By Michael O'Sullivan
Steven Spielberg's ``Munich'' opens with a brief prologue, sketching out in only the barest detail the events of Sept. 5, 1972, when Palestinian terrorists took hostage -- and ultimately killed -- 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team during the Munich Olympics. Throughout the course of the fact-based film, which follows the Israeli agents tasked with hunting down and terminating the planners of the attack, the tragedy is recalled in harrowing flashback sequences.
For filmgoers interested in a bit more background on the crisis, which riveted the world but, incredibly, did not stop the games, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has just dusted off two earlier films on the subject.
The better of the two is ``One Day in September'' (R, $19.94), a rerelease of the Academy Award-winning 1999 documentary by Kevin Macdonald that meticulously analyzes the attack by the group known as Black September. In the light of hindsight, what comes across most clearly is that the botched rescue attempt was largely the fault of the Germans, who were not only unprepared but refused to accept an offer of experienced Israeli military assistance.
For those who won't watch documentaries, definitive or otherwise -- and you know who you are -- you could do a whole heck of a lot worse than the feature ``21 Hours at Munich'' (unrated, $19.94), a 1976 made-for-TV alternative starring William Holden as Munich Police Chief Manfred Schreiber and Franco Nero as the terrorist leader called Issa.
Based on the book ``The Blood of Israel,'' by Serge Groussard, and shot almost entirely on location in the Munich Olympic Village in an eerily dispassionate, quasi-documentary style, ``21 Hours'' isn't half bad, especially for TV fare.