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  Chosen Survivors Subterranean Heresick Blues
Year: 1974
Director: Sutton Roley
Stars: Jackie Cooper, Alex Cord, Richard Jaeckel, Bradford Dillman, Pedro Armendáriz Jr, Diana Muldaur, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Gwenn Mitchell, Barbara Babcock, Cristina Moreno, Nancy Rodman, Kelly Lange
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: A group of ten seemingly random individuals druggedly stagger from a United States Army helicopter and are escorted to an elevator situated in an apparently barren landscape. They can barely make out what is happening to them as they are bundled inside, the door closes and they begin to travel seventeen hundred feet below the Earth's surface. Eventually, the door opens and they stumble out into a corridor which leads to a control room; faced with three large screens, they are alarmed by what the woman shown there tells them. There has been a nuclear war...

Although apparently concerned for humanity on the surface, Chosen Survivors was actually a coldhearted science fiction-horror hybrid through and through. Scripted by H.B. Cross and Joe Reb Moffly, it took the template of the then-popular disaster movies by assembling a cross-section of society and putting them through a hell that, despite the title, not all of them will emerge from with their lives. But it also took in the fear of nuclear holocaust and the American mistrust of the government that had become the norm after the Watergate scandal.

As the "chosen" ten grow more aware of their surroundings, they are joined by an eleventh in the shape of Major Ellis (Richard Jaeckel), who has been left behind to see to the maintenance of the bunker that they must now call home. He is almost as much in the dark as the others, but it is explained via the screens that the government has selected them to live in this complex so that they can ensure the human race carries on after the bombs have dropped. Helpfully, and in no way panicmongering, this is illustrated by film of the planet turned to a fiery wasteland.

Oh dear. What to do now? We have a narrator of sorts thanks to a scientist, Peter Macomber (Bradford Dillman), who is taking a clinical interest in the set up by making a record of what happens there. And where would we be without a villainous character? Step forward Jackie Cooper as crazed businessman Raymond Couzins who does his best to sabotage the base, intentionally or not. Yet with a nightmare logic, it's not enough that the survivors are trapped underground, no what they really need is the attention of a colony of vampire bats.

There is a big twist halfway through, but it doesn't prevent the characters from being in mortal danger afterwards. Somehow the planners of the bunker didn't notice the cave full of winged and hungry rodents nearby, depicted by the real thing, which can enter through ventilation ducts or unnoticed gaps in the computer room. Due to Couzins' meddling, the computer malfunctions, the bats have easier access, and whenever the lighting goes to a dark, emergency blue they take it as their cue to show up for dinner. We're supposed to feel concerned for these people, but the actors have difficulty in bringing any of them to life with their often shrill, two-dimensional personalities. Chosen Survivors plays like an extreme TV movie, and somewhat sadistic with it, yet it's callously watchable regardless. Music by Fred Karlin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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