger mel said...

Bill O's comment about a re-done plot involving an art theft makes sense.

I watched this movie for the first time just a few evenings ago and more or less enjoyed it. Something about it troubled me, however, and I'm glad of this opportunity to discuss it.

To my mind, when an author writes a screenplay, the plot of which involves a crime to be committed, he has to show clearly a motive to cause the perpetrator to commit the crime. Without a motive, it makes little sense in the final analysis.

In this film, we, the audience, are never shown why the perpetrator did what he did, e.g. killing a bicycle rider at the beginning of the film, not to mention what happened afterwards, and that destroys the logicality of the story. Of course, the plot would have to be changed somewhat, but an art theft, on the other hand, needs next to no explanation as it's a run-of-the-mill crime.

1:07 AM  
Blogger Bill O said...

Snipers real, and reel, don't necessarily have motives. The killer in Karloff's Targets, Scorpio in Dirty Harry. Heinous acts which are, in a modern context, simply unexplainable.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Mel!

What a coincidence that you just saw this one also!

I thought it was an interesting choice that the perpetrator was mostly shown via "first person" shots or in long shots, mostly on the TV monitor.

I guess I just took it for granted he was psychotic/evil and left it at that, but you're correct there's no onscreen explanation. I'm quite curious how the redone version may change the story in terms of explaining his motivations, etc. Going to have to check it out at some point!

Best wishes,

9:03 AM  

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