The film opens with scientist Zak Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) awakening to find all animal life has seemingly evaporated. Although the film reportedly had a low budget, it manages to stage many convincing tableaux of mayhem, including a plane that has crashed into a city. When Zak checks the seatbelts in the wreckage, they are still buckled.
Zak uses his scientific knowledge to explore and observe this, uh, quiet Earth. Eventually, he starts to go a little loopy. As we all would. The filmmakers — director Geoff Murphy working from a script by Bill Baer, Sam Pillsbury and Lawrence, based on the novel by Craig Harrison — effectively take us into the mind of a smart guy who is faced with an overwhelming situation.
As the packaging and menus give away, Hobson will later discover that he is not alone. Working with the human capital that is left, Hobson discovers that the Earth is still in danger. Together, they must work to shut down the U.S. energy program that has been messing with the fundamental structure of the universe.
The Bonus Features
The Quiet Earth is one of those rare science fiction films that takes the science as seriously as the fiction. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, it counts noted astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson as a fan. Along with film critic Odie Henderson, Tyson provides a commentary track. It’s a bit sparse, but it does contain “the best explanation of a 1980’s movie sex scene, ever.”
The booklet in the box has a nice essay from St. Mary’s professor Teresa Heffernan, which illuminates some of the influences of the film and probes its deeper themes.
The Technical Aspects
Film Movement has made this Blu-ray from a new digitally-restored 2K transfer and it is stunning. The work of cinematographer James Bartle is crystal clear and looks gorgeous. The production design holds up, even under this greater clarity.
The disc lacks subtitles, sadly, but does contain both stereo and surround mixes.
The Quiet Earth shows that the New Zealand film industry was making high quality films long before The Lord of the Rings. This edition, by Film Movement, may not be as polished as a Criterion film, but it nonetheless gives a worthy presentation for the film. For fans of ‘hard’ science fiction, this will be must own. For anyone else, this is a film well worth watching.
Full disclosure: This review is unpaid but a review copy was provided.