The Movie Waffler 1001 Overlooked Movies - Silent Running (1972) | The Movie Waffler

1001 Overlooked Movies - Silent Running (1972)

An astronaut and his three robot companions look after the last of the earth's fauna.

Directed by: Douglas Trumbull
Starring: Bruce Dern, Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin

I hadn't heard of this film until a couple of years back when both Andrew Stanton (director of 'Wall-E') and Duncan Jones (director of 'Moon') cited it as influences. I put it to the back of my mind until I saw it appear on the TV channel Film4 over Christmas and I taped it. On a quiet Sunday morning, I decided to give it a shot, and was amazed. 
This is an ecological warning as true now as it was in 1972 when it came out originally. The Earth is a wasteland and forests have been transported into space in domes attached to spaceships. Lowell (Dern) is the caretaker of these forests, but while his three crew mates are more concerned with joking around and getting home, Lowell's true passion is the forests and preserving them.
A series of circumstances see Lowell wind up by himself, accompanied only by two loyal droids, trying to save the remaining forests as they start dying. 
It's easy to see how this influenced the two films mentioned above. Dern's performance is every bit as good as Sam Rockwell's in 'Moon' and the ecological message presented in 'Wall-E' is equally evident here. For a film over 30 years old, the effects still stand up, probably because of the use of miniatures which, again, influenced the style of 'Moon', and by making as many effects as possible practical. 
As for why this film is overlooked? I have no explanation. Often times a really good film will come out but will be bettered by something else of the same genre shortly thereafter and will result in the original movie being left in the shadows. But 'Silent Running'? Not a clue. The influences cited above are more than enough to justify its inclusion on any list, and the legacy of Bruce Dern's performance can be seen in not just the aforementioned 'Moon', but pretty much any film where the lead actor is left to themselves, with only inanimate objects for company (see also: 'Cast Away')
If you've not seen this, track it down. It's a hidden gem.

The official '1001 Movies' list includes the following movies from 1972 - The Heartbreak Kid, Aguirre: the wrath of God, Cabaret, Last Tango in Paris, High Plains Drifter, Sleuth, Deliverance, Solaris, The Godfather, Cries & Whispers, Fat City, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, Frenzy, Pink Flamingos, Superfly

Kevin Dillon
For more from Kevin, check out his site 'Small Screen Saver'.