Actor David Hemmings directs the slow-burn shocker The Survivor, (1981) based on James Herbert's best-selling novel, which enjoys a tasty new Blu-ray release from Severin Films. And now you, the one who maybe saw this title sitting lost and alone on your video merchant's shelf, but refused to rent it, can enjoy it too.
A supernatural mystery, The Survivor is long on style, fine performances, and atmosphere. However, it starts out with a bang, as 747 pilot Keller (Robert Powell) is forced to crash-land in a Sydney suburb in a keyed-up, almost excruciating scene made all the more powerful due to its scale and incredibly realistic staging. Unfortunately, Keller is the only one to survive, setting off a semi-existential quest to figure out why.
Not only is Keller haunted by visions of horribly burned corpses, he's also stalked by an ambulance-chasing photographer, (in a sub-plot that doesn't contribute much to the story) and aided by the mysterious Hobbs, (Jenny Agutter) who hardly utters a word until 45 minutes into the movie.
Hemmings handles everything with assurance; the plane crash induces a form of cinematic PTSD that suffuses every grim, moody frame; cinematography is stately, smart and top-rate; and the repetitive motifs focusing on burnt corpses and crash-victim screams is truly unnerving. However, Powell's and Agutter's performances, his angry yet detached, hers earthy and knowing, really seal the deal.
Based on James Herbert's novel, The Survivor is a creepy, overlooked cult-classic peppered with visceral unease and supernatural menace. Hemmings' assured direction, fantastic photography, and spot-on performances from Robert Powell and Jenny Agutter make this a movie to seek out.
Severin brings us The Survivor in a 'first-time-ever' 2k HD transfer, presented in a 2.35:1 ratio. The movie looks fantastic, with plenty of natural film grain, good detail levels (for what it is) and even great fidelity in dark scenes, of which there are plenty. Ultimately, John Seale's cinematography is meant to waver back and forth between gauzy dream-like sequences and grisly clarity, which, when coupled with the film's age, means that this is not at all times a super-crisp image, but it's a damn fine one all the same.
Severin delivers a Stereo LPCM 48k Audio track in English, which is robust and lively. There is a lot of whispering and quiet talk in addition to screams and planes crashing, so be prepared for some shocking juxtapositions. Dialog is clean and clear nonetheless, and there's a great deal of dynamism in the plane crash sequence, and others. The soundtrack enjoys nice response throughout frequencies, and is mixed thoughtfully within the overall soundscape.
Extras include 3 minutes worth of Extended Scenes from the climax, 22 minutes of Extended Interviews from Not Quite Hollywood, (the exceptional Australian Exploitation documentary) plus interviews and archival specials. Horror authors speak on The Legacy of James Herbert, (9 minutes) while Robert Powell on James Herbert speaks for itself, 3 minutes-worth. An Archival TV Special (30 minutes) details the movie's production, and 15 minutes worth of an Archival Robert Powell Interview is so great it's curiously linked-to twice. The Theatrical Trailer and 30 minutes-worth of producer Antony I. Ginnane Trailers round things out in outrageous fashion.
Based on James Herbert's novel, The Survivor is a creepy, overlooked cult-classic peppered with visceral unease and supernatural menace. Hemmings' assured direction, fantastic photography, and spot-on performances from Robert Powell and Jenny Agutter make this a movie to seek out. Severin's Blu-ray presentation features a great transfer, good audio, and OK extras, so we'll call the whole package Recommended.