Saturday, December 17, 2016

Chosen Survivors

Filmed at Mexico’s famous Churubusco Studios, CHOSEN SURVIVORS lacks necessary star power and an appropriately claustrophobic atmosphere to match its underground setting. Its director, Sutton Roley (THE LONERS), worked almost exclusively in television, where he established a creative visual style that generally added oomph to the pedestrian plots he often worked with. That skill came in handy but to little effect on CHOSEN SURVIVORS, which sticks Roley with a cast of familiar television actors, nondescript sets, and not enough action to break up the puerile dialogue.

Ten Americans — including Jackie Cooper (SUPERMAN), Alex Cord (GENESIS II), Bradford Dillman (THE ENFORCER), Pedro Armendariz Jr. (LICENCE TO KILL), Diana Muldaur (MCQ), Lincoln Kilpatrick (FORTRESS), Barbara Babcock (THE BLACK MARBLE), and Gwenn Mitchell (SHAFT) — plus maintenance man Richard Jaeckel (THE DIRTY DOZEN) are awakened in the middle of the night and whisked away to a secret underground lair. They witness the destruction of the world above them in a nuclear holocaust.

The computerized voice and image of real-life Los Angeles news anchor Kelly Lange explains that each of them has been selected by the government to survive the blast, that each has skills that will enable them to rebuild society after the nuclear fallout has subsided. What Lange doesn’t tell them — ‘cause nobody knew — is that a damn flock of vampire bats (!) have invaded their new home. Will these total strangers be able to get past their paranoia, shock, confusion, and claustrophobia to stave off the bloodsucking creatures, much less survive long enough to see daylight again?

As was Roley, producers Charles Fries (THE WORD) and Leon Benson (director of 95 SEA HUNT episodes) worked primarily in television, and their unfamiliarity with a larger scale may have contributed to CHOSEN SURVIVORS’ deficiencies in scope, stakes, and special effects. Writers Harry Spalding (SURF PARTY) and Joe Reb Moffly inadequately sell the premise that these particular characters should be chosen as America’s most promising (Cord, for instance, is a novelist), though the actors go through the paces with the typical professionalism that earned them two or three episodic guest shots per year. Roley digs deep into his bag of tricks (he’s big on shooting upward through glass tabletops), but is ineffective at delivering suspense. This Columbia release was Roley’s second and final feature assignment.

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