DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 14th November 2011


Touch of Evil (Eureka): Orson Welles’ classic 1958 film noir is about a Mexican narcotics cop (Charlton Heston) who investigates the death by car bomb of a wealthy American businessman on the US side of the border (one of the great opening scenes in film history). Co-starring Janet Leigh, Welles himself and Marlene Dietrich, Universal screwed up the original release (why remains a mystery) but have redeemed themselves by providing masters for this Blu-ray release. This includes five variants of the film, in different aspect ratios: the 1958 theatrical version in both 1.37:1 and 1.85:1, the 1958 preview version in 1.85:1, and the 1998 reconstructed version in 1.37:1 and 1.85:1. [Buy it on Blu-ray from Amazon UK]

Silent Running (Eureka): Douglass Trumbull’s 1972 sci-fi set in a distant future, where all of Earth’s remaining plant life is preserved in vast greenhouse-like domes orbiting in space. When the man in charge (Bruce Dern) refuses to obey orders and destroy them, he begins a voyage into the unknown accompanied only by the ships robotic drones. Featuring an excellent lead performance from Dern and clever visual effects, this remains a rare glimpse of sci-fi in the pre-CGI era. The HD transfer looks great and there are some notable extras. [Click here for our full review] [Buy it on Blu-ray from Amazon UK]

Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times (Dogwoof): Andrew Rossi’s documentary exploring a year inside America’s most famous newspaper is an interesting insight into one of the world’s key media institutions. Filmed during a year of crisis, as the transition from print to digital bites hard on the economics of newspapers, it also functions as a memorable portrait of media writer David Carr. [Click here to listen to our interview with Andrew Rossi] [Buy it on DVD from Amazon UK]


Beginners (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Blue in the Face (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Bridesmaids (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (Miramax) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Cop Land (Miramax) [Blu-ray]
Farscape: The Complete Seasons 1-4 (Go Entertain) [Blu-ray / Box Set]
IMAX: Dinosaurs Collection (BPDP) [Blu-ray / 3D Edition]
IMAX: Wonders of the World Collection (BPDP) [Blu-ray / 3D Edition]
Kung Fu Panda 2 (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Larry Crowne (StudioCanal) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Marley and Me 2 – The Puppy Years (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Outrage (StudioCanal) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Quadrophenia (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal]
The Coen Brothers Blu-ray Collection (Universal Pictures) [Blu-ray / Box Set]
The Firm (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal]
Toy Story (Walt Disney) [Blu-ray / 3D Edition]
Toy Story 2 (Walt Disney) [Blu-ray / 3D Edition]
Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney) [Blu-ray / 3D Edition]

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DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Silent Running

Douglas Trumbull’s moving sci-fi drama gets a welcome re-release on Blu-ray from Eureka’s Masters of Cinema label.

After the unexpected commercial success of Easy Rider (1969) and the slow demise of the old studio system, Universal decided to green light some lower budget features by up and coming directors.

This meant that a young special effects artist who had helped Stanley Kubrick create some of the greatest visual effects in cinema history made his directorial debut.

Silent Running is set in a future where all plant life on Earth is extinct and the remaining specimens are preserved in giant spaceships outside the orbit of Saturn.

When the man entrusted with looking after them (Bruce Dern) receives orders to jettison the floating greenhouses and return to Earth, he begins to have second thoughts about his mission and fellow crew members.

At its core this is a film about man’s relation to nature, as seen from the isolation of space, but it goes further than that by posing interesting moral questions about how far we should go to protect an ideal as well as the conflict of an individual against the society he is from.

In this sense, the film is very much of a product of its time, when there was widespread disillusionment at foreign wars, a stagnant economy and concerns about the environment – sound familiar?

But down the years this film has endured as something much more substantial than just a hippy space opera with cute robots.

Part of it’s unique charm and power comes from Bruce Dern in the lead role, with a brave performance filled with anguish and humanity.

He conveys a genuine love for the natural plants and animals on board the ship, combined with an empathy for technology, especially his servant drones, which he nicknames Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

These were actually played by four double-amputees, inside custom-built suits, and they remain some of the most enduring characters in the sci-fi movie genre, influencing Star Wars (1977), WALL-E (2008) and Moon (2009).

Trumbull also achieved a lot on a limited budget with clever use of front-projection and model work to depict the ships in space – despite the enormous advances in visual effects since it was made, Silent Running still holds up as a textbook example of high creativity on a low budget.

Modern audiences used to the intricate, computer generated world of Avatar might like to note that it shares a similar environmental theme, which suggest that Trumbull’s messages and themes are enduring ones.

Although the use of Joan Baez songs might seem to date the movie, it is a reminder of the despair and hope of the early 1970s, which isn’t so different as we begin a new decade of social and environmental uncertainty.

In retrospect, the screenwriters were the unlikely trio of Deric WashburnMichael Cimino and Steven Bochco. Washburn and Cimino went on to co-write The Deer Hunter (1978), whilst Bochco went on to create Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue.

The new Blu-ray from Masters of Cinema looks terrific, with an impressive digital restoration by Deluxe 142 in London creating a sharp but not overly pristine image with light traces of grain.

The uncompressed DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel stereo track comes with the option of listening to the music and effects separately.


  • Full-length commentary by director Trumbull and actor Bruce Dern: This commentary track recorded in 2000 for the DVD is pretty special. It not only reunites actor and director- both very interesting figures in their own right – but provides some fascinating insights into the production.
  • The Making of Silent Running (49:17): This on-set documentary by Charles Barbee provides yet more information on how they made the film. It is also an interesting snapshot of how these kind of making of features helped promoted the film in an era before the mass marketing blitz of today. Showing the inventive ways in which Trumbull stretched the budget – shooting on a decomissioned aircraft carrier and using amputees to play the robots – it is a reminder of how resourceful the production was.
  • Two video pieces with Douglas Trumbull (30:08 + 4:51): These interviews with Trumbull go into his career in some depth, including his pioneering work in visual effects and how this film came about. Interestingly, since the 1980s Trumbull has pushed for a newer cinema process called Showscan (films projected at higher frame rates of 60 frames per second) which now may become a reality with both James Cameron and Peter Jackson pushing for higher frame rates.
  • A Conversation with Bruce Dern (10:56): Dern clearly has a lot of affection both for Trumbull and the film – it offered him a juicy lead role in contrast to all the oddball supporting parts he was offered down the years. Here he expounds on the experience of working with one of two genius directors (the other was Hitchcock).
  • Original theatrical trailer (2:57)
  • A lavish 48-page full-colour booklet: Featuring rare photographs and artwork from Trumbull’s personal collection, and recollections of the film’s cinematographer and composer.
  • Isolated music and effects track

Silent Running is out on Monday 14th November from Eureka/Masters of Cinema

> Buy Silent Running on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Find out more about Douglas Trumbull and Bruce Dern at Wikipedia