The Quiet Earth (1985) (NTSC)

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Released 2-Mar-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Sam Pillsbury (Writer & Producer)
Theatrical Trailer-The Quiet Earth
Teaser Trailer-Umbrella Trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 90:48
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Geoff Murphy
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Bruno Lawrence
Alison Routledge
Pete Smith
Anzac Wallace
Norman Fletcher
Tom Hyde
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $24.95 Music John Charles


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Films about the end of the world have always held a level of fascination with people. I'm sure most of us have imagined what we would do if we were the last person left on Earth in the aftermath of a global catastrophe. Geoff Murphy's 1985 film, The Quiet Earth poses such a scenario.

    This excellent New Zealand film was produced on a small budget, without the resources of a big Hollywood production. With that in mind, it still stacks up remarkably well against some much bigger films of the genre.

    The film is based on the 1981 novel of the same name by Craig Harrison. While the basic premise of The Quiet Earth is not exactly unique, the unpretentious style of the film brings with it, an air of originality.

    The film opens with a stunning sunrise sequence. Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) lies asleep on his bed. As the clock on his bedside table clicks over to 6:12am, a strange cosmic event takes place. But just as suddenly as it occurs, the event is over in a couple of seconds and everything appears to be completely normal.

    Zac wakes and gets out of bed. He turns on the radio only to discover silence. He then makes a phone call to the operator with no response. Driving through his small town, he finds that cars and trucks have stopped in various positions across the road, but there is no sign of life. The more he looks, the more he comes to the realisation that people, animals and even all bird life have simply vanished from the face of the earth - this quiet earth.

    We soon discover that Zac is a scientist who was involved in a massive worldwide experiment, which now appears to have gone seriously wrong. All attempts to contact the other participants in the experiment are met with a standard, "response negative" on the computer screen.

    Despite all his efforts, Zac finds no sign of life and starts to feel the weight of loneliness and isolation. He moves from his small house into a more palatial residence, where he begins to sink into the realm of madness. However, Zac is soon woken from his delusions of grandeur when he is suddenly confronted by a female survivor, Joanne (Alison Routledge).

    The Quiet Earth has many surprises, so I won't reveal too much of the plot here. Why have they survived when it seems everyone else has died? Are there any other survivors out there? What has happened to the fabric of the universe? What is the future of the planet? The answers to these questions are best left for the viewer to discover.

    As a director, it's a fair assessment to suggest The Quiet Earth is Geoff Murphy's most admired and respected film. Geoff's most noted film credit though is undoubtedly that of  Second Unit Director on each instalment of Peter Jackson's, Lord Of The Rings trilogy. While still on trivia, it's also worth mentioning that the renowned New Zealand director, Lee Tamahori has the credit of First Assistant Director on The Quiet Earth.

    The Quiet Earth is a film that deserves the modest cult status it's held for many years. The film, and in particular the superb ending have been a source of discussion in sci-fi forums over the years.

    At long last, The Quiet Earth breaks the VHS shackles and arrives locally on DVD in a decent presentation.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The Quiet Earth is presented with a NTSC transfer. The film is also presented in the correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which is 16x9 enhanced.

    Generally, sharpness levels were quite good throughout, although some scenes do exhibit film grain. There is little doubt that this is inherent in the source material rather than an adverse issue with the transfer. Blacks were clean and shadow detail was consistent.

    Colours appeared natural and well balanced.

    There were no MPEG artefacts evident in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were insignificant and film artefacts were virtually non-existent.

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitles available on the DVD.

    This is a DVD 5 disc, so there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two audio tracks available on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s), which is surround encoded and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s).

    Dialogue quality was excellent and there were no obvious issues with audio sync.

    The original score for The Quiet Earth was written by John Charles. The main theme used in the film has a majestic feel, which compliments the film really well.

    The surround channels were very active throughout the entire film. In the absence of a re-mixed 5.1 audio track, the use of Pro-Logic II delivered a solid result. Some of the more noticeable examples include an explosion at 18:00 and speeding cars at 50:00.

    The subwoofer was also quite active, adding good depth to bass elements.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    

Menu

    The main menu is animated with grabs from the film. It is also 16x9 enhanced and features subtle, ambient audio.

Audio Commentary - Sam Pillsbury (Writer/Producer )

    This is an excellent commentary full of anecdotes and interesting information about all aspects of the production. Sam discusses the film in an open and frank manner, including standing himself down as the director of the film in favour of Geoff Murphy. A couple of other fascinating topics of discussion include the special effects (pre CGI) and clearing the streets of Auckland. There is the occasional brief pause in the commentary, but overall it's very enjoyable and worth a listen. By the way, if like many people you aren't really sure about the meaning of the film's conclusion, Sam explains his theory.

Original Theatrical Trailer - The Quiet Earth (2:49)

Umbrella Trailers

    The Cars That Ate Paris (3:35)

    Heatwave (3:02)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This local Umbrella edition of The Quiet Earth is seemingly identical (including the NTSC transfer) to the R1, Anchor Bay edition, released in June 2006.

    Accordingly, there seems no reason to look past the local Umbrella release.

Summary

    The Quiet Earth is an engrossing and thought provoking film, with a moral message that is just as relevant today (possibly more so) as it was when first released. Despite the small budget and limited resources, this film comfortably takes on similar Hollywood films with much bigger reputations. The Quiet Earth is deservedly respected by fans of the genre, enjoying a considerable cult following to this day. Admirers of the film will no doubt be happy that it finally has a decent DVD release on the local market.

    The transfers are both very good.

    The extras are limited, but the audio commentary is a very welcome inclusion.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Monday, March 23, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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