Throughout the history of cinema, bats, bat people, bat creatures and vampires have always been symbolic of evil within the horror genre. No matter what decade the films were made in, bats have always been the antagonist. Such is the case with the 1974 science fiction horror thriller, CHOSEN SURVIVORS. The movie isn’t just about bats, however; it’s a genre crossover to the realm of science fiction and the atomic scare (more prevalent in the 1950s).
A computer randomly selects a handful of people to live safely in an atomic bomb shelter which is 1,758 feet underground. These people were selected by their characteristics, their intelligence, strength and sexuality. Among them are Raymond Couzins (Jackie Cooper, SUPERMAN, THE CHAMP), Steven Mayes (Alex Cord, THE DEAD ARE ALIVE), Major Gordon Ellis (Richard Jaeckel, THE GREEN SLIME, LATTITUDE ZERO), Peter Macomber (Bradford Dillman, PIRAHNA), Luis Cabral (Pedro Armendariz, Jr., THE DEADLY TRACKERS), Alana Fitzgeral (Diana Muldaur, THE OTHER), Woody Russo (Lincoln Kilpatrick, SOYLENT GREEN), Carrie Draper (Gwenn Mitchell, SHAFT), Dr. Lenore Chrisman (Barbara Babcock, SALEM’S LOT), Kristin Lerner (Christina Moreno, THE HANGING JUDGE) and Claire Farraday (Nancy Rodman, THE CANDY MAN).
While down below, many of them just live their lives, while others such as Raymond Couzins gets stir crazy, drunk and creates a lot of disruption. They later discover that they aren’t the only ones down below; they’re sharing “office space” with a large colony of vampire bats, which often find their way to the humans’ living spaces and attack them. They soon not only look for a way to survive the bat attacks, but want to escape to the surface as well.
CHOSEN SURVIVORS is a terrific film, with plenty of action, suspense and some gore (but not overly gory, as it got away with a PG rating). Director Roley (known for mostly directing television programs including MANNIX and AIRWOLF) does a nice job blending together the horror and science fiction elements, building the tension as the characters try to survive with the bats constantly after them and keeping the film moving along with a memorable cast that gives excellent performances, especially Jackie Cooper who gives a tour de force of going nuts. Cooper had been at this point acting for over 50 years including being part of the Hal Roach OUR GANG short films; his most famous being SCHOOLS OUT where he has a crush on Miss Crabtree. Richard Jaeckel also had a terrific acting career, spanning over 50 years as well. He received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor in SOMETIMES A GREAT NATION and has given many standout performances in the numerous high and low budget productions.
There are some great memorable scenes in CHOSEN SURVIVORS including a bat attack on Woody Russo who was climbing up inside the tunnel during an escape attempt, a scene where the characters draw blood to attract the flying mammals and a twist ending where Mary Louise Borden (Kelly Lange, SPY HARD), who has been talking to them through some secret location via a television monitor, reveals that what she had been saying throughout the film was actually pre-recorded.
CHOSEN SURVIVORS, having been previously released on DVD from 20th Century Fox in 2007 with THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING (which will also be receiving a subsequent Blu-ray release) makes its debut on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber. The movie is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1, in 1080p with an MPEG 4 - AVC encode and the results are just terrific. Daylight scenes look spectacular, there is great depth and colors look really vivid overall. Grain is present throughout giving it an organic film-like look. CHOSEN SURVIVORS has never looked better. The audio quality for the movie is the usual Kino DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0. The dialogue, bats screeching and people screaming in fear are all loud and clear with no drop offs. No subtitles are included.
Extras for this release include an audio commentary by Richard Harland Smith. As with his other commentaries, he gives us informative, thourough background information to CHOSEN SURVIVORS, the cast of players in the films and compares it somewhat with other atomic scare films including DR. STRANGELOVE OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB. Rounding out the extras is a trailer gallery which includes THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING, PANIC IN YEAR ZERO, THE SATAN BUG and MIRACLE MILE (all available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber). (David Steigman)
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