Theatrical Release: December 5, 1974
Blu Ray Release: October 4, 2016
Director: Sutton Roley
Review by James Klein
Chosen Survivors seems like the kind of film that could have only been made in the 70’s. It’s bleak, ironic, dark, and overall strange and shockingly rated PG. Can you think of a PG movie that would be released now that would have an attempted rape sequence or a body being eaten by bats resulting in an eyeball hanging out?
Set in the not-to-distant future, the world is close to nuclear annihilation. The film opens up in a strange, dream-like sequence with the military forcing a group of people into a bomb shelter that has a built in elevator where the survivors are sent 100’s of feet under the Earth. As they travel down, director Roley uses plenty of slow-motion and odd camera tricks showing our characters becoming disoriented as they travel down to the Earth’s core.
Once they get to the bowels of the shelter, they are greeted by Major Gordon Ellis (Richard Jaeckel from The Dirty Dozen and Day of the Animals) where he informs everyone that the world is under attack and under the numerous surveillance cameras, San Francisco is now a complete wasteland of water. Traumatized and angry, the survivors try to figure out why they were chosen to be saved. And much like Night of the Living Dead, the film focuses on the survivors trying to live with one another in a tight space despite their differences. The main antagonist, business entrepreneur Raymond (Jackie Cooper from Superman) believes this is a hoax and thinks that the good Major holds the key to their release. Cooper steals the movie every time he’s on screen as he’s hilariously over the top and such a dick that it starts to become funny. Other genre actors include Bradford Dillman (Piranha) Alex Cord (Airwolf) Diana Muldaur (Star Trek The Next Generation) and Lincoln Kirkpatrick (The Omega Man) who all hold their own and are pretty decent with the silly material they are given.
While the film would have been fine dealing with these survivors living for five years (that’s how much food they are supplied with, about five years worth) the movie decides to throw in killer bats. The bats are habituated near caves where the bomb shelter is located and somehow are able to break inside the shelter and cause all sorts of havoc. Basically this really is Night of the Living Dead with bats replacing zombies. While the bat attacks are fun to watch and can be bloody, it just makes the film all the more silly and with the hilariously dated special effects, the film is just a straight up B movie, a Friday night popcorn flick. This is not entirely a diss as sometimes it’s fun to watch a cheesy horror film but Chosen Survivors could have been a more taut, edge of your seat thriller. Who will kill our heroes: the bats or each other?
Kino’s blu ray release looks pretty good. The film was shot using a fog filter that was popular back in the day so the image appears soft most of the time. This is not due to the transfer. The film will never really look sharp and with numerous brightly lit sequences, colors look washed out. Having seen the old MGM DVD, Kino’s blu ray looks much better and will probably never look better than it is here on blu ray. The 2.0 DTS-HD sound mix is fine, actually the music (which I loved) is rather loud, more so than dialog but thankfully doesn’t drown out what the characters are saying.
Sadly, this strange and obscure film doesn’t have many special features and I would have loved to have seen some interviews with the surviving cast members (Kino would have scored huge points if they could have gotten reclusive Dillman for an interview). Instead Kino does provide an audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith who provides some great insight on the making of the film, its themes and many of the cast members bibliography. The only other special feature is the theatrical trailer along with other Kino trailers such as The Day the Earth Died Screaming and Panic in Year Zero.
If you like fun, cheesy B-films Chosen Survivors is worth a look.
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