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SILENT RUNNING
Blu-ray. Eureka.

Silent RunningLike most people, I first came across Silent Running during an unheralded TV broadcast; while aware of the film through passing mentions in books and magazines, I had few expectations of it, and so was surprised at just how good it was. The very definition of a cult movie – i.e. one that gradually found a devoted audience years after initial release – the film is now much loved, and deservedly so.

Bruce Dern plays Freeman Lowell, an astronaut botanist who is in charge of vast greenhouse domes that hold the only surviving plant life from earth, now orbiting space awaiting the call to return and refoliate the planet. Lowell’s fellow crewmembers are less dedicated to the cause, and when the orders come to destroy the domes and go home, they are overjoyed. But Lowell isn’t about to give up on his dream, and after a series of violent encounters, he finds himself alone – apart from three robot drones who he re-christens Huey, Dewey and Louie.

Although 40 years old, Silent Running feels remarkably fresh. Not only has the eco-warrior theme become more timely as the years have passed, but Douglas Trumbull’s special effects still hold up remarkably well – a few moments suffer under the glare of HD, but on the whole, this still looks very modern. The Joan Baez songs are, admittedly, an acquired taste and probably date the film more than anything on screen, but her plaintive hippy-folk warbling do seem somehow appropriate, if a little strident.

Silent RunningDern, who has to carry much of the film single-handed, is excellent as the obsessive, slightly crazy but ultimately sympathetic Lowell, and his relationship with the drones – small, boxy robots with no human elements at all – is remarkably touching, a credit to both Dern and the amputee actors inside the drone suits. Science fiction is rarely noted for its warmth or emotional impact, but if the final moments of this film don’t bring a lump to your throat and a tear to your eye, you’re probably dead inside.

This Blu-ray release has been much anticipated, and doesn’t disappoint. The transfer is – a couple of brief moments aside – excellent, and the extras fulsome – as well as commentary from Dern and Trumbull, there’s a 1972 50 minute documentary about the making of the film, and more recent interviews with the star and director – the icing on an already tasty cake.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

 

 

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