The Survivor (1998)

Holy Stendal déjà vu, Batman! Does Chip Mayer star in this? I’m going to faint.

No, but Richard Moll’s Kragg from 1987’s Survivor is back again . . . no, wait . . . he’s Kyla this time . . . in this Puerto Rican-produced jungle-apoc romp for France’s Interlight Pictures (action flicks with Marc Dacascos, Christopher Lambert, Mickey Rourke, and Steven Seagal) that reminds of a (lower budget) Oblivion and After Earth (both from 2013 and not even made yet!) colliding with Escape from New York. The experienced apoc connoisseur will also spidey-sense Ray Liotta’s 1994 future-jungle prison romp, No Escape, and 1971’s uber-obscure TV Movie space station tale, Earth II, along with the Euro-produced — and U.S theatrically-released Escape apoc rips — Doomsday (2008) and Lockout (2012).

After a World War and ecological collapse, mankind has relocated into massive space station colonies — and converted Earth into a “prison planet” (a sort of Liberty Island plus). When a ship transporting the “President of Space” (familiar character actor Richard Herd; “Wilhelm” from U.S TV’s Seinfeld) crashlands on Earth on the way to a political conference to stop an inter-solar system war, he’s captured by The Duke of New York . . . I mean, Kragg . . . oops, I mean, Kyla, with the intent of leading a “break out.”

Those plans are complicated by the recently exiled (they launch your pinball-ass in a canister down a gravity tunnel back to earth!) Snake Pliss . . . I mean, Tarkin (no, not the Grand Moff one), who finds the President’s little grandson among the wreckage of a second escape pod — and he springs into action to save the President. Well, it’s not all about the kid: it helps that the President’s hot assistant, Devin (well played by the late Lisa Robin Kelly, aka Laurie Forman from U.S TV’s That ’70s Show), gives Tarkin some extra ass-kicking incentive. But Kelly kicks some pretty mean ass herself, all with the makings of a potential action star brimming with that Sharon Stone-era King Solomon’s Mines sass (making her 2013 death even more disheartening).

And that clock must tick . . . so the President’s ill and needs his medicine or in 24 hours, he’s dead. And he’s been separated from his tracker. And if he doesn’t make it to the conference . . . well, it won’t matter, because when the war breaks out, we’ll all be dead. (I’m feeling woozy!)

Hey, don’t knock it. The Survivor is actually a fun watch for us apoc rats. Watch the trailer and see for yourself. . . .

As you can see, there’s a lot going on with this French-financed apoc-romp and it’s wrong to shrug it off as some low-budget direct-to-video fodder. Granted, it may be derivate in places — but so were the 20 and 30 million-budgeted Doomsday (2008) and Lockout (2012) — but The Survivor has sharp production values, as well as great makeups and costumes for the various Earth-ravaged tribe-societies. Those production values are courtesy of a noted art director and visual effects artist whose work you’ve enjoyed many, many times on some of mainstream Hollywood’s biggest science fiction, fantasy, and comic book films, such as Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, and The Dark Knight, along with the Harry Potter series, Clash/Wrath of the Titans, and Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrow: Nick Davis (in his only directing effort, thus far).

The script — with a story that moves with a solid pace and knows its Greek and Roman Empire war histories — is smartly penned by the writing team of Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman.

Now every writer in Tinseltown has to start somewhere and write for “one for them” (see David Mickey Evans with Open House as an example) before said writer can move onto their passion projects. In the case of Solomon and Konzelman, that meant before they could achieved their greatest success in the Christian marketplace with the spiritual films What If…, God’s Not Dead, and Do You Believe?, they had to make their bones with the action flicks T.N.T (1997; with Oliver Gruner) and Point Blank (1998; with Mickey Rourke). Were Solomon and Konzelman going for an ’80s Italian apoc-tribute here? It sure feels like it to me: The Survivalist is everything that Michael Sopkiw’s After the Fall of New York could have been if it had the budget that backed Nick Davis. It could have been Parisfal’s continuing adventures. I’ve returned to Sergio Martino’s vision of New York many times* — and Nick Davis will see me again. It feels like (a post-nuked) home.

As for The Survivor falling under the U.S direct-to-video marketplace radar is that it was shot with the French-Euro marketplace in mind — as a vehicle for that country’s Martial Arts star, Xavier Declie, who’s a cross between Italian ‘80s B-action star Mark Gregory (we did a whole week about him at B&S!) and Xavier’s fellow Martial Arts-acting countryman, Jean-Claude Van Damme (yep, we did a week long tribute to JCVD as well!). Today, Xavier is a highly-sought after, Los Angeles-based personal trainer.

Oh, we’re not done yet. There’s another déjà vu production twist.

Richard Moll — while playing pretty much the same (excellent!) post-apoc sociopath in Survivor (1987) and The Survivor (1998) — also plays a post-apoc sociopath in the Nick Davis-penned Galaxis (1995), an entertaining The Terminator meets The Empire Strikes Back panache starring Brigitte Nielsen . . . where Moll plays . . . “Kyla”? (Huh, what’s going on here, my VHS Stendal is kicking in . . . there’s too many apoc flicks lining the walls.)

Now, to give Galaxis a new VHS shelf life, it carried the alternate title: Terminal Force. Then, after its own theatrical run and when it hit the video shelves, The Survivor became . . . Terminal Force 2 (?). So, while it’s technically not a sequel, but because of Moll playing roughly the same character (but different) in both films, with the same name, The Survivor and Galaxis were both issued on the “Terminal Force” two-pack DVD. But . . . Galaxis was also alternately retitled as Starforce and Star Crystal. (My head is really spinning. I think I am going to throw up.)

You can watch the full version of The Survivor for free on You Tube. You won’t be disappointed.

If you missed our month-long September rally of post-apoc film reviews, you can catch up with a complete listing featured in our “Atomic Dustbin” recaps, Part 1 and Part 2.

*As the apoc-year of 2019 A.D came to a close, I took a second look — in counterpoint to Sam’s previous review — at 2019: After the Fall of New York.

***

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

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