Silent Running (Universal) (1972)

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Released 24-Dec-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Theatrical Trailer-2:50
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1972
Running Time 85:50
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Douglas Trumbull

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Bruce Dern
Cliff Potts
Ron Rifkin
Jesse Vint
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Peter Schickele

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, American Airlines, other brands
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Silent Running is not about submarines. In fact, the title of this film has nothing to do with that common use of the phrase.

    This is a reasonably old piece of science fiction, one which has garnered some "cult" status over the years, because it is original. Here is a science fiction movie without aliens, without mutant powers, without even guns. That's pretty radical in and of itself. Add in the fact that it tackles a topic that is at least as relevant today as it was when the film was made, and you have a film that deserves release on DVD.

    Silent Running is set in an unspecified year, not too far from now. Mankind has polluted Earth so badly that all the plants and animals have died out. People on Earth live under domes, and eat synthetic foods. The only remaining plants and animals live in great domed enclosures attached to a number of space freighters, parked somewhere out past the orbit of Jupiter. One of the freighters involved in this mission is Valley Forge (a ship belonging to American Airlines, who haven't changed their logo even after moving into space). 

    There are four men aboard Valley Forge. One is Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern), who believes very strongly that the Earth can be rehabilitated, and that the plants and animals will be returned. The other three are just doing a job, one they consider boring, and are looking forward to the end of their one year stint on board. Lowell has been working there for eight years (not the three years listed on the back cover) - he is dedicated to the cause.

    Then they receive orders to detach the domes and blow them up - the project is being abandoned (guess the Greens lost that vote), with the freighters being returned to regular commercial flights.

    For Freeman Lowell that means his faith is being attacked - he can't stand it. He kills his fellow crew members, and takes off with the Valley Forge determined to save at least some plants and animals. His only companions are the maintenance drones (robots) who do the regular maintenance on the ship.

    Some things pictured in this movie have not aged well over the 30 years since it was made. The computer displays are dreadful (mostly CROs showing patterns like the ABC logo). He reprograms the drones by soldering connections (no comment). The drones are short people in boxes - they have legs (R2-D2 was years later...). They seem to have artificial gravity. And the representation of Saturn's rings isn't wonderful. But none of these things detracts particularly from the presentation of one of the most original pieces of science fiction ever made.

    I strongly recommend this film.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    This film is presented in an aspect ratio of about 1.85:1 and is NOT 16x9 enhanced. That's a shame, because this movie deserves better treatment.

    The picture is a little soft, but acceptable. Shadow contrast is not fabulous, but it's OK. There is no visible low-level noise.

    Colour is quite good. Not as fully saturated as one might expect in a modern film, but that's quite common in films from the 70s. There's no colour bleed or oversaturation.

    There is a lot of aliasing, but it is rarely troubling. There are a few film artefacts, but they are tiny. The focus is not always perfect - see 17:33 and 50:46 for examples. There's quite a bit of mosquito noise, more than a little grain, and the picture looks a bit over-compressed, with some instability about the light level. In all, the picture is rather lower in quality than it should have been.

    There are subtitles in seven languages (the same seven languages as all the other Universal quickies); I watched the English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles. They are fine: accurate, and easy to read.

    The disc is single-sided and single-layered. This is cheap to produce, but I wish they'd used a dual-layered disc so they could give more bits to the picture - if it were less compressed, it might have looked much better.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are only two soundtracks; English and German, both Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. I listened to the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue is easy to understand. There are some minor audio sync problems, most noticeably just a few minutes in, but they are not particularly distracting.

    The score is by Peter Schickele, and it is quite good. It is helped out by a series of songs sung by Joan Baez.

    The surrounds and the subwoofer get the night off.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu is static and silent.

Trailer (2:50)

    The trailer is absolutely dreadful, with abysmal quality video, audio phasing, and an American voice-over.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version of this disc sounds as though it has the same features: it is widescreen and not 16x9 enhanced, too.


    Silent Running is an inspirational film, given fairly poor treatment on DVD.

    The video quality is adequate.

    The audio quality is OK.

    The extra is very poor.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, January 12, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDArcam DV88, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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