Tag Archives: Special Bulletin

A short review of “Miracle Mile” (1988)

“Miracle Mile” (1988) actually came highly recommended to me.  And that’s perplexing, because this is a pretty bad nuclear war thriller that I’d only grudgingly rate a 4 out of 10.

The script is terrible.  We know that from the film’s opening minutes, when it attempts to establish Anthony Edwards as a likable protagonist by showing him performing impromptu stand-up for schoolchildren on a field trip to a Los Angeles natural history museum.  (He is not a chaperone for the field trip, or connected with these schoolchildren in any way.  He apparently just hangs around alone at museums to inexplicably crack jokes for children he does not know.)

From there, we follow an abortive, cloddishly written romance between two mostly unappealing characters.  (Mare Winningham is the other half of the romance doomed by the impending apocalypse.)  I won’t bore you with the details about the ensuing end-of-the-world thriller, except that an implausible plot device gives the nascent couple and a handful of secondary characters advance knowledge of the nuclear missiles that will hit Los Angles in just more than an hour.

Even the acting was mostly poor.  Surprisingly, this includes the performance by Edwards himself, who has shown nothing but talent in every other role in which I’ve seen him.

The movie comes close to redeeming itself near the end.  Its obligatory chaos-in-the-streets set-piece is surprisingly well done for an otherwise mediocre film, and there are a few good lines when the couple reunites at the movie’s finale.  I suppose you can also have a lot of fun spotting a bevy of other character-actors from the 80’s and 90’s.

I … can’t actually recommend this, though.  I can’t remember the last time I was this disappointed by a film that my friends insisted was great.  Check out 1983’s “Special Bulletin,” instead.  Or, better yet, hunt down Britain’s superb nuclear war mini-series, “Threads” (1984).



A review of “Special Bulletin” (1983), with link

There’s a pretty damn interesting chestnut from from 80’s-era nuclear nightmare films available on Youtube — 1983’s “Special Bulletin.”  (The link is below.)  I was surprised I hadn’t heard of it.  I think most 80’s kids remember ABC’s “The Day After.”  That infamous television movie was a cultural touchstone that scared a generation of kids.  “Special Bulletin” was produced by NBC the same year, actually preceding “The Day After” by nine months.  Instead of a world-ending war with Russia, the feature-length special imagined a single incident of nuclear terrorism in Charleston, South Carolina.  (I myself had no idea that Charleston was the strategic military nexus that the movie explains it to be.)

“Special Bulletin” was filmed as a “War of the Worlds”-type narrative, consisting exclusively of faux news coverage, and it’s pretty damned good.  (It won a handful of Emmys.)  It’s just as frightening today — or maybe more so, given the increased threat of precisely this kind of terrorism from stateless groups.

The acting is mostly good, the directing successfully captures the feel of live news coverage, and the absence of a musical score further lends the movie a sense of realism.  The story has a few surprises for us, too — the plot setup is creative and interesting, and much more thought went in the the teleplay than I would have expected.  The film asks some difficult questions about the role of the media in affecting the outcome of high-profile crimes like the one depicted.  (Would such questions be more or less relevant in the age of camera-phones, uploaded ISIS executions and Facebook Live?  I’m not sure.)

I was also quite impressed with some of “Special Bulletin’s” thriller elements.  (I’d say more, but I will avoid spoilers for anyone who wants to watch it below.)

One thing that detracts from the format’s realism is the fact that some of this movie’s actors are easily recognizable from other roles in the 80’s (although it’s fun spotting them as an 80’s movie fan).

Most viewers my age, for example, will recognize Ed Flanders and Lane Smith.  The utterly sexy female reporter who arrives on location at Charleston Harbor is Roxanne Hart, who later played Brenda in “Highlander” (1986).  (She’s still quite beautiful, guys, and she’s still making movies.)  Most jarring of all, however, is a prominent role played by David Clennon, who any fan of horror-science fiction will recognize as Palmer from John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece, “The Thing.”  This is still fun, though — he has that same disarrayed hair.  Was it his trademark back in the day?