The movie opens with Heston's character driving down a perfectly silent, empty L.A. street. There's something mesmerizing about these first scenes depicting his utter isolation in the quiet earth. Then he spies motion in a building, and opens fire.
For there are a few other survivors, but they're are all infected with the virus. Instead of killing them it's turned them into psychotic nocturnal albino mutants. They call themselves the Family, and live a communal, quasi-religious lifestyle under the leadership of a former news anchor. They dress like Dominican inquisitors, and their only purpose in life is to destroy all vestiges of the old culture and learning that brought about the downfall of man. Every night they assail the Omega Man's fortress-like townhouse, whose interior has a really cool, seventies-style ante-bellum décor going on. The Omega Man divides his time between playing chess against a statue and throwing firebombs out the window at the Family.
All in all a pretty neat movie, and one I'm surprised I hadn't heard more about. I guess people find it dated. There are a lot of references to the Black Power movement, Woodstock, etc. And the music, as I said, is pretty funky. Maybe it comes of being more a fantasist than a scientifictionalist, but things like that never bother me. The more authentically period the piece is, the better. My only real complaint with the movie is that the lighting is pretty bad in some interior scenes.
In the future, it seems, man has stripped the earth of all biota, preferring to live in sterile, climate-controlled comfort. The only living forests exist in spaceborne biodomes owned by American Airlines hovering (for some reason) in the vicinity of Saturn. (Why would the fleet fly into a gravity well like that?) Our very special friend lives and works aboard one of these with three other guys. He lives the life of a Carthusian. The other guys entertain themselves by crushing flowers and teasing him. He responds by blowing up at them and delivering impassioned monologues about nature and organic food. Maybe it's just that I'm a horrible person, but I find these tirades delightfully hilarious. Actually, I suppose it's because I was a lot like him when I was a kid, and would fly into passions in the defense of flowers and insects from the other boys.
When the crew is inexplicably ordered to destroy all the domes, our friend goes berserk and murders his three companions. He then fakes his death and takes off with the ship. At one point he has his robot drones bury the body of his friend in the garden, and delivers this bizarre, tearful eulogy to the camera he's using to watch their progress. (I guess he's too queasy to do the dirty work himself.) For a while he lives the simple life with his drones, who he names Huey, Dewey, and (posthumously) Louie. These are played by quadruple amputees in little metal boxes.
|"This is actually one of nature's greatest gifts!!!"|
So, one of the things I find strange about this movie is that, for all its tree-huggery, it actually shows an extremely superficial acquaintance with nature. It's like it was made by those granola hipsters who drive tiny cars plastered with self-congratulatory bumper stickers but don't really know the least thing about the real wild or spend any time outdoors aside from the city park. The syrupy Joan Baez ballads just top it off. Being a pretty ecologically aware guy myself, I was kind of disappointed with this.
So, if you like unintentional sci-fi hillarity, or are a granola hipster who drives a tiny car plastered with self-congratulatory bumper stickers, give Silent Running a watch.
Here the park features hedonistic re-creations of the Old West (West World), ancient Rome (Roman World), and the Middle Ages (Medieval World), each peopled by lifelike androids. For a thousand bucks a day you go there and do what you like. This includes seducing lovely robot-damsels, which, to me, is about as appealing as romancing a bowling shoe, but, you know, different strokes for different folks.
The main plotline is about a pair of guys who spend their time in West World. One has been there before, and inhabits his gunslinger role with self-confident gravitas; his naïve newbie friend is less certain of himself, and more enthusiastic. What's cool to me is that when the robots start running amuck, as we knew they would, it's the experienced one who gets killed right off the bat, and his newbie friend who manages to survive.
I really enjoyed this one. You can tell Terminator took a lot from it, especially the sequence when our hapless tourist is being pursued by the relentless Gunslinger robot (played by Yul Brynner, who reprises his role from The Magnificent Seven). In comparing it with Jurassic Park, I find it less a cautionary tale and more a story about the consequences of unbridled self-indulgence. In this it fits in well with all those disaster movies they made in the seventies. The theme park is clearly based on Disney World (which opened in 1971) with its animatronic robot rides and vast network of secret tunnels for workers and technicians. As I hate Disney World, I thought this was great.
Next on the to-watch list is Logan's Run. What I really want to see is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but I'm having trouble renting it. I may just have to buy a copy.