Monday, 1 May 2017

The Survivor (1981)

An Australian horror movie with a distinctly British flavour, David Hemmings’ film of James Herbert’s source novel gets a Blu-ray release courtesy of Severin Films.

         A 747 takes off from Sidney, but as soon as the flight is in the air a bomb explodes. Pilot Keller (Robert Powell) manages to bring the plane down in a field, but a fireball chain reaction causes everyone on board to be killed except him. In fact, he walks away with not a scratch nor a scrap of memory as to what happened in the moments before the crash.

         Meanwhile, psychic Hobbs (Jenny Agutter) is being contacted by the spirits of those who were killed, driving her to meet with Keller. She explains that they want him to discover how the crash came about. Together they uncover the mystery of how the bomb ended up on board, but not before others have died as a consequence of the tragedy.

         THE SURVIVOR is a frustrating film. The central idea is actually very good, but the handling of it gets seriously fumbled by both the script and the direction, resulting in a film that doesn’t know what it wants to be. It could either have been an over the top Italian-style shocker with deaths that make no sense, or those bits could have been cut out and instead this could have been an attempt at a more serious (and at times, seriously ponderous it has to be said) drama. 

         Sadly, THE SURVIVOR is a mishmash of the worst aspects of both. Powell and Agutter are their usually excellent selves, but you can see in some of the scenes that poor old Jenny seems quite bewildered by some of the clunky awkward dialogue she’s been given. Also, there’s a worrying lack of Agutter nudity, a mark of quality control regarding her 1970s and 1980s movie appearances in the same way that Sean Bean dying in a film is today - ie, if it doesn’t happen, the movie probably isn't worth bothering with either.

         Severin’s Blu-ray transfer is 2k and makes the film look as good as it probably can. They’ve also gone out of their way to provide some extras, my favourite of which was probably Chris Cooke and David Flint taking us for a stroll down memory lane as they talk about the works of James Herbert. There are also interviews with Ozsploitation producer par excellence Antony I Ginnane and DP John Seale, Robert Powell on James Herbert, and some archival interviews with Joseph Cotton (who plays a priest), David Hemmings and Robert Powell. You also get a Ginnane trailer reel, a TV spot and an extended final scene. 

         Despite coming up with some of the best exploitation horror subjects of the 1970s, poor old James Herbert never had a decent film made of any his books from that decade. THE SURVIVOR could be described as an interesting attempt, but the truth is with that amount of talent on board it really should have been better. 

THE SURVIVOR is out now on UK Blu-ray from Severin Films

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