Paramount has licensed a number of its catalog titles - finally - to Legend Films for distribution. I've had the pleasure of watching a pair of them today. The first was the fun Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee midnight movie The Skull, which I've already reviewed for DVD Talk.
The second was ZPG: Zero Population Growth, a 1971 science fiction flick starring film icons Oliver Reed and Geraldine Chaplin. As a lifelong sci-fi fan, I found much of interest in this bleak dystopian vision of the near future, but the various film elements never really gelled together as a satisfying whole. And unfortunately, while there are things to praise here, I can't go so far as to recommend it.
In ZPG: Zero Population Growth, the near future is a mess. The outdoors is full of smog and people have to wear masks in order to walk around. Because of overpopulation, it has been decreed by the world government that no children may be conceived for 30 years. The penalty is death: for the parents as well as the baby. To make up for this loss, couples are given these creepy-looking animated dolls to take care of. Think Chucky from the Child's Play movies.
People mill about listlessly in museums dedicated to 20th Century life. Exhibits featuring stuffed animals now extinct and informative videos about the criminals responsible for the current dire predicament - government leaders, global businesses, and the Pope - are what pass for entertainment.
Yes, the world has become a Radiohead music video.
Russ and Carol (Oliver Reed and Geraldine Chaplin) are a morose couple who are actors in a staged recreation of 20th Century life at the museum. They go through their lives emotionless until Carol decides to skip the abortion machine in their bathroom and go through with her pregnancy. Russ and Carol must then navigate through this dysfunctional society, shielding their child from anyone who might report them to the government.
The first third of this movie had a lot of compelling ideas and images. The smog-filled city. The museum dedicated to 20th Century humanity. The plastic, artificial way people walked about.
Also, Oliver Reed and Geraldine Chaplin are quite compelling. I especially liked Chaplin's performance - she has a lot of delicately performed moments.
However, the central storyline involving the baby seemed highly implausible. The last thing I like to do is rip apart the plausibility of science fiction; it's a genre of imagination, after all, and I've always appreciated its inventiveness. But if a world government strapped of resources wants to institute population control, the premise of this movie is most assuredly not the method they would use. Step by step through this movie, the central ideas are ludicrous, and the resolution of Russ, Carol, and their baby's plight is disappointingly trite and unconvincing - even given the "reality" of the movie.
If you liked Logan's Run, Silent Running, Space:1999, or pre-Star Wars 1970s science fiction, then I'd suggest that this film should be of interest. I want to recommend it, but it's ultimately far-fetched, humorless, and about 15 minutes too long. I'll begrudgingly go with a Rent It rating.
ZPG: Zero Population Growth is given an anamorphic 1:78:1 widescreen presentation. Given its age, the movie doesn't look bad - although dirt and blemishes are noticeable throughout. Colors look fine and the image is sharp.
The lone audio track here is a lifeless Dolby Digital 2.0. Dialogue is sometimes underrepresented and hard to hear throughout the movie. Otherwise, it's suitable if rather bland.
No subtitles are offered on this DVD.
ZPG: Zero Population Growth has zero extras - not even a trailer.
While there's a lot to admire in ZPG: Zero Population Growth, I fear this 1971 science fiction film may be too dated and too depressing for most filmgoers. The absolute lack of extras will disappoint hardcore sci-fi fans. Rent it if you're interested.