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Silent Running (1972) - Blu-ray Review

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Silent Running - Blu-ray Review

5 stars

Imagine what the earth would look like without its green foliage.  Imagine the heat.  Imagine the barren and scarred landscape.  Widespread deserts as far as the eye can see.  That’s the future imagined in Silent Running, a little science fiction gem from 1972.  While we never get to see that earth, the picture does a good job of making audiences feel the desperation imbedded in that actions of ecologist Freeman Lowell at the end of all botanical life.

Directed by special effects guru Douglas Trumbull, who was all of 28, Silent Running continues to mesmerize as a deeply moving picture with its “Save the Planet” message.  This science fiction film brings the early conservation effort to a whole new level by taking the conversation into space … and beyond.  Universal releases, alongside Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, the film this week for its blu-ray debut. 

The crowned prince of hippies, Bruce Dern, is an idealistic crewmember of a 21st-century space station.  He refuses to destroy the only forest vegetation saved from a defoliated Earth and takes matters into his own hands when told to destroy his work and return to Earth.  He turns on his unfriendly crewmembers, played by Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin and Jesse Vint, reprograms two droids (inventively played by four bilateral amputees), names them Huey and Dewey (after a third is destroyed beyond repair), and positions the ship toward Saturn.

The somber film tackles alienation as Dern bonds with the droids and realizes just hoe dependent his dying forest is on the sun’s light.  Written by Deric Washburn, Michael Cimino, and Steven Bochco and based on an idea developed by Thumbrull for Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (but thrown out at the last minute), Silent Running is still at the top of a lot of people’s Best Cinematic Science Fiction list and for good reason.  The science fiction in Silent Running, even at its weaker moments, rarely grows stale.

Dern simply nails his performance as a botanist pushed to his limits as his passion is tested by a militant mindset that would rather not have to answer questions.  Filmed aboard a decommissioned Korean War aircraft carrier, Silent Running continues to fulfill the action promised in its title as it, literally, sneaks up on you with its hypnotic attack under Dern’s commanding performance, which is almost entirely a one man show.

For my tastes, Silent Running is a close second to Kubrick’s science fiction masterpiece.  It is one of the very first mainstream ecologically minded movies and its message is projected and forwarded by a certifiable loon played deliciously by Dern.  The special effects are first class and it wears its green heart on its spacesuit sleeve.  All of the pieces fit together to form something that, inexhaustibly, never leaves your consciousness for very long.  If the chilling ending doesn’t haunt you forever, then I have to question your humanity.   Simply put, Trumbull’s film doesn’t get the respect it ought to be recognized for.    

Forget the crappy tagline and cover art on the blu-ray release, they completely miss the point of Trumbull’s hypnotic direction.  Watch Dern chose plants over people in Silent Running and settle in for one hell of a shock to the system.

Silent Running - Blu-ray Review

MPAA Rating: GP
Runtime:
89 mins
Director
: Douglas Trumbull
Writer:
Deric Washburn, Michael Cimino
Cast:
Bruce Dern, Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin
Genre
: Drama | Sci-fi
Tagline:
Amazing companions on an incredible adventure... that journeys beyond imagination!.
Memorable Movie Quote: "On Earth, everywhere you go, the temperature is 75 degrees. Everything is the same; all the people are exactly the same. Now what kind of life is that?"
Distributor:
Universal Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
March 10, 1972
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
April 7, 2015
Synopsis: In a future where all flora is extinct on Earth, an astronaut is given orders to destroy the last of Earth's botany, kept in a greenhouse aboard a spacecraft.

Silent Running - Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - April 7, 2014
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Discs: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0; French: DTS 2.0
Region Encoding: A

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Director and star Trumbull and Dern do the reminiscing from a commentary recorded over a decade ago.  What is charming is the mutual affection the two men still have for each other and the project. It infuses the commentary with passion and that's always a good sign.

Special Features:

There is a vintage documentary on the making of the film, which is very interesting as a contemporary look at the film.  In addition, there are also three interviews, two with Trumbull and one with Dern, which total out to around an hour.  With those extras along, there are about three and a half hours of bonus material, including the commentary.  Not bad. 

  • The Making of Silent Running (50 min)
  • Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull (30 min)
  • Douglas Trumbull Then and Now (5 min)
  • Conversation with Bruce Dern (11 min)
  • Trailer
  • Isolated Music and FX audio track

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