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The Survivors

Theatrical release poster.
Directed by Michael Ritchie
Produced by William Sackheim
Written by Michael Leeson
Jonathan Reynolds (uncredited)
Starring Walter Matthau
Robin Williams
Jerry Reed
Music by Paul Chihara
Cinematography Billy Williams
Editing by Richard A. Harris
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) June 22, 1983 (New York City, New York)
Running time 102 min
Country USA
Language English

The Survivors is a 1983 comedy film starring Walter Matthau and Robin Williams.



Donald Quinelle (Williams) is a simple employee who gets fired from his job with the task of telling him delegated to a parrot. Sonny Paluso (Matthau) is a gas station owner whose station is accidentally blown up by Donald. The two men meet up at a restaurant when it is robbed by a man in a ski mask (Jerry Reed). Donald is shot, but Sonny gets a good look at the man. Then Donald goes on the news to explain the incident and the robber learns Sonny's identity. That night the robber visits Sonny to kill him and his teenage daughter Candice, but is saved by Donald. Afterwards Sonny and Donald take Jack Locke, the robber, to the police at gun point.

On the way back they stop at a gun store and Donald buys a huge amount, even though Sonny can't stand them. Donald goes to a survival camp and Jack, fresh from jail, finds Sonny again. The two make a deal that Jack won't kill them if he and Donald agree to say nothing to the police. Sonny and his daughter go to try to talk to Donald. After Donald insults Jack on the phone Jack decides to come up there to settle it himself.

Donald has now become a killing machine thanks to the leader Wes's teachings. After a quick battle with Jack, Donald runs away and the rest of the camp gets wind of what's going on. Jack hides in Donald's cabin and Sonny tries to reason with rest of the camp. Jack and Donald come out and Donald is yelling about how they are going to kill him. However, it is a ruse and Sonny, Candice, Jack, and Donald escape in Sonny's car. After showing to the rest of the camp that Wes is a fraud the group heads home. Donald gets out of the car and has a moment of reflection in the snow and Sonny tries to comfort him. The two walk back to the car as friends.


Walter Matthau.............Sonny Paulso

Robin Williams.............Donald Quinelle

Jerry Reed.................Jack Locke

John Goodman...............Commando

James Wainwright...........Wes Huntley

Kristin Vigard.............Candice Paluso

Annie McEnroe..............Doreen

Mariah Hailey..............Jack's Wife

Joseph Carberry............Detective Matt Burke

Skipp Lynch................Wiley


The film did not garner many good reviews, scoring only a 17% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Many felt that Robin Williams and Walter Matthau's style of humor did not mesh well together. An exception to the negative critical tide was the review that Pauline Kael gave the film in The New Yorker:

The banner line on the ad says ' Once they declare war on each other, watch out. You could die laughing.' The Survivors isn't about two men declaring war on each other; it's about two New Yorkers without anything in common who become friends. The advertisers probably didn't know what to do with it because it's a comedy for grownups. There's a lot of unconventional humour in the writing by Michael Leeson - (he won awards for his work on the TV series Taxi.) Robin Williams' work transcends the film's flaws. He acts with an emotional purity that I can't pretend to understand. A lot of the comedy comes from his being a grownup with this ranting little kid inside him. Walter Matthau gives a quiet, old pro's performance. [1]


The movie trailer and tv advertisements prior to its release use the theme music from the film Stripes, but it is never heard during the film itself.


  1. ^ Pauline Kael p.15-18 State of the Art ISBN 0-7145-2869-2

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