• The Quiet Earth (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: November 23rd, 2018.
    Directed by: Geoff Murphy
    Cast: Bruno Lawrence, Alison Routledge, Pete Smith
    Year: 1985
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    The Quiet Earth – Movie Review:

    Movie review by Chris Workman.

    Scientist Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) wakes up one morning in his New Zealand home to discover that everyone has disappeared. While driving to work, he stops at a convenience store, but no one is there. He happens upon a crashed passenger airplane, but the seats are all empty. At work, he sees a monitor that tells him “Project Flashlight Complete,” but the office is sans people. He quickly determines that the disappearance of humanity has something to do with Project Flashlight.

    As time passes, he begins to slip into a depressed, sometimes manic state owing, one assumes, to his loneliness. He drives around his neighborhood with a megaphone, hoping to find someone else alive. He breaks into homes, plays saxophone in the rain, and dresses in women’s clothes, but none of it alleviates his loneliness and anxiety. He considers suicide but ultimately decides against it. Then, one day, he comes across another survivor, a young woman named Joanne (Alison Routledge). They talk, talk, and talk some more, then have sex, then talk, then go out in search of other survivors. When they come across a Maori man, Api (Pete Smith), they realize why they alone have survived: at the moment Project Flashlight did its thing, they were in the process of dying: Zac was committing suicide on pills; Joanne was being electrocuted; and Api was being murdered.

    Naturally, tensions both sexual and nonsexual arise among the trio. Api tries to kill Zac, while Joanne threatens to kill them both. Meanwhile, Zac becomes obsessed with figuring out what has happened and correcting it.

    The Quiet Earth is one in a long line of films dealing with the last survivors of a cataclysmic event, from Five (1951) to The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959), The Last Man on Earth (1964) to I Am Legend (2007). It’s far from the worst of the bunch, but neither is it the best (despite some people’s claims). Like so many of Robinson Crusoe-type films, it starts out strong when the protagonist is dealing with his situation and working to survive in a world sans human contact, but the moment His Girl Friday is introduced, the whole affair inexplicably goes downhill—and fast!

    The primary reason The Quiet Earth remains so interesting is because of Bruno Lawrence, who dominates its first third. Lawrence, who was born in England and at a very young age emigrated to New Zealand with his family, began his career as a drummer in several rock and jazz bands that toured New Zealand and Australia. He was the founder of the group Blerta (the first two letters representing Lawrence’s own initials), a music and theater ensemble that lasted from around 1970 until 1975. It proved a popular group in its home territories and brought Lawrence attention in his native country. It also introduced him to Geoff Murphy, who was also a founding member.

    While Lawrence’s acting career had begun in the late 1960s (he’d even won awards for it), his film career didn’t take off until over a decade later. His breakthrough role came in 1981 in director Roger Donaldson’s Smash Palace, in which he starred as a distraught father who kidnaps his own daughter and goes on the run after the breakdown of his marriage.

    When filmmaker Geoff Murphy went to adapt Kiwi author Craig Harrison’s 1981 thought-provoking science-fiction thriller The Quiet Earth, he cast longtime friend Lawrence in the lead role (given the amount of improvisation and dialogue work he did, Lawrence was given a co-writing credit). It was something of a coup; without Lawrence’s rugged, charismatic performance, the film would likely have been dead in the water. As it is, Lawrence can’t entirely save it, but it at least he makes the latter parts of it more bearable. (As an aside, Lawrence died in 1995, about six months after being diagnosed with lung cancer.)

    The Quiet Earth – Blu-ray Review:

    Blu-ray review by Ian Jane.

    Umbrella Entertainment advertises their Blu-ray release of The Quiet Earth as coming from a new 2k transfer and indeed the AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer looks very nice. Framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, colors look really, really nice here (that opening bit with the sun really pops as you can see in the first screen cap) and detail, particularly in close-up shots, is often times very impressive. There are no noticeable compression issues to complain about, and the picture is free of any obvious edge enhancement problems. The image is also nearly pristine, showing some natural film grain but no real print damage at all. Black levels are good, there’s strong depth here… the movie looks really nice. The feature takes up just over 26GBs of space on the 50GB disc.

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is also quite good. The channel separation does some nice things with the effects and the score while the dialogue stays mainly upfront in the mix. No trouble with any hiss or any distortion, it all sounds nice and clean. Optional subtitles are provided in English.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with writer/producer Sam Pillsbury. He talks about how the film came to be, the iconic opening shot, how long it took to get the script actually financed by a bank, the trickiness of getting city streets to be empty for a movie shoot, the practical effects that were used in the film, what Geoff Murphy brought to the film as a director and contributor, the lack of dialogue in long stretches of the film, how it was tough to keep giving Zac things to do while still keeping the movie compelling for the audience, and quite a bit more. It’s an interesting track, very little dead air, and it covers a lot of ground.

    The disc also includes a restoration trailer, the film’s original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection options. Umbrella Entertainment packages the disc, which is part of their Beyond Genres line, with some double-sided cover art and a slipcover.

    The Quiet Earth – The Final Word:

    The Quiet Earth is an interesting, thoughtful picture. It’s smart, atmospheric sci-fi that succeeds thanks to some solid direction and a fantastic performance from Bruno Lawrence. Umbrella Entertainment gives the film a very nice Blu-ray release featuring a fine presentation and an interesting commentary track as its main extra feature.

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