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Silent Running (1972)
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 11, 2015 11:43 pm    Post subject: Silent Running (1972) Reply with quote



Douglas Trumbull, the special effects wizard behind "2001: A Space Odyssey", directed this somber but interesting yarn. "Silent Running" did well at the box office because movie goers were hungry for more of the cosmic scenery that "2001" displayed.

The story is strongly dedicated to an environmental message. It takes place aboard one of a dozen spaceships which orbit the sun, out near Saturn. Each of the orbiting ships carries a cluster of dome-enclosed forests, miniature ecosystems which will someday be used to reforest the defoliated Earth.

Bruce Dern stars as the only crew member who genuinely values the animal life and the natural splendor preserved in the domes. The other crewmen are content with the bland, artificial environment of the spaceships themselves.

One day the crew receives word that the plans to reforest the Earth have been abandoned. Dern becomes violent and kills the other crewmen to prevent the destruction of the last dome.

He steers his ship away from the fleet, establishes a new orbit around the sun, and spends months living alone with three little maintenance robots for company (portrayed by hand-walking amputees for whom the robot suits were specifically designed). The voiceless robots steal the film. The best scene is when Dern programs the robots to play poker with him.

Dern's portrayal of this complex and intelligent character is a joy to watch. The sets and props are excellent. "Silent Running" is a deeply personal film, invoking a wonderfully melancholy mood. The post-Star Wars generation may find "Silent Running" a bit dull, but the ending frequently causes moist eyes among the audience members.

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scotpens
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 12, 2015 12:35 am    Post subject: Re: Slient Running (1971) Reply with quote

Silent Running is still a visually impressive film, but the story has more holes in it than Blackburn, Lancashire.

Bud Brewster wrote:
He steers his ship away from the fleet, establishes a new orbit around the sun, and spends months living alone with three little maintenance robots for company (portrayed by hand-walking paraplegics for whom the robot suits were specifically designed).

Paraplegics are people who are paralyzed from the waist down. The drones were portrayed by amputees.

(I know you're just reprinting a review from the old site, so I'm reprinting my correction!)


Bud Brewster wrote:
Dern's portrayal of this complex and intelligent character is a joy to watch. The sets and props are excellent.

The spaceship interiors were mostly filmed aboard a decommissioned aircraft carrier (the real U.S.S. Valley Forge) for a strikingly functional "hardware" look.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 12, 2015 1:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah-ha! I remember now. Thanks. I used my original text from a Word document, which I didn't change when I fixed the post on the old board.

I'll correct it — again.
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Krel
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 12, 2015 1:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My view of the film. Unstable crewman murders his shipmates and flees with the space freighter, radioing a tale of malfunctions as a cover story. When the rescue ship catches up with him, he commits suicide with nuclear devices, taking the rescue ship with him. Laughing

David.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 12, 2015 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep, I'm afraid that about sums it up — although I never thought of the possibility that he took out the rescue ship too in the explosion.

However, he was definitely a nut job from the get-go, no doubt about that. And not a very well educated ecologists if he didn't realize the eco-dome needed more light for the plants to survive.

Of course, the whole idea of putting forests in domes way out in space is dumber than a McDonald's in India (sacred cows and all that), so this movie started right off making very little sense.

Still, back in 1972 when I was wide-eye, optimistic, and 24 years old, watching this movie with by gorgeous new 19-year-old bride, we just gushed and bawled at the sentimental ending when the faithful little robot sailed off into space with the preserved forest.

Come on, admit it. This is just as sweet as Connie Steven's impish smile, guaranteed to tug at your heart strings 'till you need a defibrillator.






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Krel
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 12, 2015 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bud Brewster wrote:
However, he was definitely a nut job from get-go, no doubt about that. And not a very well educated ecologists if he didn't realize the eco-dome needed more light for the plants to survive.

I figured that if the rescue ship was close enough to see that there was no damage to the freighter, then they were close enough to get caught in the explosion. They did say that they were closing in for docking.

You do realize that given what happened to the other domes, when they find the dome, it goes away with nuclear fire, right?

I think that the space freighters were originally in the Goldilocks Zone, and Lowell headed out for the deep black.

The domes seemed to be self sufficient, so why waste valuable freighters on them? It seems it would have been more cost effective to have constructed a space frame, and docked the domes to that, and you could have had a small custodial staff with the drones. Then you could have charged the public a dollar and a half just to see 'em.

Douglas Trumbull's original idea was about a guy who steals a space freighter, and goes looking for a reported alien craft in the Solar System. He finds the alien ship and sends a drone over, as the law catches up with him. As the drone meets the alien, the Law breaks into the control room and kills Lowell. The drone, not receiving any instructions, offers the Alien a flower.

Universal Studio's wanted a more environmental based story.

David.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Krel wrote:
I figured that if the rescue ship was close enough to see that there was no damage to the freighter, then they were close enough to get caught in the explosion. They did say that they were closing in for docking.

You do realize that given what happened to the other domes, when they find the dome, it goes away with nuclear fire, right?

I think that the space freighters were originally in the Goldylocks Zone, and Lowell headed out for the deep black.

Good points. I think your right. Lowell managed to kill more people when he blew himself up. He's even crazier than I thought. Shocked

As for the dome that drifts off in the end, I doubt anybody will know it exists, since Lowell managed to kill all the folks who would have witnessed it detach from the Valley Forge.

However, it would probably wander right back towards the sun and get spotted, because it just blasted away from the freighter with retros intended for that task, but after that it just drifted

So, yes — the final dome will get nuked eventually after all.

And you're right about the freighters not orbiting Saturn, as I've always thought. Silly me, they don't show (or even mention) Saturn until well after Lowell goes Postal, and he passes through the rings months later — not immediately after he makes his break from the fleet.

I stand corrected on all counts. Good work, David!
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

________________________________

To follow up on Krel's comment concerning the original story premise for this movie, here's a very interesting IMDB trivia item.
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In an interview with Starlog magazine in the late 1970s, Douglas Trumbull revealed that the plot of the movie in the original version of the script was quite a bit different from what was actually filmed.

In this version, the Space Freighters were on permanent duty carrying biological domes. When they're finally told to blow the domes and return to earth, it is because the freighters are going to be scrapped. The Freeman Lowell character in this version was an older, more curmudgeonly man who simply doesn't want to return to earth and forced into retirement, so he steals the Valley Forge, "Shoots the rapids" through Saturn's Rings to make it look like his ship is destroyed, and heads off into deep space.

As in the filmed version, he reprograms the robots for some companionship, and the subplot involving the plants dying due to a lack of light were involved, but his main interest in the plants was simply as a means of extending his limited food supplies on the ship.

In the second half of the film, he receives a signal which he realizes is from an alien ship passing through the solar system, and decides to approach it — humanity's first contact with aliens. Around the same time, his superiors on earth have realized what he did, and are trying to re-capture the ship.

The last act of the movie was to have been a race against time, with Lowell trying to contact the aliens, and the recovery force trying to re-take the ship.

Finally, in desperation, Lowell detaches one of the domes with one of the robots aboard only seconds before he's killed by the forces that have boarded the Valley Forge. The dome drifts off into deep space, where it's spotted by the as-yet-unseen aliens, who board it and find the robot. The robot, unsure what to do, pulls out a snapshot of itself, the other two robots, and Freeman Lowell taken earlier in the film, a "Family Portrait" after a fashion, and shows it to the aliens, who look at it and the robot confusedly, and there the film ends.

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This is by no means the best idea for a story I've ever heard, but it's sure as hell better than the one we got! No crazy man killing innocent crewmen just because he wants to save a bunch of trees and bushes which nobody wants! No hokey sermons from Mr. Back2Nature about how life on Earth is boring because is 75° everywhere (Bruce Dern actually says this).

Perhaps the summary above short-changes the plot by leaving out interesting elements that would make it more appealing, but it certainly has less illogical behavior and more potential for interesting ideas.

I wonder if I could find that Starlog article on archive.org and post it here. I did some searching, but I can't find it. Maybe somebody else will have better luck.

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Pow
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A decommissioned Essex-class aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Valley Forge from the Korean War, was utilized for the interior of the spaceship Valley Forge. It was docked in Long Beach, CA.

Modifications were done to the flight control and hanger deck in order to make it appear as a futuristic space vessel.

The forest environment was built and filmed in a aircraft hanger in Van Nuys, California.

I was always fascinated with Doug Trumbull revamping a real life naval ship's interior to appear as a space craft. It gave the Valley Forge a realistic, solid look — as opposed to a glitzy artificial set for a spaceship. You felt like it was all very real and substantial. As if you would really hurt yourself if you pounded a wall (bulkhead), or you hit your head on a doorway.

Always wondered if a sci~fi TV series could be shot using the same methods as this film? The production would redress the actual sections of the naval ship to become the ''sets'' for the show.

Given the vastness of such a real ship, they'd have numerous sections that could be used not only as the ''sets'', but as production offices, commissary, first-aid, dressing rooms and so forth.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2019 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

________________________________

What brilliant idea, Pow!

It's similar to the way director Richard Fleischer used a cruise ship in 1958 to house the cast and crew during the filming of The Vikings, shuttling his entire production company up and down a picturesque river in Norway, housed in luxurious comfort during their weeks of filming! Very Happy

And if Hollywood ever buys the rights to my published novel, The Hero Experience, the producers will be able to house everybody — the cast, the film crew, and the brilliant author of the novel too — in the very hotel where the climax takes place! Laughing

The Hyatt Regency Atlanta! Very Happy

It's the most spectacular location imaginable for the climax of a story like mine! I mean, damn! Just look at it!Shocked







I took these last four pictures myself while staying at the Regency several years ago when I was visiting my daughter's family in Atlanta.

Not too bad, eh?
Wink









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scotpens
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Krel wrote:

The domes seemed to be self sufficient, so why waste valuable freighters on them? It seems it would have been more cost effective to have constructed a space frame, and docked the domes to that, and you could have had a small custodial staff with the drones.

Better yet, why send the domes into space in the first place? It would be a hell of a lot simpler and cheaper to preserve the last remaining forests in sealed, climate-controlled greenhouses right here on Earth.

From an engineering standpoint, the whole movie makes no sense at all. But it's a great-looking film. The model work and the redressed aircraft carrier interiors still look just as believable as they did nearly 50 years ago.

There's a good documentary on the making of Silent Running on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xtsNdLj1F4
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2019 9:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

scotpens wrote:
Better yet, why send the domes into space in the first place? It would be a hell of a lot simpler and cheaper to preserve the last remaining forests in sealed, climate-controlled greenhouses right here on Earth.

That's been my thought since the first time I saw this movie. It's the "weakest link" in the story's premise. Good lord, the worst possible place to preserve Earth's fragile ecosystems is inside those dome way out in space!

What the hell were the screenwriters thinking? Shocked

It's almost as if the the corrupt goverment of Earth wanted to trick the dumb population into thinking that Earth's lost ecosystem had been saved and preserved in space, and it would be brought back someday soon to make the Earth a paradise again!

In other words, it was all just a colossal government hoax!
Shocked
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Krel
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pow wrote:
A decommissioned Essex-class aircraft carrier, the U.S.S.Valley forge, from the Korean War was utilized for the interior of the spaceship Valley Forge. It was docked in Long Beach, CA.

The Valley Forge was soon to be scraped, and they were told that they could make any changes to the ship that they wanted, as long as they didn't remove any material from the ship. That belonged to the buyer.

David.
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Bogmeister
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 10, 2019 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

____________
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___________________ Silent Running - Trailer


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Douglas Trumbull, who will probably always be best known for his FX contributions to 2001: A Space Odyssey, was still a young man when he directed this as his first film. As such, there is a charming naivety to this feature, as could probably only have been delivered by Trumbull at that point in time.

It's about our future, falling in line with many other sf seventies films such as Soylent Green, but the downbeat themes are flavored with a unique sense of innocence. The Joan Baez singing, cutting in a few times, doesn't help, however.

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Most of that strange innocence is exemplified by Bruce Dern as the main character. There are no other actors even remotely like Dern — that's part of the reason for his successful film career — so no one else could have played the part like Dern. Not even close.

He's the resident gardener. If we sum up his work, he's a botanist, ecologist, and so on of the last forestry of Earth, complete with small animals such as bunnies, all of which resides in several huge domes near the orbit of Saturn. He and 3 other workers (Cliff Potts, Ron Rifkin, Jesse Vint) are charged with maintaining these and the ships which power it all, until the time when these bio-domes will be returned to Earth.

At least, that's Dern's expectation. Instead, they receive sudden orders to blow up the domes with nuclear charges.

__

Dern's co-workers regard all this as just a job, and a tedious one at that, so they are enthusiastic about carrying out their new orders and finally returning home (to better jobs, probably).

But Dern is very different. He's the last eco-warrior or nature guide, so when the domes start to explode one-by-one, we can expect that he will take drastic action.

Most of the film then features Dern as the only human actor, relating to a trio of small robots that he nicknames Huey, Louie and Dewey. Occasionally, there are audio transmissions from Earth, but it's all just Dern after the first 20 minutes.

I found him to be a bit disturbing when I was younger (and some of his actions do suggest a psychotic), but nowadays he comes across as just a little goofy — a sign of how times have changed?

__

Dern carries this film, and it's a big reason for the film's popularity among a select group of sf fans. But you also have to let it go as some fairy tale in outer space to make it work to a large extent.

For one thing, if there is no flora on Earth, how does life go on? This is never mentioned or delved into.

Why are the domes near Saturn, so far from the sun, where there is much less sunlight? Why blow up the domes? Some political upheaval on Earth?

Again, the script doesn't bother explaining such details. Trumbull also followed Kubrick's intentions by never showing any scenes on Earth — a clever choice. I agree that this has one of the most touching and memorable finales — as in a final image — among all sf films.



BoG's Score: 7 out of 10

Silent Trivia: The title refers to a term for submarines during the war — it was a strategy for making enemy ships think that the sub has been destroyed, like releasing debris or an oil slick. The sub was then in "silent running" mode.

Dern's character pulls the same stunt with his ship, the Valley Forge, when he navigates through the rings of Saturn.

The robots were played by multiple amputees; the robots' legs were actually the arms of the actors
.



BoG
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 13, 2019 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pow wrote:
Always wondered if a sci~fi TV series could be shot using the same methods as this film? The production would redress the actual sections of the naval ship to become the ''sets'' for the show.

Given the vastness of such a real ship, they'd have numerous sections that could be used not only as the ''sets'', but as production offices, commissary, first-aid, dressing rooms and so forth.

Pow, your interesting suggestion is even better than I first realized!

The first picture below is the Navy's Ticonderoga class cruiser, the USS Mobile Bay, and it's one of several ships being decommissioned in 2020. (The second image is another Ticonderoga class cruiser.)







I like your idea of using such a ship as a set for a spaceship, along with taking advantage of the living space it has for the film crew.

But I had another idea when I noticed my comment above about how the filmmakers who produced The Vikings in 1958 used a cruise ship to house the whole production crew, and they moved it up and down the scenic river in Norway where much of the movie was shot.

Suppose the premise of a science fiction series using a decommissioned vessel like the Mobile Bay involved a global pandemic. Millions of people died before a cure was found (which, fortunately, happened fairly quickly), but millions more will die if the uninfected population isn't kept away from the infected people, and if the cure isn’t rushed to the areas which need it most.

By a stroke of luck, thousands of ships around the world were spared the disease because they were at sea. (Yes, that’s similar to the series, The Last Ship).

This global emergency brings all the navies of the worlds together as they cooperate in delivering shipments of the cure to coastal regions, where medical teams rendezvous with them and conduct inoculations.

The problem is that each port these ships visit present unique problems. For example, there might be violent gangs who want to steal the drug shipments and sell them for extremely high prices to communities further inland which haven’t received help yet.

In many cases the medical teams might even need to be protected by Marines from the ship when (for example) certain unscrupulous groups in a coastal town want to be given the cure first, instead of cooperating with an orderly plan of inoculations.

In extreme cases, the ship’s fire power would even be used to neutralize a hostile force, using artillery or missiles! Shocked

The point here is that ships like the USS Mobile Bay would be ordered to go to various coastal areas (in their case, up and down the west coast of the Americas) to deliver cargos of the drug while providing a military presence which worked with the land-based teams who set up inoculation centers and attempt to bring order to the area.

The feel of the series would be similar to Star Trek TOS, in that the captain and crew would be forced to spend most of their time at sea, going ashore only to do the important jobs I described above.

In fact, I think I’ll come up with a valid reason to have the shore parties occasionally required to wear special gear which protects them from exposure to the disease (the way hazmat suits do), making the men seem like astronauts on an alien planet each time they left the ship and went on land! (Perhaps repeated exposure to the disease causes their immunity to wear off. That idea obliviously needs more thought.)

In fact, this whole concept needs a lot more work, and I’m sure some of you guys will come up with suggestions to flesh it out and improve what I’ve already suggested.

Give it a try, guys! Bear in mind that we’re trying to create an elite multinational group of seamen around the world who only feel safe when there far from land — and yet they have to risk going ashore whenever their mission requires it.

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