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The Survivors

review by Zach B.



Rating: R

Running Time: 102 minutes

Starring: Walter Matthau, Robin Williams, Jerry Reed

Written by: Michael Leeson

Directed by: Michael Ritchie


Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star

Retail Price: $19.95

Features: Theatrical Trailers

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Mono, French Mono, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Chinese Subtitles, Korean Subtitles, Thai Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (28 Scenes)

Released: April 23rd, 2002



In a pretty interesting plotline, "The Survivors" follows two people who each have their own bad days. Each is looses their line of work: Donald Quinelle (Williams) is a sales executive hoping to go far and walks into a rather empty work office one day to be fired by his boss' parrot. Meanwhile, Sonny Paluso's gas station blows up. After their depressing days, the two go to a local diner to reflect on their own depressions. They meet, and while there, they foil a robber's scheme. The two become local heroes. Not a bad day after all, right? Uh, not quite. The robber, Jack (Jerry Reed), is accidentally freed and goes to stake his revenge on the two. While that happens, Donald starts an unhealthy obsession with guns and goes to the mountains to learn about survival. Nutty comedy and antics are in the cards!

When you think of such great talents like Robin Williams and the late great Walter Matthau, the movie "The Survivors" doesn't always come to mind. I don't know why, but people pretty much throw this movie to the side. It's from key times in both of their careers. I'd say Matthau's career was slowly going down to his comedy era while Williams's film career was just starting to take off. I really can't see why people aren't big fans of this movie. I'm sure they have their reasons, but it's quite an enjoyable comedy.

From reviews I've read, people seem to have a problem with the story arc. I really don't see what the problem is myself. People have complained about the story, the characters and the like, but again, I really don't get why people harshly criticize the film. The film, written by Michael Leeson, is actually well honed and put together quite nicely. I will admit it gets a little ridiculous at times, but I think that's the point of the movie. The characters, even Jack in a way, are all likeable fellows who get mixed up in situations that they weren't meant to be in. There are some pretty funny moments, not to mention fun one-liners and jokes abound throughout.

Michael Ritchie directed the movie, but it probably could have been anyone. As much as I have enjoyed Ritchie's work through the years, his filmmaking style is really, really bland. There really isn't anything to differentiate him from others, and that's how it's usually been. But that's not bad, I suppose. The film works, and that's important. He paces it nice and it tends to go quick. He creates a fun and rather enjoyable comedy.

When it all comes down to it, the film mainly rests on the shoulders of Walter Matthau and Robin Williams. Thankfully, the movie does succeed thanks to the talents of these actors. Williams, like usual, is quite energetic, zany, loopy and hilarious. Capturing the frusturation and madness of Donald, he fits quite easily into the role with his variety of expressions and actually true line deliveries. Matthau is a bit more grumpy and depressive, and sort of a catalyst against William's character. Still, he's also pretty funny and shares great chemistry with Williams. There's some physical comedy the two participate in, and it's hilarious. I know some were disappointed with the pairing of such two gifted comic actors, but I think this was a nice venture between them and only wished that they had made more films together (you know, start a Jack Lemmon sorta deal). On another note, Jerry Reed is also really funny as the robber Jack.

"The Survivors" did make me laugh out loud with its broad humor and dialogue, and it really does have some inspired laughs. Still, beneath the comedy, there is commentary. This film makes a small, but nevertheless true statement about the fear of Americans had in the early 1980s, not to mention their views on gun control. Again, I think this gem was criticized too harshly and is quite a good movie. The talent behind it does speak for itself, and it really is worth a watch.


Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer for "The Survivors" is pretty good for a nearly two decade old film. In fact, I was pretty surprised how good it looked. There are some flaws on the print, like scratches, blemishes and pieces of dirt, but they're not that distracting. Detail is pretty good too, while there is some slight edge enhancment. Fleshtones are pretty natural, and the color saturation is finely tuned. Overall, there shouldn't be many complaints. This a very nice transfer that is sure to please.


There's really not much to say about the audio, except that it does sound its age. There is an English mono track and French mono track. The mono tracks are pretty good, if not a little standard. This is all very direct. The sound elements sound good and remain intact, there's no distortion or hiss in the mono tracks. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, and despite some action-packed noises, this movie does feature a lot of dialogue. Overall, this is all rather suitable.

Also on the disc are English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Portuguese Subtitles, Chinese Subtitles, Korean Subtitles, Thai Subtitles and English Closed Captions.


Just three Trailers. One for "The Survivors" in full frame, one for "The Big Hit" in full frame and 5.1 Dolby Digital and one for the major bomb teen comedy "Jawbreaker," also in 5.1 Dolby Digital and full frame.


"The Survivors" is one of the most underrated comedy of the 1980s, and does deserve a second look, especially if you are a comedy, Williams or Matthau fan. The transfer is very good, the mono mixes aren't great and there are no supplements. Still, it's worth a rental and if you really enjoyed it, you can pick it up for a very decent price.