Monday, April 21, 2008


“Z.P.G.” (1972) is one of those ecologically-themed science fiction movies that enjoyed a brief burst of popularity in the 1970s. These movies painted a grim future for mankind, a society where pollution and overcrowding have made large cities all but uninhabitable, where people eat artificial food, breathe the air in smog-encrusted atmospheres, and, oddly enough, all wear the same style and color of clothes.

One of the first of these pollution-disaster movies was director Cornel Wilde’s “No Blade of Grass” (1971). “Z.P.G.” (which stands for Zero Population Growth) followed, but the granddaddy of these films is “Soylent Green” (1973), thanks to a star-studded cast including Charlton Heston, Chuck Connors and Edward G. Robinson in his final role. Even today, any suspicious tasting food is cause for Soylent Green jokes.

“Z.P.G” is suitably dour, painting a society so over-crowded that women are not allowed to have babies for an entire generation. Women that don’t follow this edict and tracked down and captured, and have their babies taken away from them. Instead couples are given remarkable life-like dolls that can emote, get sick and presumably poop. Oliver Reed and Geraldine Chaplin play a couple who want the real thing. She gets pregnant, hides away for nine months and gives birth to a baby boy. They ultimately share the news with their neighbors, who eventually decide want the baby for themselves.

Everyone walks around with gas masks outside, where it’s perpetually foggy, thus saving money on set decoration. It’s one of the most humorless movies I’ve ever seen; understandable given the setting, but if memory serves even “Soylent Green” gave us some gallows humor.

It’s all mildly interesting, but not much more than that. There’s very little action and it just seems to sit there. Reed is his typical dour self, but Chaplin provides the film with some much needed humanity.

This cycle of films reached its peak (or its nadir, depending on who you’re talking to) with “Logan’s Run” (1976), which offers the solution to overcrowding – you die when you reach your 30th birthday.

I bet “Logan’s Run” would be a favorite of Al Bundy. One of my favorite bits on “Married with Children” is when the Bundys and their neighbors are going to have a video night. The women suggest “Beaches” the story about a lifelong friendship between two women. That’s fine with Al. He says, “We’ll watch it until they turn 30.”

Come to think of it, Al would have probably liked “Z.P.G.” as well.

Rating for “Z.P.G.”: Two stars.

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