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The Quiet Earth (1985)
Director: Geoff Murphy

review by Gary Couzens

One morning, Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) wakes up to find himself alone. He seems to be the only person left on Earth.
   For the next half-hour of screen time - the best part of the film - Lawrence is alone on screen, apart from a couple of voiceovers and one of Zac's scientist colleagues on a video clip. Zac struggles to piece together what has happened. Whatever it was, it was sudden: water boils away in kettles, bathtubs overflow and a plane has fallen from the sky. At first Zac does all the things he's never allowed himself to do, as if given the world's biggest playground all to himself, but soon loneliness and depression sets in. And guilt: Zac was working on Project Flashlight, an attempt to unleash subatomic energy that appears to have succeeded rather too well. Not only has it wiped out the rest of the population, it has made the fabric of the universe unstable.
   Director Geoff (billed here, for the only time in his career, as Geoffrey) Murphy and his crew make the most of this, conjuring up an eerily strange atmosphere and showing once again that you can make effective SF cinema without the need for elaborate special effects. Once again, the late Bruno Lawrence (who was ubiquitous in New Zealand cinema at the time) shows how good an actor he was, by no means a conventionally handsome movie lead but one entirely capable of commanding your attention on his own.    Then, Zac meets Joanne (Alison Routledge). As if to become a new Adam and Eve, they become lovers. Then Api (Peter Smith) comes into their lives, and the film veers into romantic-triangle territory. There's an explanation why these three are seemingly the only ones left alive, but I'll leave you to find it out. Routledge and Smith give entirely creditable performances, but it's Lawrence's film, and it's that first half hour which will be remembered. In a flashback bit part, you can glimpse Anzac Wallace, the lead actor of Murphy's previous film Utu, which co-starred Lawrence.
   The Quiet Earth is released in an all-regions budget DVD from Pegasus. The DVD transfer is full-frame, with a Dolby Surround soundtrack. There are no subtitles and the only extra is a stills gallery.
The Quiet Earth

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