Silent Running appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The Blu-ray became a highly satisfying presentation.
Sharpness seemed solid most of the time. A handful of soft shots materialized, but those stemmed from the original photography. The majority of the flick appeared well-defined and concise.
Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no concerns, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. With a nice layer or grain, I suspected no problematic use of noise reduction, and the movie lacked print flaws.
Colors looked appealing. The movie displayed a warm and fairly natural palette that the disc replicated well.
Black levels appeared deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. Only minor softness kept the image from “A”-level consideration, as I thought the film largely looked great.
As for the DTS-HD monaural soundtrack of Silent Running, it seemed fairly good for the era. Dialogue appeared somewhat flat, but the lines always remained acceptably distinct, and they lacked any problems related to intelligibility or edginess.
Effects offered clear, accurate reproduction with surprisingly positive bass response at appropriate times. Music appeared reasonably robust as well, and the score felt smooth and bright. This was a perfectly satisfying track for a 50-year-old movie.
How did the 2020 “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2002? The BD’s lossless audio offered a nice step up, as this track lost the distortion that marred its 2002 predecessor.
Visuals also worked better, as the BD looked better defined, cleaner and more vibrant. In all ways, the Blu-ray improved upon the DVD.
A bunch of extras appear here, and we find two separate audio commentaries. Recorded in October 2000, the first comes from director Douglas Trumbull and actor Bruce Dern.
Both sat recorded together for this running, screen-specific piece. Overall, this becomes an erratic but generally interesting track.
Actually, the commentary works best when the two discussed projects other than Running. For example, Trumbull offers some intriguing notes about Stanley Kubrick, while Dern gives us nice remarks about Alfred Hitchcock. In addition, Trumbull brings a compelling discussion of the problems he faced in the industry.
The two also provide a reasonable amount of decent material on Running itself, as we hear a mix of production information. However, they frequently spend too much of their time in praise mode, as both participants tell us how great each other and everyone else was. As a whole, the commentary remains interesting enough to merit a listen, but it doesn’t seem like a great track.
For the second commentary, we get a newly-recorded piece from film historians Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific view of cast and crew, genre domains, production elements, and interpretation of the movie.
This doesn’t become much of a standard “film historian” track, as Newman and Forman only occasionally touch on domains connected to the movie’s creation. Still, they offer a nice overview of connected topics and they make the track move at a nice pace. This turns into a pretty solid chat.
A third audio-only piece, the disc allows us to view Running via an Isolated Music and Effects Track. This delivers those elements in an LPCM monaural rendition. For fans who like this option, it seems worthwhile.
Video programs ensue, and The Making of Silent Running offers a 49-minute, 17-second documentary that comes from the time period of the film’s creation. In addition to movie snippets and behind the scenes footage, we hear interviews with producer Mike Gruskoff, director Trumbull, actors Bruce Dern and Cheryl Sparks, drone builder Paul Kraus, director of photography Charles Wheeler, assistant director Marty Hornstein, editor Aaron Stell, composer Peter Schickele, and makeup artist Dick Dawson. (I may have missed some others - the program doesn’t identify everyone well.)
The period documentary provides a pretty decent look at the movie, as it covers different technical and acting elements while it promotes the film. That means it includes more movie clips than I’d like, but it also features a lot of good material from the set.
The behind the scenes material easily seems the most interesting, as those snippets reveal a lot of nice images. We even get to watch Joan Baez record the movie’s awful songs! This isn’t a great program, but it works pretty well.
Next we locate ”Silent Running” By Douglas Trumbull. This 30-minute, nine-second piece provides a circa 2002 documentary about the movie.
It shows movie clips, production art, stills and other materials, and then-recent interviews with Trumbull. He covers the film from inception through production and offers a lot of information about the shoot and the project.
The material seems good, but unfortunately, much of it appears redundant if you’ve listened to the audio commentary. Trumbull manages to provide a reasonable amount of new details, but the many duplications make it less valuable that it otherwise might be.
A Conversation With Bruce Dern lasts 10 minutes, 57 seconds and provides what its title describes: a modern chat with the actor. It shows some period stills and film clips interspersed with the usual “talking head” shots of Dern.
He covers his early career and the manner he got involved with Running. Dern also converses about Trumbull and his experiences on the film.
As with the Trumbull piece, “Dern” becomes somewhat redundant for anyone who listened to the audio commentary, and the longer documentary also includes some common components. Still, it’s not a bad featurette for someone who wants a quick overview of the actor’s perspective.
In Douglas Trumbull: Then and Now, we get a four-minute, 52-second update on the force behind Silent Running. It follows his career after Running through the early 2000s.
Again, much of this appears in the audio commentary and seems redundant here, though Trumbull expands upon the topic to a moderate degree, and I enjoyed his look at the Back to the Future ride on which he worked.
New to this Blu-ray, No Turning Back goes for 13 minutes, 48 seconds and brings comments from film music historian Jeff Bond. He discusses the movie’s score and songs in this fairly informative reel.
Also created in 2020, First Run lasts 14 minutes, three seconds and provides a “visual essay” from writer/filmmaker Jon Spira. He digs into a look at the screenplay’s evolution in this useful program.
In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with a Behind the Scenes Gallery. It presents 682 (!) stills that represent movie shots and elements from the set.
The “Gallery” really needed to get broken down into smaller domains, as nearly 700 pictures all in one big batch overwhelms. When we see actual behind the scenes images, I like this collection, but far too many of those 682 stills just show Bruce Dern in various stages of grimacing.
Admirable in spirit but dull in execution, Silent Running tells a cautionary tale that almost totally fails to engage. This plodding piece possesses some intriguing concepts, but the result seems lifeless and bland. The Blu-ray offers very good visuals as well as solid audio and a long roster of bonus materials. Though this turns into a fine Blu-ray, the movie itself remains a snoozer.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of SILENT RUNNING