by Donald Melanson
| 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
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:
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.