• ZPG - Zero Population Growth

    Released by: Kino Studio Classics
    Released on: March 28th, 2017.
    Director: Michael Campus
    Cast: Oliver Reed, Geraldine Chapman, Don Gordon
    Year: 1971
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    The Movie:

    A bleak and pessimistic prediction of things to come, Michael Campus' 1971 Z.P.G. (Zero Population Growth remains an interesting look forward that portrays the future as a pretty miserable place and which contrasts interestingly enough to many fifties sci-fi pictures where the 2000s (ha!) were meant to be a place of carefree living and utopian living.

    Set sometime in the future on an Earth that has become so polluted humans must wear gasmasks outside, the president hosts a press conference and announces that due to overpopulation no one will be permitted to procreate for three decades. Anyone who tries to have children will be executed and those with maternal and paternal instincts will be awarded robotic kids to care for in place of real flesh and blood rugrats.

    A woman named Carol (Geraldine Chapman) doesn't care about the consequences, however. She wants a baby of her own and is willing to risk her life to try and have one. Her husband, Russ (Oliver Reed), is cool with her idea but dictates to her how important it is that their efforts be as clandestine as possible so that they can avoid execution. Carol has her baby in secrecy and a cooperative old doctor checks everything out to make sure mother and child are healthy. Things are going fine until the jealous couple who live next door discover that Carol's actually delivered a real child...

    On the surface, Z.P.G. is a fairly stereotypical seventies science fiction effort. The uniforms worn by the entire populace, the dystopian world view and the set design are all dead giveaways pointing to the decade in which the film was made. That said, while it might feel a little date in those regards the story holds up quite well and, given developments in overpopulated countries such as China, it's probably even more topical now than it was when it was first made. Aspects of the picture are a little preachy but it makes for good and at times fairly thought provoking entertainment and it's interesting that this film was made at the end of the free love movement of the late sixties giving its political subject matter.

    The film is well paced and well-acted with Chapman and Reed (who is admirably restrained in his work on this film) both turning in worth performances. Michael Campus directs the film with a firm grip keeping things moving at a nice speed and really bringing the cold atmosphere of this futuristic world front and center in the film. The robotic replacement kids are creepy as Hell and they really lend the film an eerie vibe.


    Z.P.G. arrives on Blu-ray from Kino on a 25GB disc framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation. This isn't going to win transfer of the year but it handily bests the old interlaced DVD presentation in every way that you'd hope for. Colors are well reproduced if maybe a slight bit subdued in a few spots and black levels are solid if not quite reference quality. The picture is clean, showing very little print damage, while detail, depth and texture are decent. This won't blow you away but it looks pretty good.

    The sole audio option on this disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track that doesn't contain any noticeable background hiss but does contain a few clicks and pops in the mix. Otherwise this track is perfectly serviceable. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.

    Extras on the disc begin with an audio commentary featuring film historian Steve Ryfle that does a fine job of detailing the film's history. He puts a lot of what we see into context, providing plenty of background detail on the director and of course, Reed and Chapman's participation in the picture. This is well researched and Rylfe clearly has a good handle on the material as the track is nicely paced and genuinely interesting.

    Outside of that the disc also contains a few bonus trailers (The Neptune Factor, Chosen Survivors, The Earth Dies Screaming and The Satan Bug) but no trailer for the feature itself, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    A very cold and semi-creepy seventies sci-fi film, Z.P.G. plays well almost four decades after it was made. Kino's Blu-ray offers a decent upgrade over the old DVD release in terms of presentation quality and throws a good commentary track into the mix as well. Recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!