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Silent Running [Masters of Cinema] [UK Release] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Subtitles: English SDH
  • Region: B (Region-Locked)
  • Certification: U
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Eureka Entertainment
  • Run Time: 90 Mins.
  • Blu-ray Release Date: November 14, 2011
  • RRP: £20.42

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4/5]

Douglas Trumbull, the special effects genius behind Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey struck out on his own as a director in 1971 with this environmentally-themed, science fiction special effects extravaganza featuring Bruce Dern in a riveting, basically solo performance, Silent Running. Using the retired US Navy Aircraft carrier Valley Forge as a set and forging a new host of dazzling visual effects, including three robot drones, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, the look and themes of Trumbull’s film would go on to influence such pop-culture icons as George Lucas’ Star Wars and Disney•Pixar’s Wall•E.

Set in the distant future, the Earth has been ravaged and plant life can no longer grow on the planet. Astronauts have been sent into space with the remaining specimens on large freighters with enormous bio-domes to orbit the Earth and keep whatever plant life they can alive until they can return home with it one day. Freeman Lowell (Dern) is one such astronaut, a botanist, serving upon the Valley Forge, tending his garden and awaiting the call to return to Earth and repopulate the planet. But when the order comes in to destroy the domes instead, the freighter now being much more valuable to Earth to carry cargo than plant life specimens, Lowell takes matters into his own hands. He launches a singular and violent revolt against the order that will find him wandering alone on his ship into the vast unknown reaches of space with no one but his three robot drones to keep him company.

The film not only speaks to environmental concerns, but also marks the journey of Lowell from determined and resolute revolutionary to solitary and remorseful, with his only friends becoming two anthropomorphic robot drones he must actually program to do the things that humans would normally do. His journey symbolizes humankind’s ever-expanding distance from our natural origins, and how it isolates us; though we may in fact be surrounded, we are yet alone. It’s truly brilliant on so many levels.

It’s worth noting that Silent Running had a screenplay co-written by Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter) and Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues) and contains musical performances by Joan Baez.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

‘The film was transferred and mastered in HD resolution from an interpositive 35mm source element made in 1996 and supplied by NBC/Universal USA. Further restoration work was completed at Deluxe 142, London. Picture issues such as dirt, light scratches, and debris as well as warped, damaged, or unstable frames were removed or improved upon using a combination of HD-DVNR, Phoenix, and MTI systems.’

The film appears in a 1080p/24 AVC/MPEG-4 encodement framed in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. There are still some light instances of scratches and debris apparent, but no heavy-handed scrubbing has been applied, so the image retains an organic, filmic quality, though at times blacks appear a bit greenish and grain is rather heavy. I don’t see any video noise and color saturation is fairly decent, as is contrast, although overall gamma could have been slightly darkened, just a bit. Flesh tones, on the other hand, are spot on.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Audio is supplied in a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix that is full, clean, and clear, with no hints of crackle and very little hiss. Dynamics are good and perceived separation of dialogue and sound effects is quite good for a monaural mix.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3.5/5]

There is plenty of useful information to be gleaned from the extras included with this release of Silent Running from Eureka Entertainment, especially what is in the 48-page booklet that happens to include a rather involved description of the film’s set design and filming techniques from special designs coordinator Wayne Smith.

The supplements provided with this release are:

  • Commentary – This audio commentary, recorded in 2000, features recollections from director Douglas Trumbull and actor Bruce Dern.
  • Play Film with Music & Effects Track
  • The Making of Silent Running (1.33:1; 00:49:17) – This 50-minute 1972 documentary by Charles Barbee features an intimate, wide-ranging look at the making of the film.
  • Douglas Trumbull – These two video pieces from 2001 feature the director discussing the making of the film, and a further look at this post-Silent Running career.:
  • Silent Running by Douglas Trumbull (1.33:1; 00:30:08)
  • Douglas Trumbull: Then and Now (1.33:1; 00:04:51)
  • A Conversation with Bruce Dern (1.33:1; 00:10:56)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (1.33:1)
  • Booklet: The deluxe full color, 48-page booklet contains recollections of the film’s production from cinematographer Charles F. Wheeler (written in 1972), special designs coordinator Wayne Smith (written 1972), and composer Peter Schickele (interviewed by Film Score Monthly’s Jeff Bond in 2002). Wayne Smith gives a particularly detailed accounting of the film’s set design, construction, and even the film speed and sort of lighting used.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

More an environmental protest and impassioned solo performance than a strict science fiction film, Silent Running is perhaps truly an old school sort of genre film. It hearkens back to the days when sci-fi meant to inform and get across a message, be it subversive or blatant, rather than just dazzle with special effects and be quickly forgotten a few moments later. This Masters of Cinema release as as good a place as any to see this oldie with its solid transfer to Blu-ray.

Additional Screen Captures


[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B005DE1G2Y[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.co.uk

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3.5/5]

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