SILENT RUNNING (Blu-ray Review)
From ARROW VIDEO
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😹
Silent Running is the first movie that ever gave me a case of ’the feels,’ as my daughter calls it.
I was just a wee one when I caught it on NBC on a Friday night, after the preceding TV spot had me anticipating an exciting sci-fi adventure. However, I got more than I bargained for.
Bruce Dern stars as Freeman Lowell, a botanist onboard the Valley Forge, one of several cargo ships carrying the last of Earth’s plant and animal life (enclosed in massive glass domes). When the crew is given orders to jettison and destroy the domes and return the ships to commercial use, Lowell goes to extremes to save the lone remaining forest, killing his crewmates and changing course in hopes of disappearing. A majority of the film consists of Lowell and two endearing little drones (Dewey & Huey) maintaining the forest, when we grow to love this de facto family. But when a rescue team discovers their whereabouts, Lowell is forced to make some heartbreaking decisions in order to save the forest.
And heartbreaking this movie is. Silent Running turned out not to be the action-packed extravaganza I signed-on for at the age of 10. It’s a shamelessly manipulative film which forces us to not only condone Lowell’s murder of his crewmates, but feel an enormous sense of loss with every exploding dome. Additionally, Silent Running has us more emotionally invested in the fates of two faceless, emotionless robots than most of the human characters. These elements, along with the tragic conclusion, were total Kleenex fodder, which I wasn’t expecting. By the time the end credits rolled, I was practically bawling and thankful everyone in the family had already gone to bed. It was the first movie that ever actually made me feel anything. But despite my sorrow, I liked how it made me feel.
|Lowell's favorite pastime...watching grass grow.|
In addition to its sobering themes and pessimistic view of humankind, Silent Running remains one of the more technically impressive sci-fi films of the pre-Star Wars era, especially when one realizes it had a budget of only a million dollars. One of only two films directed by FX-whiz Douglas Trumbull, the visuals are simple yet effective, and hold up pretty well even today.
Silent Running has since become a cult classic that belies its age with a timely message and an affecting story. Arrow Video does right by the film with an outstanding video & audio transfer that’s a huge improvement over the 2015 Universal Blu-ray. All the bonus features from that disc are included here, along with a great batch of new ones, making this edition a must-own for fans. The only thing missing is a box of tissues because it’s still one of the most bittersweet sci-fi movies ever made.
NEW: “NO TURNING BACK” - Music historian Jeff Bond discusses the unusual film score and songs.
NEW: “FIRST RUN” - This is a video essay - with storyboards - which reveals how the first draft of the screenplay was much darker (and more violent).
NEW: AUDIO COMMENTARY - By critics Kim Newman & Barry Forshaw
NEW: ISOLATED MUSIC SCORE
NEW: BEHIND-THE-SCENES GALLERY - Over 600 pictures, though many of them look like still from the film itself.
“THE MAKING OF SILENT RUNNING” - Archival documentary
“SILENT RUNNING BY DOUGLAS TRUMBULL” and “DOUGLAS TRUMBULL: THEN AND NOW” - Individual archival interviews.
“A CONVERSATION WITH BRUCE DERN” - Archival Interview. Bruce has fond memories of this film, and especially Trumbull.
SUPPLEMENTARY BOOKLET - Includes two essays, “Silent Running: Douglas Trumbull’s Visions of Nature,” by film writer Barry Forshaw,” and “Bruce Dern’s Star Turn Among the Stars,” by author Peter Tonguette; cast, crew and restoration credits.
REVERSIBLE COVER - With new and vintage artwork. We kind-of prefer the new cover.