Peter’s Retro Movie Review: The Two-Minute Warning (1976)

January 28, 2013

Two-Minute Warning Posterby Peter Nielsen

With less than a week until the kick-off in Super Bowl 2013, I thought it appropriate to look at a movie with a football setting. I first thought about The Longest Yard, but I have a hunch that’s less forgotten than the one I finally settled on, namely the star-studded drama/thriller Two-Minute Warning.

It’s kind of made like the classic disaster-movies from the 70’s with the same kind of build-up and like most, or all, the movies in that genre it’s filled with lots of stars. Just take a gander at this list of cast-members: Charlton Heston, John Cassavetes, Martin Balsam, Gena Rowlands, David Janssen, Jack Klugman, Beau Bridges and also Walter Pidgeon, who plays a pickpocket who preys on the unsuspecting spectators.

I also spotted Robert Ginty in a very small part as a vendor outside the stadium. I’m not even going to give you examples of various movies they’ve starred in because it would be a long list. You’ll just have to check for yourselves, but I’m almost positive that you’ve seen a couple of the titles this prominent cast has appeared in. Lovers of B-movies might also recognize Andy Sidaris in the role as a TV Director!

The sniper takes aim...

The sniper takes aim…

It’s on the day of a big football championship and we see the fans on their way to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. We’re only presented to a handful of them, of course, but the game is apparently sold out because the stadium is packed.

Along with “ordinary” people, there are also some V.I.P.’s attending, like the Mayor of Los Angeles and the President, for instance. Unbeknownst to everyone is the fact that a sniper has snuck in with the crowd and positioned himself at one end of the stadium, just above the scoreboard. Here he assembles his rifle, settles down and waits…

He’s later spotted by a Goodyear Blimp camera and the stadium manager, Sam McKeever, calls the police to help with the apparent danger. The first to arrive on the scene is Captain Peter Holly who, after checking the situation out, decides to call in a SWAT-team. He tells them to be quiet as they drive up to the stadium, so as not to cause panic. He doesn’t want them to get the sniper right away, but tells them to sneak in and position themselves so they’re ready to go when he gives the signal.



They don’t want the sniper to spot them and start firing into the crowd, thus causing a bloodbath and total chaos. Captain Holly also wants to try to evacuate most of the V.I.P.’s before they make the move on the gunman and this also has to be done without rising suspicion.

Yeah, sure… Good Luck with that one! Of course a bloodbath is unavoidable! After the shooting starts an uncontrollable chaos erupts when 900,00 panic-stricken fans all go for the 33 exits at the same time. Yeah, it’s NOT pretty! It’s actually very disturbing and scary, to tell you the truth. It’s like a huge stampede trampling everything and everybody in its way!

John Cassavetes, Charlton Heston and Martin Balsam

John Cassavetes, Charlton Heston and Martin Balsam

I think the movie ran into a little bit of trouble too, due to the graphic nature that this was depicted. When it was to be shown on TV, it was re-edited with new footage added, but with a lot of the original plot and violence removed. This changed the story so much that the director, Larry Peerce, had his name taken off it! The version I’ve seen is the original theatrical release.

We never get a clear shot (no pun attended) of the sniper. We either see extreme close-ups of his eye or his mouth or we see him from afar in wide shots. We also get to see his hands a lot when he assembles his rifle, opens doors, climbs ladders or when he, during half-time, calmly picks up a candy-bar along with a small radio and relaxes.

But at this point we already know he’s a psychopath, because at the very start of the movie he, also very calmly, shoots and kills a cyclist in a quiet part of town. The only explanation I can think of for this is that he’s testing out the rifle! He then drives off to join everyone else at the stadium. Yeah, not your normal everyday behavior, right?

David Janssen and Gena Rowlands

David Janssen and Gena Rowlands

As I mentioned earlier the introduction to the main characters and the build-up in Two-Minute Warning is very reminiscent of the way they do it in disaster movies. I’m not sure how to explain it, but those of you who’ve ever seen a 70’s disaster-movie will know what I mean. It isn’t really a disaster-movie, though. It just struck me how similar in style it was to them.

Oh, and in case you haven’t figured it out yet… yes, of course I like this movie. It’s a great thriller from the mid 70’s and I do like those! They don’t make them like this anymore. Not with this many stars in its cast they don’t, that’s for sure.

I also like the musical score for Two-Minute Warning. It’s composed by Charles Fox who’s also done the score for National Lampoon’s European Vacation and Zapped for instance, as well as music for TV-shows such as Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days and The Love Boat.

Do you remember the hit-song Killing Me Softly with his Song?

Yup, he wrote the music for that one too!

So, my friends, we’ve reached the end of this week’s review, but I think I’ll leave you with a few more football-related titles… Invincible, Rudy, Any Given Sunday, Remember the Titans, Radio, Jerry Maguire and The Waterboy… There!! That oughta hold ya ‘til Super Bowl-Sunday!

And, as usual… the comment section below is all yours!

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