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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Silent Running [Blu-ray]


(Douglas Trumbull, 1972)


Also available as a Limited Edition Blu-ray Steelbook in UK and Germany:


Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Universal

Video: Eureka - Masters of Cinema - Spine #23



Region: 'B'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:29:36.913

Disc Size: 29,817,238,947 bytes

Feature Size: 23,724,939,264 bytes

Video Bitrate: 31.30 Mbps

Chapters: 13

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: November 14th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 694 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 694 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 512 kbps / 16-bit)
DTS-HD Master Audio English 645 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 645 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 512 kbps / 16-bit)
Commentary: DTS-HD Master Audio English 679 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 679 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 512 kbps / 16-bit)



English (SDH), none



• Full-length commentary by director Trumbull and actor Bruce Dern
• Isolated music and effects track
• The Making of Silent Running, a 1972 on-set documentary (49:17 in 480i)
• Two video pieces with Douglas Trumbull (30:08 + 4:51 in 480i)
• A Conversation with Bruce Dern, a discussion with the actor (10:56 in 480i)
• Original theatrical trailer (2:57 in 480i)
• 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





Description: Three years after helping to achieve some of the most amazing imagery in cinema history with 2001: A Space Odyssey, special effects maestro Douglas Trumbull made an auspicious directorial debut at age 29 with the environmentally themed science fiction classic Silent Running.

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. When an order comes to instead destroy the domes and return home, Lowell takes matters into his own hands, beginning a long and lonely voyage into the unknown.

With its remarkable special effects (especially the robot drones Huey, Dewey, and Louie); glorious score (including songs performed by Joan Baez); memorable sound effects (created by Joseph Byrd from the cult band The United States of America); a screenplay co-written by Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter) and Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues), and an impassioned central performance from Dern, Silent Running remains a uniquely contemplative and haunting adventure that continues to make hippies of young children, even today.



The Film:

The movie's themes of environmental concern and rebellion against wrongheaded authority fit very well with the time it was released (enhanced by Joan Baez's folksy soundtrack). The story is set in the year 2008, when Earth's natural environment has been destroyed. All that remains are samples of forests and waterlands preserved in space-station greenhouses orbiting Saturn until the day our planet is able to support plants and animals again. Freeman Lowell is one of the guardians of these microcosmic environments, and when official word comes that the project is too expensive to be carried on - in fact, Earthlings now seem content with their totally man-made surroundings - he quickly hatches a plan to avert orders to destroy the pod carrying his most beloved forest site. He kills his three colleagues and heads deeper into space, radioing home that an explosion has disabled his spacecraft and sent it on a trajectory where he may never be found again. Alone somewhere inside the rings of Saturn, he forms a relationship with his remaining "drone" robots, teaching them about the abundant life in their care. When a craft from home approaches to "rescue" him, he must take one last drastic step and make an even greater sacrifice to save the land in his care.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE

The director is Douglas Trumbull, a Canadian who designed many of the special effects for Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey." Trumbull also did the computers and the underground laboratory for "The Andromeda Strain," and is one of the best science-fiction special-effects men. "Silent Running," which has deep space effects every bit the equal of those in "2001," also introduces him as an intelligent, if not sensational, director.

The weight of the movie falls on the shoulders of Bruce Dern, who plays the only man in sight during most of the picture. His only companions are Huey, Louie, and Dewey, who are small and uncannily human robots who help with the gardening. They're OK with a trowel but no good at playing poker, as their human boss discovers during a period of boredom.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert  located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Silent Running appears true to the source on Blu-ray from The Masters of Cinema arm of Eureka Cinema in the UK.  The image quality shows a fine layer of grain and colors are bright - bordering on vibrant. The enclosed booklet in the package states "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.". It is neither glossy nor pristinely sharp but shows some depth and I would guess the 1.85:1 aspect ratio 1080P transfer is a strong replication of the theatrical appearance some 40-years hence. This Blu-ray has a nice realistic feel with a reasonable film-like sense to it. Visually this gets high marks.
















Audio :

Masters of Cinema offer an uncompressed DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel stereo track with minimal depth but the film doesn't require an abundance of floor rattling. There is also the ability to listen to the Isolated music and effects separately at about the same HD quality as the feature's lossless track. There are some audio effects but they are mostly passive - and not bass-dependant. It sounds pretty clean and crisp to me - this is certainly evident by accessing the isolated score which, by the way the music was composed by Peter Schickele, also known in other circles as 'P.D.Q. Bach'. The classically-rooted music is both haunting and exports a sense of isolation. There are optional English (SDH) subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.


Extras :

Included is the previously-heard relaxed commentary from 2000 with director Trumbull and actor Bruce Dern. The production information imparted is very good and it's nice to hear them both talk about the film. We get Charles Barbee's 50-minute Making of Silent Running documentary, filmed in 1972 on-set. It showcases more on technical effects details including the three robot drones - efficiently named Drone 1, Drone 2, and Drone 3, reprogrammed by Dern's character, Freeman Lowell, to respond to Huey, Dewey, and Louie. There are further - two video pieces with Douglas Trumbull running about 35-minutes in total plus a 10-minute conversation with Bruce Dern on his reminiscences of Silent Running. Lastly are an original theatrical trailer (2:57 in 480i) and a lavish 48-page full-colour booklet included in the case featuring rare photographs and artwork from Trumbull’s personal collection, and recollections of the film’s cinematographer, special designs coordinator, and composer. Excellent!



Silent Running is such a cool film - if, obviously, dated in some respects. We have a simple premise with important undercurrent themes and Trumbull pulls the sci-fi angle together with adept effects and a keen use of the haunting score. This is definitely a thinking man's space-feature rather than an action/adventure epic set in the stars (ex. Dern's character's name is 'Freeman'). I think this was a good choice for MoC to release on Blu-ray. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting the film and the extensive extras buoyed my appreciation for subsequent viewings. Yes, we can easily recommend this as  apart of your digital library. 

Gary Tooze

October 13th, 2011


Also available as a Limited Edition Blu-ray Steelbook in UK and Germany:


About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze






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