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.
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
Footage of the three ships drifting through space and the jettisoning of the domes appears in the story "Different Ones" from Rod Serling's Night Gallery TV series. In an usual twist, the TV episode aired December 29th 1971, months before the movie's release date of March 10th, 1972. See more »
Early in the movie it's established that the galley is on the starboard side of the ship; the final shot of the vessel shows the lighted galley window on the port side. 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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In the Italian version, the three drones are named after "Paperino", "Paperone" and "Paperina" ("Donald Duck", "Uncle Scrooge" and "Daisy Duck") because calling them "Qui", "Quo" and "Qua" ("Huey", "Dewey", "Louie") would have been cacophonous: "Vieni qui, Qui!" ("Come here, Huey!"). See more »
In the future all plant life on Earth has become extinct and green forests only exist on remote space stations dedicated to preserve specimens of nature. One such station is maintained by a crew of four and led by an idealistic nature lover named Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern). When the crew receives an order to destroy the preserve and return to commercial service, Lowell sets out to protect his forests by any means necessary. As a result, he ends up being the only human at the station after it is presumed destroyed and begins a project of teaching his small robot servants to help him to look after the forest. The idyll is hard to maintain, however.
What strikes the viewer immediately about the film is the quality of the sets and props on screen. Huge space stations floating through space reach towards a 2001-esque atmosphere and the production design of the small race cars, the toddling drone robots and the circular pool table looks very nice. The green forest and small animals also look great, and it's fun to see Lowell cultivate his private garden like a king, assisted by childlike drones who he lovingly names Huey, Dewey and Louie after the nephews of Donald Duck.
Unfortunately, what the film wins in visuals, it loses in writing. The wistful wandering in the woods to Joan Baez songs comes across as very naive, even laughably so, and Lowell's idealism contrasted to the indifference of the other crew members doesn't seem too subtle anymore, if it ever did. Even though Lowell spends most of the time completely alone with the mute drones or a just voice on the radio, the film doesn't get much out of the delicious situation. I hoped there would be more focus on the effect of stress, loneliness and guilt on Lowell's mind, but since the forest always stays number one for him, there's not much psychological tension present in the story, or at least it is presented poorly. This ultimately reduces the film to a cute technology show with an environmental message, when it had potential for being a much more thought-provoking sci-fi tale. Even so, the visual style and the tragic ending are easily enough to make Silent Running a very watchable movie; it is also interesting as a product of its socially aware time.
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