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Something of a 'Cult Sci-Fi Drama, Great on Blu-ray with Very Decent Extras and a Smart Steelbook Option
on 14 January 2016
I've seen this sci-fi drama quite a few times on TV, but despite feeling the content is occasionally a bit 'twee', when it was given the HD treatment for this fairly recent Blu-ray issue AND I could get it as a steelbook it was just too tempting....
Like the other Eureka Entertainment Blu-rays I own in the Masters of Cinema series ('Touch of Evil' and 'Metropolis'), they have produced another gem here. Despite being only mono, the soundtrack is nice and clear to present the quite lively and regular elements of musical embellishment (largely courtesy of one of the 'twee' aspects I mentioned earlier). The picture is far more impressive, being blemish-free, extremely bright, clear and pleasingly sharp.
Amazon have a detailed synopsis for this product - too detailed IMHO, as while it doesn't completely reveal the whole plot I still feel too much is revealed. So, if you don't want to learn too much here's a truncated version of their text, ending just before the beans are spilt :
'In the distant future, plant life on our planet is extinct. Remaining specimens are cultivated in vast greenhouse-like domes orbiting in space. Bruce Dern (Marnie, Coming Home, The 'burbs, Monster) stars as Freeman Lowell, dedicated botanist aboard the 'Valley Forge', awaiting the call to refoliate Earth despite the scorn of his crewmates.'
That initial setting (despite a misuse of the word 'refoliate' !) is portrayed very will, mostly due to some pretty convincing special-effects to depict the spaceship etc. Unfortunately, what then happens (as the story continues into the true 'plot') is for the serious aspects of the various dilemmas and situations befalling those on the spaceship to be 'blighted' with unwanted musical excerpts, featuring some rather inappropriate songs which I find to be a bit 'sickly' and have the effect of dampening the seriousness, almost converting the film into something a bit childish and almost comical.
This means that what could have been a very well made and acted film with a powerful story is cheapened, making me still like the film but also feel a bit dissatisfied with the overall 'effect' - but you may feel differently....
This MoC Blu-ray release has some decent extras, again missing from the steelbook product page, and what appears on the 'normal' Blu-ray Amazon product page is incomplete - so here's the correct info for you :
Commentary by director Douglas Trumbull and actor Bruce Dern
"The Making of Silent Running" (49:17)
"Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull" interview (30:08)
"Douglas Trumbull: Then and Now" interview (4:51)
"A Conversation with Bruce Dern" interview (10:56)
A lavish 48-page full-colour booklet featuring rare photographs and artwork from Trumbull s personal collection, and recollections of the film s cinematographer, special designs coordinator, and composer
I've also attached photos of the steelbook interior, exterior with card attached and the accompanying booklet as Amazon omit them.
So, whilst this film may have some disappointing/unnecessary musical 'embellishments', the production values and performances are (should be ?) strong enough to help dampen that blemish and the plot is thought-provoking and relevant. The sound might only be mono, but it's a good quality mono (!) and the image on this Blu-ray is excellent. Add decent extras, that booklet and an impressive steelbook option and this movie is likely to satisfy many.