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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Silent Running - Silent Running(Blu Ray) [Arrow Video - 2022]

Silent Running is one of the more quietly impactful, at times moving Sci-Fi films of the ’70s. It’s an ecologically focused take on the genre, which wonderfully blends together an excellent central performance, impressive/ surprisingly un-dated visuals, and a good mix of drama, conflict, and moments of heart-warming humour. Here from Arrow Video, both in the UK and stateside is a new Blu-Ray release of the film- featuring a 4k restoration of the picture, a new commentary track, and a selection of archive/ new extras.

Silent Running appeared in the year 1972. It was directed by LA-born Douglas Trumbull- who is known as both a filmmaker, producer and visual effects artist. His notable directed title (aside from the album to hand) is virtual reality-themed sci-fi Brainstorm (1983), and his effects work appeared on the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stark Trek- The Motion Picture, and Blade Runner

The film is set on an in-deep space craft- it carries a crew of four taking in Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern), John Keen (Cliff Potts), Andy Wolf (Jesse Vint), and Marty Barker (Ron Riflink). The ship's is cargo rather important, being all the flora and fauna from the now barren earth- these are laid out in several bio domes around the ship's body. Lowell is a thoughtful and focused character been concerned with looking after the plants, while the other three come off as flippant, shallow and just doing their job guys.

They get through a notification that they have to destroy the domes- and return to earth. Keen, Wolf, and Marty are all eager to get rid of the domes, and head home. But Freeman is devastated, and as the other three start releasing the domes. He panics, and one thing leads to another, and he lands up being the only human on the ship.

Dern is magnificent here, really giving one of his key career performances- as he embeds so much emotion and conviction in his performance. The other three actors are fine, though they aren’t in the film for very long.  I won’t detail the rest of the film's plot, so as not to lose the impact of the storylines unfold- but along the way, we meet two blocky two-legged droids that Dern humanizers- renaming them Huey & Dewey.  With the film rather resolves in a rather downbeat manner.

Visually the look of the domes, the spacecraft and its interiors are done very well- and aside from some of the miniature work it all looks surprisingly undated. And as we humans are carrying on corrupting and destroying mother nature’s creations- the theme of the picture is still very timely. The film features a few Joan Baez songs, which I guess dates it to the 70’ s/ and the later hippy movement- but thankful these are not too overwhelming/overplayed.  Silent Running has always been one of my favourite Sci-fi films since I was a child, and I think it has very much stood the test of time.

 

Moving onto this recent Blu-Ray- and the 4k scan really is wonderful, from the off & the footage of greens, lushly coloured flowers, wildlife and waterways is spectacularly clean and crisp. Moving onto the extras, and on the new side of things on the disc.  Firstly we have a track from genre expects/ critics Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw- and as you’d expect it’s a very informative, well-researched, and entertaining track. They begin by talking about social commentary on Sci-fi films in general, and how the genre changed after the release of 2001. We find the film wasn’t a commercial success- and the pair discuss why this was. They talk about Bruce Dern- why he was selected for the role, and how before this role he often played baddies.  We get talk about how the film is scientifically flawed, but of course big in emotional impact. They discuss the use of Baez's song, and the general scoring in the film. Later on, they talk about Trumbull directing career, and why he may not have been an actor’s director.  They discuss the film's writers and briefly touch on other projects they worked on. We find out the film was shot inside an active aircraft carrier- and how it was subtly dressed so as to look spacecraft-like. They talk about the relationship between Dern's character and the droids, and the moments of humour between the three. They pounder if the film could be remade today- and if so, what it might be like, plus much more. Otherwise, on the new side, we get First Run (14.03) which is a visual essay from Joe Spira where he compares the original draft of the script, and how it changed in the finished film.
Otherwise, we get a good selection of achieve extras. Commentary from director Douglas Trumbull and actor Bruce Dern. Isolated music and effects track. No Turning Back – an interview with film music historian Jeff Bond on the film’s score. The Making of Silent Running –on-set documentary. Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull and Douglas Trumbull: Then and Now – two interviews with the film’s director. A Conversation with Bruce Dern –interview with the film’s lead actor. Theatrical trailer. Extensive behind-the-scenes gallery. With the finished release presented with an illustrated booklet featuring writing on the film by Barry Forshaw and Peter Tonguette, and an extensive image gallery including behind-the-scenes stills and original concept drawings
 

I’ve always had a soft spot for Silent Running since seeing it as a child in the late ’70s/ early 80’s- and it’s certainly stood the test of time, been both moving and affecting all these years later. As we’ve come to expect from Arrow Video- the company does a great job with the new 4k scan, and selection of new & archive material. If you have even just a passing interest in Sci-fi film, Silent Running is still a very relatable/ approachable film- which will certainly give you food for thought. 

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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