21 HOURS AT MUNICH. Made-for-TV movie. ABC, 7 November 1976. William Holden, Shirley Knight, Franco Nero, Anthony Quayle, Richard Basehart. Director: William A. Graham.

   Surprisingly bloody and violent for a made-for-TV movie (released theatrically overseas), 21 Hours at Munich is a minimalist docudrama recreation of the Palestinian terror attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Franco Nero stars as Issa, the leader of the Palestinian Black September organization. He’s portrayed as a killer, albeit a reluctant one who is more interested in freeing his brothers from Israeli jails.

   Over the course of a day, he faces off against Munich Chief of Police Manfred Schreiber (William Holden) who is determined to save as many lives of the Israeli captives as possible. Rounding out the cast are Richard Basehart as German prime minister Willi Brandt, Shirley Knight as a Olympics security officer tasked with acting as a liaison between the authorities and the terrorists, and Anthony Quayle as an Israeli general who is deeply skeptical of the German authorities’ ability to pull off a successful counter-terrorist operation.

   A lot of the proceedings are unfortunately devoted to repetitive conversations between Issa and Schrieber in which the latter asks for more time to reply to the terrorists’ demands and the formerer fumes with anger. The more effective moments, however, are in the portrayals of the bursts of tragic violence that marred an event nominally devoted to the brotherhood of man. The downbeat ending is followed by voice-over narration that resounds on a decidedly pessimistic note. Teleplay by Edward Hume and Howard Fast.