I’ve known about this movie and have been wanting to see it since it came out 35 years ago, even though it’s a very adult science fiction piece and definitely would not have been appropriate for me at eight years old. This is what happens, I guess, when you watch At The Movies every week for most of your childhood and adolescence (I’ve covered it on a podcast episode before, but I cannot overstate how important Siskel & Ebert were to my love of movies). However, it’s not a film that gets wide circulation on streaming or is easy to find on cable, so I had set it aside on my Netflix DVD queue.
That is, until I saw that my public library had subscribed to Kanopy, the online film streaming service which is full of mostly documentaries, classics, and indie films (some of which were not on my original list but have been ones I’ve been wanting to see for years). So in my efforts to whittle the DVD queue down to nothing (and maybe even cancel the DVD service altogether), I streamed it.
The premise of the movie, which was made and set in New Zealand, is very simple: Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) wakes up to discover that he is the last man on Earth. And I should probably be even more specific to say that he’s the last life form because no animals seem to be around, either. It seems that there was some sort of multinational experiment to find a better energy source called “Project Flashlight” that messed with the space-time continuum and literally erased everyone and everything from the planet. How it was possible that Zac survive is eventually explained, but in the film’s first act, he struggles to figure out what’s going on and we find out a little about Project Flashlight because he was part of it (which I realize is convenient, but it works).
He then goes a little crazy, going to the houses of rich people and staying there, and at one point getting very drunk, putting on a woman’s nightgown, and declaring himself “King of the World”. That lasts until he meets Joanne (Alison Routledge) and they eventually meet Api (Pete Smith), who up until that point also thought they were the only people left.
I don’t want to go too far into plot summary here because I really did enjoy the movie, even if the third act moves so much quicker than the first two that it seems a little rushed (the film’s 95 minutes and could have used another 10 or 15). Bruno Lawrence is outstanding, as are Routledge and Smith, which is really important for a film like this because with the exception of a person or two in a flashback, they are the only people ever on the screen.
I know that at this point in time, watching post-apocalyptic movies about everyone disappearing is probably not the best for one’s mental health, but The Quiet Earth is a moody, eerie, sometimes contemplative piece that is worth checking out.
Oh, and if your public library has access to Kanopy, I highly recommend that service as well.
Watch or Skip?