The Survivors (1983)

R | 102 mins | Comedy | 22 June 1983

Director:

Michael Ritchie

Writer:

Michael Leeson

Cinematographer:

Billy Williams

Production Designer:

Gene Callahan
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HISTORY

       The 21 Aug 1981 DV announced plans from Rastar Films to pair actors Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in The Survivors, a “bizarre comedy” scripted by Dennis Hackin, with a budget of $12 million. Principal photography was planned for spring 1982. Neither Falk, Arkin, nor Hackin appear in onscreen credits. According to a 17 Jun 1982 Columbia Pictures press release in AMPAS library files, which announced Michael Ritchie as director, photography was to be delayed until 15 Oct 1982, with tentative locations in Chicago, IL, and The Burbank Studios in Burbank, CA. Screenwriter Michael Leeson was listed as the film’s original screenwriter.
       The 5 Nov 1982 Back Stage reported that photography was set to begin 15 Nov 1982, with actors Robin Williams and Joseph Bologna in the lead roles. The ten-week production included location photography in the state of VT. However, the 30 Nov 1982 DV announced Bologna’s departure after two weeks of filming, because of “classic creative differences.” The 7 Dec 1982 DV announced Walter Matthau as Bologna’s replacement, and the 9 Dec 1982 DV reported that photography was underway in New York City. Production notes from AMPAS library files stated that, upon completion of New York City photography, the production would move to VT. However, according to the 9 Feb 1983 LAHExam, the absence of snow in VT made it necessary to select a new location in South Lake Tahoe, CA, where photography resumed at the same time “a huge blizzard” reportedly struck VT. An article in the May 1983 ... More Less

       The 21 Aug 1981 DV announced plans from Rastar Films to pair actors Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in The Survivors, a “bizarre comedy” scripted by Dennis Hackin, with a budget of $12 million. Principal photography was planned for spring 1982. Neither Falk, Arkin, nor Hackin appear in onscreen credits. According to a 17 Jun 1982 Columbia Pictures press release in AMPAS library files, which announced Michael Ritchie as director, photography was to be delayed until 15 Oct 1982, with tentative locations in Chicago, IL, and The Burbank Studios in Burbank, CA. Screenwriter Michael Leeson was listed as the film’s original screenwriter.
       The 5 Nov 1982 Back Stage reported that photography was set to begin 15 Nov 1982, with actors Robin Williams and Joseph Bologna in the lead roles. The ten-week production included location photography in the state of VT. However, the 30 Nov 1982 DV announced Bologna’s departure after two weeks of filming, because of “classic creative differences.” The 7 Dec 1982 DV announced Walter Matthau as Bologna’s replacement, and the 9 Dec 1982 DV reported that photography was underway in New York City. Production notes from AMPAS library files stated that, upon completion of New York City photography, the production would move to VT. However, according to the 9 Feb 1983 LAHExam, the absence of snow in VT made it necessary to select a new location in South Lake Tahoe, CA, where photography resumed at the same time “a huge blizzard” reportedly struck VT. An article in the May 1983 Marquee reported that photography started in CA, while a “larger-than-usual crew” waited in VT for snowfall, before relocating to South Lake Tahoe.
       Ritchie described the difficulty of working with sled dogs, particularly their inability or unwillingness to obey their trainer. Realizing that the dogs tended to gravitate toward sources of food, the director employed craft service vehicles as motivation. He also reduced Matthau’s workweek from six days to five while on location in South Lake Tahoe, since the actor had undergone bypass surgery several years earlier and working long hours in high elevations posed a possible health risk.
       According to the 1 Jun 1983 Var, Columbia Pictures, the film’s distributor, appealed the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) “R” rating, but on 25 May 1983, the Association’s Classification and Rating Appeals Board (CARA) sustained the rating.
       The 9 Feb 1983 MPHPD announced the film’s intended release date as 24 Jun 1983, however it opened two days earlier, on 22 Jun 1983, and an advance screening took place 18 Jun 1983 at the Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA. The film received a lukewarm critical reception, with several reviews praising Matthau’s ability to transcend a flawed screenplay. According to the Sep 1983 issue of Box, the picture earned a modest $10 million in its first three weeks, despite opening in more than 1,000 theaters.
      End credits conclude with the following statement: “The Producers would like to thank the following who have helped make this picture possible: The New York City Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, Edelman’s Guns Store, Lake Morey Inn, U.S. Forestry Service.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Back Stage
5 Nov 1982.
---
Box Office
Sep 1983.
---
Daily Variety
21 Aug 1981
p. 1, 26.
Daily Variety
30 Nov 1982.
---
Daily Variety
7 Dec 1982.
---
Daily Variety
9 Dec 1982.
---
Daily Variety
27 May 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Nov 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 1982.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jun 1983
p. 3, 43.
LAHExam
9 Feb 1983.
---
Los Angeles Times
22 Jun 1983
p. 1.
Marquee
May 1983
p. 13, 14.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
9 Feb 1983.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
27 Jul 1983.
---
New York Times
22 Jun 1983
p. 20.
Variety
23 Jun 1982.
---
Variety
10 Nov 1982.
---
Variety
29 Dec 1982.
---
Variety
1 Jun 1983.
---
Variety
22 Jun 1983
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures Presents
A Rastar-William Sackheim Production
A Michael Ritchie Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
D.G.A. trainee
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog, N.Y.
Cam 1st asst
Cam 2d asst
Unit still photog
Best boy
Key grip
Best boy grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Addl editing
Asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Scenic artist
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Cost supv
Costumer
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom man
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Titles and opt by
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting, N.Y.
Casting, L.A.
Unit pub
Extra casting
Scr supv
Asst auditor
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Prod office coord
Asst to Michael Ritchie
Asst to Michael Ritchie
Asst to Robin Williams
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
STAND INS
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
SOURCES
MUSIC
"When You're Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You)," by Mark Fisher, Joe Goodwin, Larry Shay
"Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries," by Lew Brown, Ray Henderson
"New York, New York," by Fred Ebb, John Kandor
+
MUSIC
"When You're Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You)," by Mark Fisher, Joe Goodwin, Larry Shay
"Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries," by Lew Brown, Ray Henderson
"New York, New York," by Fred Ebb, John Kandor
"Every Man A King," words by Gov. Huey P. Long, music by Castro Caraza, sung by Randy Newman, courtesy of Warner Borthers Records, Inc.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
22 June 1983
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 22 June 1983
Production Date:
15 November 1982--early 1983
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
4 August 1983
Copyright Number:
PA180618
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Prints
Prints by Metrocolor®
Duration(in mins):
102
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27013
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In New York City, business executive Donald Quinelle arrives at his office, and is fired by his boss’s parrot. Donald believes it to be a practical joke until Betty, the receptionist, hands him his final paycheck and directs him to the door at gunpoint. He stops at a gas station to fuel his car, but is too despondent to notice that the gasoline is spilling onto the ground. As Donald drives away, station proprietor Sonny Paluso throws a lit cigarette into the pool of gasoline, causing a fiery explosion. The following day, both men apply for unemployment benefits, but neither is able to navigate the bureaucracy. Afterward, they are seated side by side at a coffee shop counter, and Sonny becomes annoyed with Donald’s moaning and sobbing. An armed robber wearing a ski mask enters and demands that everyone take off their clothes. Sonny refuses and tries to wrest the gun from the robber. Donald is shot in the arm during the ensuing struggle, and Sonny removes the robber’s mask as he runs out the door, getting a glimpse of his face. In the hospital, Donald is visited by his fiancée, Doreen, and by Sonny, who apologizes for the shooting. Their conversation is interrupted by a television news editorial, criticizing Sonny’s actions and calling him a “hotshot.” Donald is furious and wants to issue a rebuttal, but Sonny is more concerned about concealing his identity from the gunman. The following evening, Sonny and his teenaged daughter, Candice, watch in horror as Donald delivers his inept refutation, which identifies Sonny by name. Sonny leaves an angry message ... +


In New York City, business executive Donald Quinelle arrives at his office, and is fired by his boss’s parrot. Donald believes it to be a practical joke until Betty, the receptionist, hands him his final paycheck and directs him to the door at gunpoint. He stops at a gas station to fuel his car, but is too despondent to notice that the gasoline is spilling onto the ground. As Donald drives away, station proprietor Sonny Paluso throws a lit cigarette into the pool of gasoline, causing a fiery explosion. The following day, both men apply for unemployment benefits, but neither is able to navigate the bureaucracy. Afterward, they are seated side by side at a coffee shop counter, and Sonny becomes annoyed with Donald’s moaning and sobbing. An armed robber wearing a ski mask enters and demands that everyone take off their clothes. Sonny refuses and tries to wrest the gun from the robber. Donald is shot in the arm during the ensuing struggle, and Sonny removes the robber’s mask as he runs out the door, getting a glimpse of his face. In the hospital, Donald is visited by his fiancée, Doreen, and by Sonny, who apologizes for the shooting. Their conversation is interrupted by a television news editorial, criticizing Sonny’s actions and calling him a “hotshot.” Donald is furious and wants to issue a rebuttal, but Sonny is more concerned about concealing his identity from the gunman. The following evening, Sonny and his teenaged daughter, Candice, watch in horror as Donald delivers his inept refutation, which identifies Sonny by name. Sonny leaves an angry message on Donald’s answering machine, while the gunman, Jack Locke, acquires Sonny’s address through the telephone company. Jack breaks into the Paluso home, intent on killing his only witness. Jack holds Sonny at gunpoint, while explaining that he used to be a well-paid killer for hire until “the economy went into the toilet,” forcing him to support his family with common theft. Sonny tries to befriend Jack, but the gunman will not reconsider. Downstairs, Candice opens the door to Donald, who apologizes for revealing Sonny’s identity. She goes upstairs to notify her father and becomes another of Jack’s potential victims. Donald waits outside the bedroom door and ambushes Jack, knocking him unconscious with a trophy. Sonny and Donald drive Jack to the police station, where Sonny identifies him as an armed robber, with no mention of the murders he may have committed. Empowered by his victory, Donald insists that he and Sonny stop at a gun show after leaving the station. Later that night, Donald unpleasantly surprises his fiancée, Doreen, with a small arsenal and a two-week survivalist training course in New Hampshire. Doreen is disillusioned with Donald and ends the engagement. He goes to the training camp alone, where he proves himself to be clumsy, inept, and physically unfit. After a series of unsuccessful attempts to find work, Sonny is hired as a taxi driver, but his misfortune continues as Jack becomes his first passenger. Jack explains that he was released on bail because a computer malfunction prevented the police from learning of his past crimes. Sonny assures Jack that he will maintain his silence, and promises Donald will as well. Jack demands that Donald deliver his oath by telephone within the week, or both men are doomed. The Palusos drive to the survivalist camp, far from civilization in a snow-covered wooded area, and find Donald living in a small cabin, subsisting on powdered foods. When Sonny explains the reason for his visit, Donald agrees to cooperate. However, when Donald telephones Jack, he betrays Sonny’s trust by insulting the gunman and challenging him to a battle to the death. As Jack packs for his showdown with Donald, his wife accuses him of having a mistress, but she breathes a sigh of relief upon learning that her husband is a hired killer. Sonny is furious at Donald, who tries to reassure his friend by introducing him to the camp’s owner, Wes Huntley. Donald gives the Palusos a tour of the camp, as other trainees fire live ammunition around them. Wes interrupts the activities to make a speech about the impending collapse of society, then delivers a sales pitch for his mail-order supply business. Donald informs Sonny that Wes has a master plan for the restructuring of society, contained in a black briefcase that is handcuffed to the camp’s second-in-command, Wiley. When Donald suggests involving Wes in his confrontation with Jack, Sonny advises that it would be more manly to face his opponent alone. That night, Sonny knocks Donald unconscious with the intent of smuggling him out of the camp, before learning that Wes has the camp perimeters secured until dawn. Sonny then ties Donald to a chair and uses aversion therapy in hopes of curing his friend’s lust for violence. The next morning, Donald cuts himself loose and rides away on his dogsled to meet his opponent. When Wes and Wiley notice Donald’s absence from a training exercise, they go to his cabin to investigate, and Sonny tells them of Donald’s impending confrontation with Jack. While Donald and Jack engage in gunplay, Wes organizes his trainees for an attack on the invader. Donald returns to the cabin for ammunition, followed by Jack, who is running from Wes and his makeshift army. While Donald and Jack engage in a heated argument, Sonny steps outside the cabin waiving a white handkerchief and admonishes the survivalists for their bloodlust. Donald and Candice emerge from the cabin, holding Jack at gunpoint, and Sonny joins them as they find a secluded area to execute their prisoner. Once they believe they are at a safe distance from Wes and his men, the group makes its escape in Sonny’s car, but soon find themselves pursued by survivalists on dogsleds. The car becomes trapped in the snow, but when Jack and Donald get out to push, Sonny drives away and leaves them behind. At his daughter’s insistence, Sonny turns back to rescue his companions, bisecting the advancing army and rupturing Wes’s sacred briefcase in the process. Wes’s soldiers turn on him when they discover that his “master plan” is a collection of financial documents that prove their leader to be a charlatan. As Sonny drives his companions back to New York City, Donald asks to step outside “to get some air.” Sonny follows as Donald walks down the road, lamenting the loss of his job, his home, and his fiancée, while removing his uniform. Sonny gives Donald his overcoat and assures him that things will improve. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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