Special Bulletin (1983)

TV Movie   |    |  Drama

Special Bulletin (1983) Poster

A TV reporter and cameraman are taken hostage on a tugboat while covering a workers strike. The demands of the hostage-takers are to collect all the nuclear detonators in the Charleston, SC... See full summary »


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User Reviews

19 February 2005 | mmears-1
| Far ahead of its time
Though this originally aired (on NBC, if I remember correctly) in 1984, it was prescient in how it depicted news media coverage of a "breaking news" event.

Complete with glitzy (for their time) graphics, concerned anchors, wall-to-wall coverage, talking heads, and gripping live reports, it does not seem dated (except for the hair styles!), even today.

Though it depicts the coverage of a hostage crisis by a fourth broadcast network, this aired a year before the Fox network came into existence. The RBS network's graphics, promotional spots, and anchors are so realistic that the real network that aired the film really didn't have any choice but to continually remind viewers that what they were watching was fiction. And though we're all familiar today with the news networks' saturation coverage of live events, this originally aired only 4 years after the inception of CNN -- before that network was the major force that it is today.

Depicting a gripping series of events, it's as much or more of a commentary on how the news media handles such situations than anything else. The way that the events are presented will seem eerily familiar to anyone in today's world, but remember that terrorism was not a big concern to many people 20 years ago.

The acting and production values combine to make for one of the most powerful films ever produced for television. I highly recommend this film not only for its impact, but for its almost too accurate portrayal of events that are all too easy to imagine in today's world.

Critic Reviews

Did You Know?


When this film was first broadcast, the network superimposed the word "dramatization" on the bottom of the screen every few minutes and ran disclaimers after every commercial break, to remind people it was only a movie. That didn't stop some people in Charleston, S.C. from panicking anyway.


Susan Myles: Good evening, this is News Watch. Emergency efforts continue in Charleston, South Carolina, where 3 days ago a nuclear explosion destroyed the heart of the city. Estimated at an yield of 23,000 tons of TNT was seen and heard up to 400 miles away and...


When the RBS newsroom transfers to their reporter Megan Barclay in Charleston, she begins her report saying; "The situation began approximately 1 hour ago". The report then screens some video from their reporting team and then shows some Super-8 footage which was filmed by a tourist on a sightseeing boat. Super-8 is a film, not video, format. Normally the cost of the film cartridge included postage to a Kodak laboratory where it would be developed and then mailed back to the owner. In this instance, After the boat had reached shore, it would have been necessary to take the film to a Kodak developing facility to be processed, after which it could be taken to the news studio. Due to the time required to get the film to a laboratory for processing and then to get to the news studio it would have been impossible to do this within the time allowed.

Crazy Credits

Opens with a commercial advertising shows for the fictional RBS network, followed by the title "Special Bulletin" as the commercial is interrupted. There are no opening credits, making this one of the first TV movies ever produced without some sort of opening credits.

Alternate Versions

The video release omits the "dramatization" on-screen disclaimer seen throughout the original TV broadcast. The DVD released through the Warner Archive Collection does contain the on-screen disclaimers.


Plot Summary




Release Date:

20 March 1983



Country of Origin


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