The kings of the U.S. “Big Three” network TV movies are back: David Janssen (Wolf of the Moon) is in front of the camera, with director Jerry Jameson behind the lens (the Drive-In’er The Bat People, the runaway box-office hit, Airport ’77, and TV’s knockoff of The Towering Inferno, aka Terror on the 40th Floor).
Yeah, Sam reviewed this one for a previous “TV Week” back in August, but after my this week’s watching and reviewing Janssen’s radio station helicopter pilot going “Dirty Harry” on murderous bank robbers in Birds of Prey, well, my UHF-TV pumpin’ heart drifted back to this highly-rated, TV movie knock off of Chartlon Heston’s cop vs. football stadium romp, Two-Minute Warning. (Dig into that 1976-made, Heston movie: There’s two different cuts: the theatrical and the TV movie version: the cuts turned the TV movie version into an art heist movie vs. the theatre’s crazed sniper movie — and Heston transforms from a leading to support character!)
Also known in overseas quarters and VHS reissues domains as The Super Bowl Story and Countdown to the Super Bowl, ABC-TV actually used this “Monday Night Movie” entry as a promotional ramp-up for their broadcast of Super Bowl XII. And to make sure we watched: the cast is all here: Ken Howard (then of TV’s hit basketball series, The White Shadow), Michael Pataki (Grave of the Vampire and so many B&S favorites from the ’70s), Donna Mills (hubba-hubba and thumpy-whumpy), and a pre-Magnum Tom Selleck (still career building with things like Daughters of Satan), along with pro-players-turned-actors Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith.
As with Heston’s stadium romp — and later, with Oliver Stone’s dark look at professional football with Any Given Sunday (and toss in the Keanu Reeves-starring The Replacements) — we have another ersatz-professional football league . . . as someone has bone to pick with the hailing world champion, New Orleans Cougars.
Oh, the drama!
Ken Howard’s Dave Wolecki’s has martial issues and a bum knee, Tom Selleck’s Jim McCauley is a star quaterback making bad business choices, and Donna Mills is between it all, as a “who’s who” TV cast of then-hot soap actress Robin Mattson, ’50s and ’60s TV stalwarts Jane Wyatt, Van Johnson, Peter Haskell, and Edie Adams, as well as ’70s everywhere-man Clifton Davis caterwaul about life’s problems as sniper is on the loose. Turns out the Mafia isn’t keen on the odds-favored Cougars for the win, which jeopardizes their $10,000,000 bet on the game for the Rangers to win: when the Cougar’s trainer won’t dope-up the players, he’s murdered. Don’t worry: David Janssen’s team manager will get to the bottom of the mayhem.
Yeah, this is a nostalgia-miles-may-vary flick that’s a disaster-flick-on-the-cheap that plays more as an extended, three-part episode arc of a U.S. soap opera, excuse me, “daytime drama,” with very little football (that’s all stock shots of who knows what semi-pro teams’ game). Is it all Superbad? Superdumb? Superboring? Eh, yeah. Rewatching it all these years later, I see the point. Oh, to be a UHF kid, again, when movies like this were a “wow” experience and movies like this tore it up on the weekly ratings.
You can get your restored DVDs from Kino Lorber. You can watch the three-part highlights from the real Superbowl between the 1978 New Orleans Saints at San Francisco 49’ers on You Tube. The Mystery Science Theatre 3000-spoofed version is on You Tube, but we found a very nice, clean rip on the Euro F-Share streaming platform.
We LOVE our ’70s TV Movies (yeah, even ones from the ’80s and the ones from the early-cable ’90s) and our “Lost TV Week” link will also expose you to many more TV flick delights.
— R.D Francis writes for B&S About Movies.