Silent Running (1972)

Silent Running (1972), directed by Douglas Trumbull.

First review:

I'm not sure anyone who did not see this when it first appeared can appreciate it's mythical power. We'd had a good ten years of the space program, back when the TV networks covered all of the launches, all day long. And I watched them.

Then the first Earth Day and the intense concern for nature, anger at people for spoiling it and fear that it might all be lost. (And nuclear bombs; we thought a lot about those).

There was a moment when these came together; nature in space. Does anyone remember The Whole Earth Catalog with it's strange combination of space colonies, geodesic domes and dirt soup? (Recipe: lots of lentils and cumin).

And this moment had a beautiful, heartfelt movie, so strange and poignant.

After ten years of playing psycho killers and degenerates (no one did it better), Bruce Dern gives a tremendous performance as the semi-crazed space-ecologist trying to save one last fragment of nature from the fire. He has so many good scenes: watching the Earth with his telescope (an original Celestron C8 orange tube), reading the Conservation Pledge in his bunk, and the oddly moving sequence when the drones operate on his leg.

He thinks that his mission, his forest and his robots are enough, that he doesn't need anything from other people. But he is wrong, and the growing loneliness and guilt overcome him and he has to make an End of it. Giving the forest one last chance, a bit less each time, the message in the bottle...

Seeing it again reminds me how exciting early programming and robotics was, how ambitious were all our projects.

The Ring Passage sequence is very exciting, echoed later in the air-braking scene in 2010 (1984). My one regret about the finale to the recent Battlestar Galactica is that they did not do something similar when they sent the fleet into the Sun. I wanted to see the Galactica's interior as it approaches its end, with a final pan of the Picture Wall. Would that have been too cliche?

Joan Baez sings two lovely songs composed by Peter Shickele. They'll be in my head for days now.

Second review:

I reviewed this previously and will let my earlier appreciation stand as is. I wanted to report on the region B Blu-ray and give some thumbnails.

It's a favorite but I'd almost forgotten what it looked like. This is a fine transfer from Masters of Cinema, a good value with a commentary track, isolated score, making of and other extras, plus a 48-page booklet.

I enjoyed the apology screen when trying this on a region A player:



We hoped you wouldn't have to see this screen.

This Blu-ray is region B coded (Europe). Your player must be a different region.

We apologise profusely but we have been forced to encode the disc region B at the express insistence of the film's licensor and a global industry afraid of a level playing field.

Music and books are not region encoded -- why should films be?

If you are able to locate a multi-region Blu-ray player, this disc will play okay.

We recommend that you obtain a multi-region Blu-ray player so your time isn't wasted unnecessarily in the future.


-- the Masters of Cinema Series

Highly recommended if you are a fan of the movie and can cope with region B Blu-ray.