The Survivors (1983)

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Released 8-Oct-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Hook; Bicentennial Man; Jakob The Liar
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 98:46
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:58) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Ritchie

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Robin Williams
Walter Matthau
Jerry Reed
Kristen Vigard
James Wainwright
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Paul Chihara

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

When they declare war on each other, you could die laughing!

    Donald Quinelle has just been fired from his a parrot. Not able to face his staff, Donald's boss has gone on 'stress leave', but before he left, he trained his pet parrot to deliver the bad news to his unfortunate employees, who are too much baggage during a corporate restructure. Donald doesn't take the news well, but after much protestation, he is convinced to leave the building, at gunpoint. Distraught at his predicament, Donald absent-mindedly goes to a service station to fill his tank. Trouble is, he isn't careful just where he has put the bowser nozzle and petrol ends up everywhere except in the tank, a fact that Donald it quite unaware of. As Donald drives away, a blinding flash and explosion is seen in the distance as a carelessly tossed cigarette does its worst. Donald has no idea what he's done, but the repercussions are about to reverberate through his life.

    Sonny Paluso has just lost his livelihood. His service station, which he's owned for years has just been blown up in a freak mishap. Now, without an income, he tries to gain unemployment benefits, but is ineligible as he is an employer, not an employee. Sonny doesn't take the news well, but after much protestation, he is convinced to leave the unemployment office, after being sprayed with mace. In a daze, Sonny goes to a diner for a coffee and a break while he attempts to get some sort of handle on his life.

    Jack Locke does lots of jobs, odd jobs, hits many would call them. But times are tough all over and after a rebuff from the unemployment office, Jack turns to desperate measures, an armed robbery, and a local diner at lunchtime seems like the perfect target. Unfortunately for Jack, there are two people at the diner whom both have had bad days and aren't really up to being robbed.

    After having thwarted Jack's plan to rob the diner, Sonny urges Donald to keep low-key about the whole thing, especially since Sonny managed to catch a glimpse of the bandit's face. But Donald can't keep silent and during a television editorial on violent crime, Donald accidentally reveals Sonny's name. Jack is watching, and he plans to silence the pair once and for all.

    Meanwhile, Donald decides he doesn't want to be a victim ever again and goes gun crazy, buying an arsenal of weapons and enrolling himself into a survivalist camp for some paramilitary training. Everything comes to a head with Sonny, Donald, and Jack all at each other's throats in a showdown for the survival of the fittest.

    After seeing this film on Pay TV in the early 80s, I thought I'd revisit it and see just how well it stood up to the test of time. The main problem we can get with some Robin Williams films is that they can have an incredibly short shelf life (just like Rod Stewart songs of the last 20 years, played while they're hot, but after...who remembers?). Think of films such as The Best of Times, Toys, Father's Day and Flubber. All pretty forgettable films at the end of the day and far from what Williams is capable of. Then think of films such as The World According to Garp, Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, Awakenings and Good Will Hunting. The second list could be longer, but you get the picture. So where does this film fit? Somewhere in the middle, I'd say. I actually found this film to be better that I had remembered, with quite a few laughs from Williams' antics and some of the situations the characters find themselves in. Although not anywhere near Williams' best, this is a simple crowd pleaser with a funny story and some great lines from the characters. Walter Matthau is his ol' grumpy self as Donald's reluctant partner Sonny Paluso and plays the perfect straight man to Williams' crazy man. Jerry Reed (from the Smokey and the Bandit films) is well cast as the ice-cool killer who can't believe the half-wits he's up against.

    Director Michael Ritchie brought us Fletch, Student Bodies (as Alan Smithee) and The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom. Ritchie does a reasonable job with the fairly light material. If you are a fan of either Robin Williams or Walter Matthau and have managed to miss this film, then have a look. No Academy Award classic here, just some light entertainment that will give you a chuckle.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Considering the low key nature of this film and the fact that we get it almost 20 years after it first hit the movie screens, the transfer we have here on DVD is quite reasonable.

    We have the film presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. The original theatrical aspect ratio was 1.85:1 and 1.78:1 is an acceptable variant of this.

    For a film made in the early/mid 80s, this one has faired reasonably well. While nowhere near any sort of reference quality, the sharpness of the image visible during the program is quite good. The shadow detail is quite reasonable with a detailed image visible throughout. I found no issues with now level noise.

    Colour use is very natural with no exaggeration required by the story. Colour transfer to DVD is fairly good with the slightly faded/muted image we see quite often during films of this vintage. Despite this, the colour is okay and serves the film well.

    MPEG artefacts were not a problem during this feature with only some very fine pixilization visible from time to time if looked for. Aliasing is not a huge problem, but we do catch a glimpse of it at 21:11 on the TV speaker grill and 50:36 on the road. Long-time video artefact survivor edge enhancement lives on and can be seen at 58:47 around Walter Matthau and Robin Williams. There is an odd jump in the film as transferred to DVD that can be seen at 64:03. It looks to be a problem with the original print used to commit this film to DVD with an image that jumps and shrink upon itself for only a couple of frames before jumping back to normality again. Not a huge problem but it does get your attention the first time you see it which therefore makes it distracting and something you don't like to see during a film. Film artefacts are sprinkled throughout but never to a distracting extent.

    There is a huge range of subtitles, mostly of European and Middle Eastern languages. The English subtitles are adequate for the material, though not word for word.

    This disc is formatted RSDL with the layer change taking place at 64:58. The change is fairly neat and probably not a problem for any modern player.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    We get a fairly ordinary audio mix here with only the original mono track available. At bare minimum an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded mix should have been produced as to give anyone with home theatre equipment some sort chance to create some sort of interesting soundstage to serve the film. Instead we have only some very basic Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mixes available. If your processor features a Mono Movie mode, use it.

    There are 5 language track here, these being English, French, German, Italian and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

    The dialogue quality presented is reasonable, with the spoken word understandable at all times. For the most part audio sync is fairly good, however is seems a bit out at 94:13.

    The music for the film was composed by Paul Chihara whose credits include several TV series scores such as China Beach and the short lived 1983 series Manimal as well as the cult classic film Death Race 2000 (which has recently been attached to Tom Cruise for a remake). The score includes all the right cues and themes and serves the film well without being overly memorable.

    Because of the mono soundtracks available on this disc, there is no surround activity other than perhaps what your surround decoder can coax from it. I had no such luck. Also missing is any low frequency effect with the subwoofer not troubled at all during the program.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There aren't many extras available on this disc and those we do get are fillers only and have very little to do with the film itself.


    After the distributor's logos, we are taken to the Main Menu which is silent, static and 16x9 enhanced (as are all the menus on this disc). Our features are:

Theatrical Trailer - The Survivors  2:00

    Here's the only extra that has anything directly to do with the film. This theatrical trailer features some takes and scenes that didn't appear in the film along music from the Bill Murray comedy hit Stripes. This is presented full frame with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Trailer - Hook  1:59

    The frequently seen trailer (What if...Peter Pan...Grew up?) for the early 90s Speilberg film which featured Robin Williams as Peter Pan. Presented full frame with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded.

Trailer - Bicentennial Man  2:49

    This is the trailer for the film based on the Isaac Asimov story that also features Robin Williams (see a common thread here?). Presented full frame, the audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded.

Trailer - Jakob the Liar 2:17

    Trailer for the 1999 remake of the 1974 East German classic Jakob, der Lügner (Jakob, the Liar) which of course features Robin Williams as Jakob. This trailer is presented full frame with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.


      For the most part, we get the same package afforded Region 1.

     The Region 4 disc missed out on:

     The Region 1 disc misses out on:

     Local affordability coupled with local availability and a RSDL formatted disc in PAL would lead this reviewer to pick the Region 4 disc as a clear winner.


    While not one of Robin Williams' best works, this is far from his worst and a good time waster with Williams and Walter Matthau as a couple of guys down and out on their luck. After 20 years it still can produce a few laughs. Not as bad as you might think.

     The video is reasonable considering the age of the film and its budget.

     The audio is flat with a very plain mono track available.

     The extras are light with only some trailers for this film and three others featuring Robin Williams.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Thursday, January 09, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A300-MU, using S-Video output
DisplayHitachi CP-L750W LCD Projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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