Jack (Robert Urich - Lonesome Dove) and Claire Carpenter (Ali MacGraw - Convoy) decide to sell the family ranch to live their dream of sailing around the world whether or not their four children want to or not. After arriving at the Gold Coast their daughter, Susan (Danielle von Zerneck), who had been opposed to the trip, decides to get a job leaving them one person short so they offer Wally (David Franklin), a surfer, passage whose experience of sailing is nil and spends the first few days being sea sick. Whilst on their journey they come across some whales but they end up damaging the boat which sinks leaving the family and Wally in an inflatable raft barely big enough for them and with limited supplies.
"Survive the Savage Sea" is based on Dougal Robertson's book, a book which tells the true story on which this movie is based as it was he who back in 1971 took his family on a sailing adventure which made news headlines when they ended up shipwrecked and stuck in the middle of nowhere. But this is an American interpretation of the book and so whilst various events such as an encounter with whales remain true the real family were in fact British. Never the less "Survive the Savage Sea" is an entertaining little disaster/survival movie, clearly made with some budget limitations as you would expect for a TV movie but in some cases these help to improve it.
"Survive the Savage Sea" actually starts with a trawler coming across an abandoned life raft with just the log book in it. As the captain reads the log book the movie does two things; it takes us back to the start with Jack selling up his ranch to take the family on an around the world adventure but it also makes us think this is a story about a family who died at sea. But as I said "Survive the Savage Sea" is based upon a true story written by the real father so it is obviously not going to be about their death.
The real story starts when their schooner sinks after being attacked by whales and they find themselves in a raft with limited supplies and a dinghy which they tow. What we watch is how they set about surviving on limited supplies using Jack's ingenuity to create a sail for the dinghy in order to act as a tow boat for the raft taking it towards the sea lane and a better chance of survival. We also see how keeping water down is hard for the youngest boy and he becomes very ill whilst sharks follow them. I could go on but "Survive the Savage Sea" is one disaster/ survival movie which is worth watching and so all I will say is that there is a lot more which goes on when it comes to their battle to survive.
Now as I mentioned earlier "Survive the Savage Sea" is clearly a movie made on a budget, the scene of their boat sinking looks fake and there are other scenes which highlight a certain lack of authenticity. But in some ways the budget limitations actually work in the movie's favour as it concentrates the focus on the people and their ingenuity to survive rather than on the special effects. What that means is the cast lead by Robert Urich and Ali MacGraw dig deep to deliver their characters rather than being over shadowed by the action and effects which usually dominate these disaster/ survival movies.
What this all boils down to is that "Survive the Savage Sea" is a pretty decent disaster/ survival movie which whilst obviously made on limited funds is thoroughly entertaining.