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Two-Minute Warning

Original one-sheet poster for Two-Minute Warning.
Directed by Larry Peerce
Produced by Edward S. Feldman
Written by George La Fountaine Sr. (novel)
Edward Hume (screenplay)
Starring Charlton Heston
John Cassavetes
Martin Balsam
Beau Bridges
Marilyn Hassett
David Janssen
Jack Klugman
Gena Rowlands
Walter Pidgeon
Brock Peters
Music by Charles Fox
Cinematography Gerald Hirschfeld
Editing by Walter Hannemann
Eve Newman
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) November 12, 1976 (USA)
Running time 115 min.
Country United States
Language English
For the National Football League rule, see two-minute warning.

Two-Minute Warning is a 1976 suspense and action film directed by Larry Peerce and starring Charlton Heston, John Cassavetes, Martin Balsam, Beau Bridges, Jack Klugman, Gena Rowlands, and David Janssen. It was based on the novel of the same name written by George La Fountaine, Sr. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing.[1][2]



The film portrays an unknown sniper (played by Warren Miller) who positions himself at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum prior to a professional football championship similar to The Super Bowl. During the game, the sniper is accidentally discovered by the television crew when he is revealed hiding on a perch by a Goodyear Blimp camera. In the hopes of capturing the sniper before he opens fire on unsuspecting fans, the police and SWAT team are immediately called in by the stadium manager Sam McKeever (Martin Balsam). Police Captain Peter Holly (Charlton Heston), working with SWAT team Sergeant Chris Button (John Cassavetes), attempt to devise a plan to capture the sniper before the conclusion of the game.

As the film progresses, multiple fans attending the game are introduced including Steve and Janet (David Janssen and Gena Rowlands), an argumentative middle-aged couple; Stu Sandman (Jack Klugman), a gambling addict; a Catholic priest (Mitchell Ryan) who befriends Stu; Mike and Peggy Ramsay (Beau Bridges and Pamela Bellwood), a young married couple with financial problems; an elderly pickpocket (Walter Pidgeon); Al (David Groh), a gregarious single man who begins flirting with Lucy (Marilyn Hassett) when he notices her date(Jon Korkes) is more interested in the game than her.

The stadium's maintenance director Paul (Brock Peters), discovers the sniper's presence and attempts to confront him. The sniper strikes Paul with the butt of his rifle, and undetected by fans, causes Paul to fall several stories to his death. SWAT team members position themselves on stadium light towers and around the sniper nest.

Shortly after the two-minute warning of the football game (when the SWAT team is given the green light to go after the sniper), the sniper realizes he is surrounded and begins to open fire, shooting randomly into the crowd. His shots cause a massive riot in which the panicked fans spill onto the field.

Many security men, Coliseum personnel, and spectators are killed or injured during the sniper's shooting spree: marksmen perched atop stadium-light towers fall or hang by their tethers dead; some spectators are crushed or trampled underfoot while rushing towards exit tunnels; others fall down flights of stairs and escalators; some are pushed over balustrades; and a few people lose their footing while climbing down wall-ivy trestles. Steve, Stu, Chris, Peggy, and the pickpocket are shot (Chris and Peggy survive). Ultimately, the sniper is shot and caught by Peter, Chris, and other members of the SWAT team. Searching through his wallet, the officers learn the sniper's name: Carl Cook. Cook dies, revealing nothing about his intentions, and the officers wonder who he is. Sgt. Button points out that although they know nothing about Cook, over the next few weeks, the media will discover every irrelevant detail about Cook's life and will also question why the officers had to kill Cook.



When released in 1976, Two-Minute Warning was promoted as an entry into the disaster film genre, complete with an all-star cast attempting to survive an immense riot created by the sniper. Joe Kapp, a former NFL quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings (and Boston Patriots), plays a small role as veteran quarterback Charlie Tyler.

The majority of the movie was filmed following the 1975 football season. The game footage for the full stadium shots of the L.A. Coliseum was from the Pac-8 college football game between Stanford (4-3-1) and USC (7-1), played on November 8, 1975. Stanford pulled off an upset and won 13-10.[3] The game program used in the production was from the UCLA vs. USC game, with an additional new cover.


Universal Studios devised a gimmick where moviegoers were not allowed to enter the theater at the moment the football game's two-minute warning began in the film.

Television version

Due to the film's explicit violence and uncomfortable detail of a homicidal sniper acting alone, NBC negotiated with film's company Universal Studios to film additional scenes for its television premiere in 1978. The new scenes would detail an art heist, with the sniper serving as a decoy so robbers could escape without detection. The additional scenes, 30 minutes total in length, were added for the film's TV showing while 45 minutes of the original version were removed. Director Larry Pierce disowned the TV version, which credits the pseudonymous "Gene Palmer" as director and Francesca Turner (who also helped doctor David Lynch's Dune for TV) for the "teleplay". When shown on network television, this version of Two-Minute Warning is often shown rather than the original theatrical release.[4] The television version was not included when the film was released to video and DVD.


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