This film is something of a mystery to me. Growing up skulking around the local video store, renting films with cool covers and big boxes, Virus was always on the shelf. Had a great cover too, with a rotting corpse in the drivers seat of the car. For some strange reason, I never rented this. I think it was due to the low censorship certificate it had. PG was it? Obviously it must have no gore or violence, which is all I craved as a teen. So a friend of mine mentions this a few weeks ago, ‘Remember that film cover with the corpse in the car?’ So here we are, and what a film it is. Christ, it’s 155 mins long and full of human emotion and the survival of mankind, dealing with so many social issues, it’s surprising that it’s not recognised as a lost classic.
The plot is a simple one. A killer virus wipes out most of mankind. Only a few survive. We follow a small team holding out in Antarctica. They face a bleak future, but question how they can survive the killer Italian Flu which has destroyed their world. This plot has since been recreated on numerous platforms and is basically a Cold War horror story. Threads, Dawn of the Dead, Survivors, Triffids, 28 days, Autumn. We have the same plot, but what makes this film stand out is it’s hugeness and attention to detail.
This is the biggest film ever to be financed from China, even in today’s climate, it still holds this record. The cast is one of vastness. It’s got everyone. George Kennedy, Olivia Hussey, Ed James Olmos, Chuck Connors, Robert Vaughn, Glenn Ford to name a few. It’s great to see Olmos in his youth, stunning performance here as expected, real presence.
The film is a long slow trek through mankind and human traits facing decisions which are tough, a battle of survival and rebuilding of a new world. It’s a big talkie film, loads of dialogue and discussion which is always great, but many high adventure moments too and what a glorious final 20 minutes! Well worth a look this one and as relevant today as it was in 1980. (Beware of the short version, only 108 mins)