Monday, March 31, 2008

Survivor (USA 1987)

Yet another forgotten low-budget, post-apocalypse science fiction film from the 1980's that followed in the wake of Mad Max (1979) and its sequels. Not as good as the few good ones, but nowhere near as bad as most. Considering that many a profitable career in film began with a movie worse than this one, it is a bit odd that director Michael Shackleton has seemingly fallen off the face of the earth since making this thing. One can only guess that Survivor was a labor of love and that having shot his load, Shackleton decided to leave the business. All in all, Survivor is an interesting contribution to the post-apocalypse genre, much like The Quiet Earth (1985)…nowhere as good as something like The Terminator (1984) but it is miles above any thematically similar Albert Pyun film, including Cyborg (1989) and Radioactive Dreams (1985).
The story of Survivor tells of an astronaut who returns to earth after watching the planet self-destruct in a nuclear war, a war that started because of the Star Wars satellite he was putting into orbit. The planet is now a desert hell and the few survivors seem more interested in killing than befriending each other. Searching for a legendary city of survivors, he unwittingly saves some woman from death and after the expected initial difficulties, Adam and Eve get down to a long but oddly boring sex scene before she gets kidnapped. It seems she is an escapee from the underground city, which is ruled by a psychopath who has confiscated all healthy, fertile tits for his own harem, convinced that his sperm is the right sperm needed to repopulate earth. The Survivor manages to stumble upon the city and eventually even manages to rid the world of the bad guy…
The film is enjoyable enough despite some big flaws, the biggest of which is why so many people would want to live underground in a gloomy, fascist hell with disgusting ooze for food when there seems to be a huge ocean full of fish above ground. Indeed, for a world without water and in which people die and kill for a few mere drops of liquid, the ocean is pretty huge. (Saltwater or not, there are still relatively easy abet time consuming ways to take the salt out of salt water, most obviously being boiling and collecting the condensation.) Also, the plot twist in which certain functionaries of the city let the Survivor free to kill their nutso leader makes no sense since they have no guarantee for either his success or loyalty. And, as happens in the film, his initial failed attempt leads directly back to the functionaries anyway. And, also….
OK, so let’s skip paying attention to logic, since logic is seldom an element found in films in any event. For what it is worth, Survivor moves along quick enough and the director does get a lot of mileage out of an obvious low budget. It might not be an undiscovered masterpiece, but it is surprisingly watchable and does make the time pass quickly enough. Odd that it did so little for the director – like give him a career.
But then, Survivor seems to have done little for anyone involved, be it the director, writer or the three main actors. The career of the tits of the film, belonging to Sue Kiel, never went beyond a few episodes of Red Shoe Diaries; Kiel herself has seemingly never made it further than the background of Repo Man (1984) and Straight to Hell (1987). A shame, for the tits are nice, even if her haircut is a monstrosity. The so-called Survivor is played by Chip Mayer, whose beautiful blue eyes might be remembered by some from the regular characters he played in the television shows The Dukes of Hazard and Santa Barbara. Still occasionally active, his eyes aren't piercing enough to lift his face out from the background of the straight to video fodder he usually is in nowadays. Richard Moll, who makes a more than credible heavy in this film, is the most familiar face in Survivor. Remembered by most as the bald-headed bailiff in the sitcom Night Court, he can be found in movies as varied as Evil Speak (1981), The Flintstones (1994), Route 66 (1998) and Scary Movie II (2001), though his parts are seldom as large as in Survivor. Scriptwriter Bima Stagg, who began his career by writing the forgotten blaxploitation turkey Soul Patrol, aka Black Trash (1980), disappeared like Shackleton, though he did resurface briefly in 1996 to write Inside for director Arthur Penn. (Tells a lot about where Penn's career is has gone since Bonnie & Clyde (1967).)

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