Emile Pulska is visiting his old friend Abe Stillman. During the visit they are attacked and Emile is struck senseless. When he wakes up he is told that Abe is dead, dead by natural causes,... See full summary »
Edward G. Robinson,
What's a man supposed to when he is given an impossible choice of deciding who lives and who dies? And, just as equally important, how is that man to be judged by his fellow man? Is he justified in his actions or is he a murderer? These are the questions that we are asked in 1975's "The Last Survivors". This seldom seen "Movie of the Week" wastes no time in getting started in the first scene where a passenger cruise ship gets caught in a vicious storm and sinks with just a few survivors and crew being crammed into a single lifeboat. Among them is a young ship's officer named Alexander Holmes (played by a very young Martin Sheen) who is immediately given command by the ship's dying captain. Holmes begs the captain not to give him that responsibility (you can see the fear in Sheen's eyes) but alas, Holmes is the senior man and all rests on his shoulders. Right from the gecko, we the audience know that not everyone is going to be saved; there's just too many people! This becomes even more apparent when our characters are trapped in another storm and from there, well, it's all about doing the ugly business of playing God, deciding as one crew member put it, how, when and who and Holmes inspires hate and malice in all of us for what he is does.
Eventually, help arrives but its only the beginning for Holmes as he is put on trial for manslaughter. This is where a remarkable thing happens; rather than hating Holmes, we begin to pity him and see him as a human being who was put in an impossible situation. Our pity for him only grows when it becomes apparent through flashbacks that none of the survivors who were in the boat were without sin themselves. This is truly a remarkable film for the well done effects, solid direction, and good writing. But above all, its the powerful acting that drives this movie, particularly from Sheen but also Tom Bosley (who has an uncanny habit of turning up in these little TV productions), Diane Baker, Anne Francis, Bruce Davison, Christopher George, and a whole lot of others, some known, some unknown. This is a story that has a foundation of truth, for it comes from a real life case that occurred in 1841, US vs. Holmes Federal Case Vol. 26 where much of what I just describe pretty much transpired, albeit 100 or more years ago. If you get a chance, check this out on you tube. The only bad thing that I can find about this movie is that its been left to rot in some Hollywood basement and it deserves a whole lot better than that. 10 out out 10.
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