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TCM Spotlight: Survival Movies
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Survival Movies - Fridays in January


It's a matter of life and death! In addition to offering high adventure, survival movies have a way of raising the stakes and putting our own day-to-day challenges into perspective.

TCM's selection of survival movies through the decades also offers helpful tips for living through life-threatening situations, whether it's enduring a plane crash in the Amazon rain forest (Five Came Back, 1939); facing the dangers of an expedition to Antarctica (The Secret Land, 1948); suffering through the heat of the Mojave Desert (Inferno, 1953); confronting fellow schoolboys who revert to savagery on a remote island (Lord of the Flies, 1963); overcoming a bear attack and the treachery of companions (Man in the Wilderness, 1971); or learning to adapt in the Alaskan wilderness (Into the Wild, 2007).

Our other survival films offer a wide range of locales and threatening situations. Daniel O'Herlihy stars in Robinson Crusoe (1954), an adaptation of Daniel Defoe's famous tale of a 17th century castaway who--for 28 years--makes a life for himself on a deserted island in the Atlantic Ocean. Robert Ryan and Anita Ekberg are among the jungle survivors in Back From Eternity (1956), a remake of Five Came Back. In Abandon Ship! (1957), Tyrone Power plays a captain forced to jettison some passengers in an overcrowded lifeboat after his luxury-liner sinks in the Atlantic.

Ray Milland directs and stars in Panic in Year Zero (1962), the story of a family that finds refuge in a cave in the mountains of California after a nuclear attack. Peter Finch and Richard Attenborough head the cast of Flight of the Phoenix (1965), which tells of the struggles of the crew whose aircraft has crashed into the Sahara Desert. My Side of the Mountain (1969) tells of a 12-year-old boy (Teddy Eccles) who leaves his home in Toronto to live in the Canadian wilderness, where his friends include a raccoon and a falcon.

Cornel Wilde directed No Blade of Grass (1970), an adaptation of John Cristopher's sci-fi novel The Death of Grass, about a virus that attacks farm crops in the London area leading a family to seek refuge in Scotland. Walkabout (1971) is Nicolas Roeg's well-regarded film about a brother and sister left to their own resources in the Australian outback where they are aided by an Aboriginal boy. The Poseidon Adventure (1972) concerns a luxury liner overturned by a tsunami in the Atlantic, with an all-star cast that includes Gene Hackman, Shelley Winters, and Red Buttons.

By Roger Fristoe

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