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The Quiet Earth
reviewed by Donald Melanson

June 07, 2006 | The Quiet Earth is one of those movies I wasn't sure if I'd ever see on DVD. While it has somewhat of a cult following (especially in its home country of New Zealand), it has been relatively hard to find on VHS and Laserdisc and has gone largely unseen by anyone other than the most devoted science fiction film geeks. Thankfully, Anchor Bay got their hands on it and their new DVD release has exceeded my expectations Hopefully, it will cause people to rediscover the movie.

The film is one of the best last-man-on-earth movies (at least for the film's first act, more on that later) and stars Bruno Lawrence as the protaganist who awakes one day to find himself all alone, the result of a catastrophic science experiment that he had a part in (a not too subtle metaphor for nuclear armageddon).

The movie's first act is its strongest. In it, Lawrence begins to approach his dire situation reasonably, trying to determine what happened and broadcasting radio messages hoping to find other surviors. But he soon begins to descend into madness, culminating in perhaps the film's defining sequence, when he delivers a dictatorial speech to a group of cardboard cut-outs before storming in a chuch with a shot gun, promising to "shoot the kid" if God doesn't show himself.

I don't think it's spoiling much to say that he eventually does find some other survivors, which form the film's two remaining acts. He first finds a woman, played by Alison Routledge, then an Aborigine man, played by Pete Smith, introducing both race and gender issues into the fold. While mostly succesful, it's difficult for the film to live up to high standard set by the first act.

The single most striking image of the film, however, is its final shot of Lawrence alone on a beach, staring out at an otherworldly horizon. It echoes the equally memorable final shot from George Lucas' THX 1138, where Robert Duvall seemingly escapes from his dire situation only to be faced with another problem: uncertainty.

Anchor Bay has done a fine job with the DVD. Even the case is notable, coming in a very cool "steelbook" with some great looking cover art. Most importantly, the film itself looks fantastic, with a great anamorphic widescreen transfer that's sure to delight anyone that has only seen it in chopped up pan-and-scan presentations.

The DVD's sole special feature, apart from the theatrical trailer, is a commentary from producer and writer Sam Pillsbury, who was planning to direct the film himself before handing it over to his friend Geoff Murphy. It's a very honset and insightful track, with loads of detail on the film's production and even discussion of some of the film's shortcommings. Also included with the DVD is an eigh-page booklet featuring an essay by Richard Harland Smith, who discusses The Quiet Earth and its place among other last-man-on-earth movies.

Donald Melanson is the editor-in-chief of Mindjack and a freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Mindjack, his work has appeared in The Globe & Mail, Engadget, and MovieMaker Magazine, among other publications.

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