Review: The Survivor (1981)

Crabtree Films

Released June 27, 2011

A jumbo crashes on a small suburban town – but miraculously the pilot appears to walk away, unscathed…

James Herbert’s early novel is one of the few of his books to receive the screen treatment, and given the less than stellar way in which this is presented, it wouldn’t be surprising if he refused other offers. David (Alternative 3) Ambrose’s screenplay works well enough, but in the hands of director David Hemmings, it becomes overly drawn out – perhaps the reason for 13 minutes being excised from the usually released version.

Robert Powell plays the haunted pilot with a suitable bewilderment and lack of emotion, and Jenny Agutter does her best with a poorly fleshed out part: at times her character seems almost possessed by the spirits of the crash victims, at others she demonstrates a ghoulish need to be present when witnesses to the crash meet a grisly end. This confusion is evident throughout the film: we never really get to understand why witnesses are being killed off (and most of the main characters don’t even realise this is going on), and they almost seem a red herring to put the viewer off the scent of the true bad guy. There are some arty moments that seem there simply to look pretty, just to add to the muddle!

This DVD release gives a clear print with a couple of odd noises on the soundtrack (not the 80s synthesizer score – that’s meant to sound like that!) – you only have to look at the quality of the trailer, the only extra, to see the difference.

Verdict: There’s a good 60 minute movie hiding inside this, which some rigorous editing might have revealed, but the pace lags too much and too often to make it the chiller it wants to be.  5/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to buy The Survivor from

Watch the trailer below:





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