Black Sunday (1977) poster

Black Sunday (1977)

2h 01 min

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On November 12, 1975, Dahlia Iyad (Marthe Keller) arrives at the airport in Beirut, Lebanon. Taking a taxi into town, she walks through narrow alleys and bazaars, then slips into the back seat of a waiting car. The vehicle takes her to a gated compound, where she meets Nageeb (Victor Campos), a Palestinian co-conspirator. He shows her a secret film of an American prisoner of war named Mike Lander (Bruce Dern) confessing his war crimes to his North Vietnamese captors. Nageeb admonishes Dahlia that she's built an upcoming mission around Lander who is obviously unstable, but Dahlia insists she can control him. Dahlia tells Nageeb to destroy the film because it could compromise her mission. Confident that her plan will succeed, Dahlia records an audio statement on behalf of her guerrilla group, Black September, telling the American people that it's time for them to pay for aiding Israel's repression of the Palestinians.That night, Israeli commando Major David Kabakov (Robert Shaw) leads a strike team against the compound. When Kalakov enters Nageeb's room and kills him, he finds Dahlia taking a shower in the adjoining bathroom; however, he assumes she's Nageeb's mistress or a local prostitute and doesn't shoot her. Kabakov's men gather evidence, including Dahlia's tape recorder, and escape the compound before blowing it up.On November 14, Mike Lander is piloting a Goodyear blimp above a football game at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The head of the television crew is angry because Lander can't get the blimp and its overhead camera in the right spot. But Lander brushes him off, knowing that no other pilot would even try to fly a dirigible in the high winds that day.On November 17, in Washington, D.C., F.B.I. agent Sam Corley (Fritz Weaver) is called to the Israeli embassy to hear Dahlia's tape. Kabakov tells Corley that Dahlia's wording indicates that Dahlia's message was not a warning but rather a justification to be heard after a planned terrorist attack. He suspects the attack is planned for January. Kabakov recognizes Dahlia as the woman he saw in the shower, but he has no idea who she is.Meanwhile, Dahlia goes to Lander's apartment in Los Angeles. Lander is an emotional wreck because Dahlia hasn't contacted him in three days and he thinks she's betrayed him. Dahlia calms him with a gift-a statuette of the Madonna made of an explosive compound that he needs for his project. Dahlia encourages Lander to pull himself together and go to his Veteran's Administration rehabilitation meeting, so that he won't lose his piloting job with Goodyear. Later that day, at the V.A., Lander reveals his bitterness. Despite his heroism and years as a P.O.W. in Vietnam, the Navy turned his wife against him and took away his commission.On the night of November 23, Lander and Dahlia unload wooden crates from a freighter in the Long Beach harbor when a Coast Guard cutter approaches. Since Lander's speedboat is faster and smaller, he's able to evade them by running under a low bridge, but the Coast Guard reports the clandestine activity to the F.B.I. The freighter captain tells Corley that he knows nothing about the incident, but when Kabakov and fellow Israeli agent Robert Moshevsky (Steven Keats) sneak aboard the ship that night and threaten to slit the captain's throat, he confesses that his crew delivered 12 crates to a man and a woman in masks. Just then, the phone rings, and when the captain answers it, the receiver explodes, killing the captain and injuring Kabakov.When Dahlia sees Kabakov on television being carried into the emergency room of a local hospital, she disguises herself as a Catholic nurse, breaks into the hospital drug room and fills a syringe with potassium chloride. However, Moshevsky spots her before she can get into Kabakov's room and demands that she accompany him downstairs to the nurses' station for identification. On the elevator Dahlia jabs the needle into his neck and kills him.As soon as Kabakov gets out of the hospital, he goes to the office of Muzi (Michael V. Gazzo), the local importer in charge of Lander and Dahlia's shipment. Holding Muzi at gunpoint, Kabakov learns that the shipment was plastic explosives, the woman called herself "Kaza" and the man who paid him was an Egyptian in Tripoli named Mamud al Bernardi.On December 3 , Lander and Dahlia land a small plane at a desolate Mojave Desert airstrip to test an explosive device he's designed for the mission. Lander gains the confidence of the airstrip's sole caretaker and kills him by firing off hundreds of "steel rifle darts"-pieces of shrapnel-in one symmetrical blast. Ecstatic with his success, Lander tells Dahlia that 200,000 darts could cause significant damage if they were detonated 100 feet above the fifty-yard line of a football game from the Goodyear blimp.Back in Washington, D.C., Kabakov has a secret rendezvous near the Lincoln Memorial with an old intelligence rival, Egyptian Colonel Riaf (Walter Gotel), and convinces him that it's in both of their interests that he find out who Kaza is. When the men meet again days later, Riaf has a photograph of Kaza and reveals that her real name is Dahlia Iyad. Riaf explains that Dahlia was born in Haifa (then Palestine) to an Arab father and German mother, and Israeli commandos killed the men of her family and forced her mother, sister and Dahlia into refugee camps, where only Dahlia survived.A few days later, Dahlia hauls a speedboat-shaped trailer into Miami, Florida, and parks it in a locked storage area. When she checks into the downtown Hotel Edward, Palestinian agent Mohammed Fasil (Bekim Fehmiu) greets her with news that the Israelis have found out who she is. Although Fasil wants her to abort the mission and go into hiding, she refuses, insisting it's already too far along.On January 1, 1976, Corley and Kabakov are alerted that Dahlia has been spotted in Miami, but by the time they arrive, she has already driven back to Los Angeles and only Fasil is at the hotel. Before F.B.I. agents can apprehend Fasil, he shoots his way out and wages a running gun battle through the city until Kabakov kills him on the beach. When Kabakov and Corley search Fasil's hotel room, the commando holds up a magazine with the Miami Orange Bowl on the cover. The two hurry to the Orange Bowl and try to convince stadium authorities that they need to cancel the upcoming Super Bowl X football game to be held on January 18, but the authorities refuse and claim that the President has arranged to be at the event. Although security is enhanced and all flights over Miami during the Super Bowl are canceled, police helicopters and the Goodyear blimp are allowed to fly overhead.On January 17, the day before the game, Lander's mission is stymied when Goodyear replaces him with another pilot named Farley (Tom McFadden). Assuring Lander that he needn't worry, Dahlia goes to Farley's hotel room, kills him and puts a "Do Not Disturb" sign on his door.The next morning on January 18, Lander joins his crew and tells them that Farley is sick. At the airfield, the men prepare the blimp, lift off and head for the stadium. During the game, Lander starts a fire in one of the engines, which provides him with an excuse to hurry the blimp back to the field and fix it. Dahlia is waiting there with the trailer and helps to hook up Lander's contraption to the underbelly of the blimp's gondola, claiming it's a last-minute request from CBS-TV. However, one of the television crewmen becomes suspicious and runs back to the CBS remote trailer. Lander follows the man and shoots him.Meanwhile, the police find Farley's body at the hotel and alert the authorities that the blimp is the terrorists' weapon. Lander and Dahlia use automatic weapons to kill the men on the blimp airfield, including several policemen and an F.B.I. man, then head back toward the stadium, dumping the gondola's equipment to offset the added weight of the shrapnel.Kabakov and Corley commandeer a police helicopter and follow them, using the gondola's limited visibility beneath the blimp to avoid detection. Lander pilots the blimp with the bomb towards the Orange Bowl stadium while Dahlia provides covering fire as she opens fire and shoots down a police helicopter, and forces unarmed civilian media helicopters to back away. Dahlia opens fire on the helicopter containing Kabakov and Corley when it comes into view, slightly wounding Corley when he tries shooting at the blimp with a rifle.As Kabakov and Corley swoop down next to the gondola for another pass, Kabakov opens fire with his sub-machine gun, killing Dahlia and wounding Lander, but it's too late to stop the blimp. Using the helicopter's cargo hook line, Kabakov slides down onto one of the blimp's rear tails and connects it to the helicopter in time to pull the dirigible away from inside the stadium and toward the nearby ocean. In his final moments, Lander lights a backup fuse to detonate the bomb. Moments after the helicopter lifts Kabakov free from the blimp, Lander's invention explodes in a ball of fire, spraying the ocean surface with shrapnel. With 80,000 lives saved, the helicopter flies back toward Miami.