In the distant future, a police marshal stationed at a remote mining colony on the Jupiter moon of Io uncovers a drug-smuggling conspiracy, and gets no help from the populace when he later finds himself marked for murder.
Thinking this will prevent war, the US government gives an impenetrable supercomputer total control over launching nuclear missiles. But what the computer does with the power is unimaginable to its creators.
In a future Earth barren of all flora and fauna, the planet's ecosystems exist only in large pods attached to spacecraft. When word comes in that the pods are to be jettisoned into space and destroyed, most of the crew of the Valley Forge rejoice at the prospect of going home. Not so for botanist Freeman Lowell, who loves the forest and its creatures. He kills his colleagues taking the ship deep into space. Alone on the craft with his only companions being three small robots, Lowell revels in joys of nature. When colleagues appear to "rescue" him, he realizes he has only one option available to him. Written by
The model of the "Valley Forge" space freighter was 26 feet in length and was constructed of steel, wood, plastic, and over 650 army tank model kits. This model no longer exists, as it was disassembled and destroyed several years after filming. At least one original "dome" from the model has survived in good condition, and was offered on an Internet auction site in 2003 - it sold for $11,000, and currently rests in a science fiction museum in Seattle, Washington, USA. See more »
During the space walk when Huey and Dewey show Louie's foot to Freeman, Freeman is wearing a blue space suit that looks like an ocean diver's dry suit, with a thin helmet. The suit does not look overly tight, nor is it inflated, it merely fits snugly without being skin tight. However, in space, he would need an atmosphere inside the suit, meaning it would have to be inflated, and the vacuum of space would explode that foam suit in an instant. See more »
[Lowell and the drones are playing poker; he looks smugly at his cards]
All right, Huey. What have you got?
[Huey plays a winning hand. Lowell starts laughing]
He had a full house and he knew it! Now how about that? He had a full house and he knew it!
Huey and Dewey...
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Universal Studios funded several low-budget productions in the early seventies. By far the best to come out of this program was 'Silent Running', an ecologically-minded 'message film' that stands out today as one of the truly great films of the science-fiction genre.
Bruce Dern stars as Freeman Lowell, a futuristic Park Ranger minding Earth's last forests, sealed in gigantic domes aboard an equally gigantic freighter in space. When ordered to destroy the domes and return home, Lowell is forced to choose between his crewmates and his beloved forests.
The motif of a polluted, or simply, homogenized Earth, the ultimate triumph of human progress over nature and wilderness, is a standard theme of science fiction in the 20th century, and the film is not too different from many other films and episodic television programs seen since the postwar period. Rarely, however, has the theme been explored from the point of view of ecological ethics. The storyline is kept deliberately simple, and asks not the question 'How Would You Act In Such A Position', it merely shows how one particular man might. The characters are given seminal, yet subtle opportunities to flesh themselves out (comments made during meals and card games are particularly noteworthy), and even if the character of Lowell is ultimately dislikeable, he remains oddly sympathetic. Dern produces a remarkable performance here, as a tortured, perhaps even mentally-ill, loner. His work here is still fresh and understated and certainly not of the over-the-top calibre, despite the insistances of some.
The film possesses truly amazing visual images, from the spacecraft itself (the decommissioned and soon-to-be-scrapped aircraft carrier Valley Forge) to the domes (an aircraft hanger at Van Nuys Airport) to the unforgettable Drones, uncanny little robots designed around the amputee-actors that give them life. Visual effects are excellent, the direct prototypes of even more fantastical films to come. The music, composed for the film by Peter Schickele (known internationally as P.D.Q. Bach), is by turns boldly triumphant, softly mournful, and is quite effective; some viewers may hate the vocal work of Joan Baez, but she is a logical choice for this production and time period.
While many films have suffered since the release of 'Star Wars'(which is NOT, strictly speaking, science-fiction) due to dated visuals and obsolete effects technology, 'Silent Running' is still startlingly clean and visionary. A worthy film for all science-fiction fans to see.
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