Chosen Survivors (1974)

Jackie Cooper, Alex Cord, Richard Jaeckel, Bradford Dillman,
A group of diverse individuals are suddenly taken from their homes and flown via helicopter to a futuristic bomb shelter in the desert, one-third of a mile below the surface of the Earth. There, they learn that a nuclear holocaust...
  • 5.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Harry Spalding, Joe Reb Moffly, Writer:
  • Sutton Roley, Director:
  • Leon Benson, Charles W. Fries, Producer:
9 / 10

Big Brother; the post-nuclear apocalypse edition.

One of the most successful (and equally irritating) TV-formats of recent years is Big Brother, in which a bunch of people, complete strangers to each other, are put together in an isolated location and become forced to get along and accomplish ordeals together. Apparently this concept isn't so new or innovating at all, as the obscure (although less obscure now, with its recent release on DVD) and still criminally underrated 70's gem "Chosen Survivors" thrives on a similar premise. Only this movie is at least a gazillion times better than any Big Brother edition you ever saw, because it has genuine suspense, a formidable cast of characters, plot twists you actually don't see coming and – not to forget – thousands of bloodthirsty bats! Now, THAT is what they should do in the TV-series of Big Brother: unleash an army of aggressive and rabid bats on the attention-horny participants, ha! Ayway, "Chosen Survivors" opens with atmospheric images of the New Mexican desert and army helicopters approaching a secret underground lair. Eleven eminent persons, who achieved great things is different fields (sports, science, literature, business?) awake to hear they are the chosen survivors. On the earth's surface, a nuclear war has wiped out all humanity and they are to remain underground until it is safe again to re-populate the planet. But of course, the survivors don't get along as they should, some them behave overly hostile and suspicious and the hi-tech government designed lair isn't exactly bat-proof. The film offers a splendid combination of terrific character drawing, for psychological tension, and actual nail-bitingly tense situation with the bat attacks and the quest for freedom. H.B. Cross' script is excellent and Sutton Roley, usually a director of TV series episodes, does an amazing job providing the film with a genuine apocalyptic feeling. The acting performances are top-notch, with notably exceptional roles for Jackie Cooper as the arrogant Mr. Couzins and Bradford Dillman as the calm behavior analyst. Highly recommended Sci-Fi gem.

7 / 10

The Batty Bomb Shelter.

Chosen Survivors is directed by Sutton Roley and written by H.B. Cross. It stars Jackie Cooper, Alex Cord, Richard Jaeckel, Bradford Dillman, Barbara Babcock, Diana Muldaur and Lincoln Kilpatrick. Music is by Fred Karlin and cinematography by Gabriel Torres.

It's the eve of nuclear war and a government computer has selected a specialist group of people to live 1,758 feet underground in a nuclear proof, purpose built housing facility. The purpose is that these people can start to repopulate the Earth in five years time. However, something isn't quite right about this set-up and things take a distinctive turn for the worse when it's revealed that a colony of vampire bats have also made the facility their home.

It's far better than any plot synopsis suggests. True, it's very 70s, both in characters (clothing/delivery of dialogue/hair), and the effects used, but it also captures the zeitgeist of paranoia running at the time. Fear of nuclear war and the government hangs heavy, while the group dynamic under a stress situation makes for a tellingly oppressive mood. The whole thing has a bleakness about it, and that's before the vampire bats turn up hungry for what is apparently the only source of blood left available to them. The downbeat feel is further enforced by Karlin's music score, which often sounds like the synthesiser strains favoured by John Carpenter for some of his well revered culters. There's the expected bad turn of events with some of the characters, I mean it would be a dull film if everyone just got on all hunky dory, while there's a wicked twist that propels the narrative to another level of enjoyment for the viewer.

Competently acted by the cast, and effectively put together by Roley, Chosen Survivors is a neat horror/sci-fi hybrid. Not without some cheese and gaps in plotting for sure, but very effective and recommended on proviso you aren't looking to be cheered up! 7/10

6 / 10

Bats behaving badly .............

"Chosen Survivors" poses quite a few ethical questions, while taking extreme liberties with the reputation of vampire bats. The film has an almost fatal failing in that it introduces a dozen characters all at once. This of course means that character development is totally inadequate. We really know nothing about those unfortunate individuals who succumb to the blood sucking winged annoyances. On the positive side, many of the futuristic sets are intriguing, there are some unexpected twists, and the use of actual as well as animated bats lends realism. The movie occasionally grinds to a halt with meaningless small talk, but overall has definite entertainment value. - MERK

7 / 10

Desmodus Rotundus: Horde of Torment

The world as we know it, is about to end. Total Thermonuclear Destruction: 4 billion casualties, 168 survivors, 12 hi-tech underground facilities spread across the USA at a depth of 1.758ft, one located in the New Mexico desert inhabited by 11 unsuspecting citizens on government command with their sole purpose? the survival of the human race. But our group of chosen survivors will soon have something else to worry about than the lethal radiation levels above their heads: Desmodus Rotundus, commonly known as the vampire bat.

CHOSEN SURVIVORS is one nifty 70's post-nuke paranoia-thriller. The opening-scene already looks promising: 11 sedated citizens are flown in by helicopter over the ominous desert landscape, accompanied on the tunes of a tense brass score. In slow-motion they are shoved into an elevator and when it starts to go all the way down, the opening-credits come on and slow-motion shots of the elevator rattling and shaking continue. Great stuff! Once inside the facility, the survivors learn about their faith.

The characters are all well drawn-out, each of them having an expertise in a certain field (science, sports, writing,?). They'll all have to get along and work together in order to survive, but needless to say tensions arise and conflicts occur. All that is pretty entertaining already, but the real fun starts when they discover a vampire bat inside the facility. They realize that a whole horde of hungry killer-bats is lurking inside the caves surrounding the facility. And paranoia turns into survival. Psychologically, the characters are also well thought-out. Naturally, there's one guy you love to hate that eventually does something very stupid, but even his character changes throughout the movie. So, all-in-all CHOSEN SURVIVORS is pretty unpredictable when it comes to who'll survive and who won't, if any.

The set-design, of course, looks dated but nevertheless was a well-constructed concept for those days. The bat attacks are staged in a decent fashion. Good thing is that they actually used a lot of real bats in certain scenes, instead of going for the obvious fake ones. The blue-screen effects are obvious in certain scenes, but always effective. Aside from the survival-horror-element with the bats, CHOSEN SURVIVORS is a bit more in the sci-fi/thriller vein of other 70's paranoia/conspiracy movies like, for instance, CAPRICORN ONE. Only this time with nobody being hunted down, but the whole group being trapped deep below ground. As to be expected, the facility isn't all that big (limited budget, limited sets), but the location is put to good use.

With the look and feel being obsolete, CHOSEN SURVIVORS actually could inspire a decent remake, in my opinion. Just replace the global nuclear devastation angle with that of the ever-so-popular killer-virus one, put the whole concept in capable hands with a decent budget for a skilled crew and up-to-date special effects supported by a good cast, et voilà, we should have a remake that's far more decent than the uninspired crap they keep cranking out nowadays. No need to change the script even, because it already contains a decent twist around the middle part, which in today's suspense cinema has become a must. Actually, they might want to make the bats virus-infected this time, because how in this film they manage to kill off adults in a couple of minutes with a dozen bites or so, is beyond me. Other than this shortcoming, the script successfully blends genres. A typical 70's accomplishment on the one hand, and ahead of its time on the other. Check this one out. It's a gem.

5 / 10

Chosen Survivors (1974) **

This is a movie I've wanted to see for over 30 years now; I first read about it in horror magazines when it first came out, but it soon turned into a lost film that went completely out of circulation. It has now been made available by Fox as part of their Midnite Movies Collection, and I'm a little disappointed to say I wasn't missing all that much. It's not a "bad" genre film and it's got a good premise, but it's still rather ordinary in the way it's executed. A group of people are selected by computer, sedated, and then sent down 1,758 feet into an underground bomb shelter to see if they might sustain life in the event of a nuclear war. It was another of those perfect experiments hatched by the government, except they overlooked the fact that this project was built down within caves, so now swarms of hungry vampire bats manage to find their way into the bunker and chomp on these frantic chosen survivors. There's more talk going on than anything else, but when the bat attacks do occur, they're pretty satisfying, even if sometimes the special optical effects amount to little more than a flurry of dark splotches.

I got a kick out of seeing former Our Gang child actor Jackie Cooper as the main loudmouth of the bunch who at one point goes on a bender and becomes your basic arrogant pain in the ass character. Other '70s regulars among this cast are Richard Jaeckel (GRIZZLY) Bradford Dillman (BUG), and Lincoln Kilpatrick (THE OMEGA MAN). I thought I recognized director Sutton Roley's name from somewhere, and later I found out that's because he directed some LOST IN SPACE episodes and was primarily a TV show director. I'm not sorry I saw this, but it sure was some tepid tea. ** out of ****