On Friday Oct 13 1972 a small passenger plane crashed in the desolate Andes mountains. Of the forty-five travelers and crew, only twenty-eight survived the impact but the brutal conditions , lack of food and appropriate shelter resulted in more deaths while they remained stranded in the mountains for an incredible 72 days. Ultimately they turned to consuming the flesh of those who had died to gain the strength to continue. By the time the whole ordeal was over, only 16 people came down the mountain.
Clay Blair Jr's excellant 1973 book Survive! documented what had transpired, the story found by many to be unsettling and inspiring at once.
Mexican director Rene Cardona (Tintorera...Tiger Shark, Guyana: Cult Of The Damned) adapted Blair Jr's book for his 1976 film Supervivientes De Los Andes (or Survivors Of The Andes). Cardona's movie did well but took on a new life when U.S. producers Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood bought the rights to license the film for English-speaking territories. The team went to work on making Supervivientes more suitable for North American audiences. They scrapped most of the music, replacing it with a much more uplifting and stereotypical cinematic score. They trimmed many scenes to tighten up the tale and added narration to help move the story along. A real improvement was adding a poignant black & white photo montage to the beginning and end of the film. Now simply titled Survive, Stigwood and Carr's version was a huge theatrical success in North America, earning 3.5 million dollars in it's first month despite less than glowing reviews.
Another book, 1974's Alive by Piers Paul Reed was the basis for the 1993 film of the same name starring Ethan Hawke and Vincent Spano. The success of the Alive book & movie seem to have erased the earlier works from the public's knowledge.
Luckily, in 2003 Supervivientes De Los Andes was finally given a home video release on DVD via Urban Vision. This disc presented the original 112 min Mexican version of the film (listed as being only 103 minutes on the packaging for some reason) with English subtitles. As a bonus there is also the original 3 minute theatrical trailer.
In 2011 home video reissue company VCI Entertainment released a new DVD featuring the Stigwood-Carr 86 minute film Survive for the first time on home video. North American fans who only knew the edit of the film meant for them, were thrilled to finally get this version of the movie on DVD. A real bonus on the VCI disc was the inclusion of the original 112 minute Supervivientes De Los Andes as a supplementary feature. Unfortunately, despite being advertised on the back of the case as "Spanish language with optional English subtitles", these subtitles do not appear for this film restricting non-Spanish speaking audiences from fully enjoying the longer cut of the movie. (VCI's online catalogue now correctly states that English subtitles are present only on the 86 minute North American version.)
Hopefully if VCI ever decides to release Survive on blu-ray, they are able to correct this issue and present the best possible home video version of both films to date.