Thursday, December 30, 2010

Game Plan For Disaster

As the cover of this Dell paperback indicates, take a dash of BLACK SUNDAY, add the "searing horror" of THE TOWERING INFERNO, and you get Barney Cohen's 1975 novel COLISEUM, which would have made a swell TV-movie starring David Janssen and David Birney.

I'm sure someone in Hollywood did read COLISEUM, because not only did SUPERDOME and MURDER AT THE WORLD SERIES soon become TV-movies about killers infiltrating major sporting events, in 1976, Universal released TWO-MINUTE WARNING, which has the exact same plot as COLISEUM. The Universal film was officially based on George LaFountaine's novel, which presumably also duplicates Cohen's plot. Or did the LaFountaine book come first? I'm not sure.

As you may have guessed, COLISEUM is about a sniper that attacks a 112,000-seat domed stadium on the first Sunday of the National Football League season. In tried-and-true disaster movie fashion, however, the action doesn't start until very late. Up to then, Cohen creates a bunch of different characters and provides us with their various backstories.

What's interesting is the details involving the day-to-day operation of a stadium that plays host to rock concerts, sporting events, and even a millionaire swami. Among the leading characters are publicity director Danny Haber, who is one of the men in charge of the operation; security chief Jason Stretcher; pro quarterback Bo Detwiler; and Mindy Haber, Danny's sister and Bo's lover.

Outside of Danny, most of the characters detailed in Cohen's novel have little to do with the plot, which opens with the sniper (his identity is meant to be a mystery that is revealed about halfway through) sneaking into the stadium a few days early to fire some test rounds. Once the action begins, it's surprisingly brutal, and I was surprised that Cohen doesn't just save the tragedy for white male victims.

Cohen, who moved from novels into screenwriting, maintains a steady pace and clearly was a baseball fan, sprinkling names like Terry Forster and Von Joshua into the narrative. Probably best known for penning the screenplay for FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER, Cohen later wrote a draft or two for Cannon's proposed SPIDER-MAN film, created the vampire-cop series FOREVER KNIGHT, and supervised scripts for the SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH TV series.


mybillcrider said...

I've read a couple of Cohen's novels, Night of the Toy Dragons being my favorite.

Marty McKee said...

I've got that one too.