Survive! (1976)

I had a priest as a kid who would start a sermon every month or two with, “The story is told…” and then would recount the story of this movie. Why a priest loved a Rene Cardona grindhouse movie about cannibalism enough to tell a small congregation the grisly details of it is still beyond me, but it’s a more fun church than you usually get.

Based on the 1973 book Survive! by Clay Blair, which is based on the true story of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, this movie was somehow number one at the U.S. box office for one week, which blows my mind even further. Yes, people showed up to watch Rene and his son Rene make a movie about soccer players trying to decide between eating their dead teammates or starving to death and being eaten by their alive teammates.

Roger Ebert said, “Survive! is a fairly awful movie, but the essential heroism of its subject matter somehow emerges intact. That makes it a difficult movie to review — you can’t just dismiss it with cheap shots, you have to deal with the fact that it does have an emotional impact. It’s not a good movie or even a very professional one, but it does respect its subject matter and so we have to also.”

That’s why I loved Ebert, because even if he disliked a movie, he’d approach it as one to investigate.

The Cardona family never ran from crazy movies — showing real surgery in Night of the Bloody Apes, confronting terrorism and the CIA in Carlos the Terrorist, throwing celebrities into the meat grinders that were Cyclone and Bermuda Triangle and making Guyana: Cult of the Damned months after Jonestown — taking their movies to an international audience who was hungry for, well, pure insanity usually.

All hail Hugo Stiglitz! All hail Norma Lazareno, once the luchadora heroine of Night of the Bloody Apes! All hail José Elías Moreno, who is in this and was Santa in Rene’s berserk Santa Claus! All hail Father Joe, who could barely out ashes on your forehead without making you look like you should be in Immortal!

You can watch this on Tubi.

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