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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > British > Horror > Thriller > Z.P.G. – Zero Population Growth (1971/Legend Films DVD)

Z.P.G. – Zero Population Growth (1971/Legend Films DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C     Extras: D     Film: B



It is too easy to underrate the great number of important Science Fiction films the British Cinema has produced and even when they have not dated as well as they could have (1936’s The Shape Of Things To Come a primary example) the influence and innovation is enormous and some gems seem to get lost along the way.  One of them is Michael Campus’ Z.P.G. – Zero Population Growth (1971) about a corporatized police state where pollution and massive birth have caused the world to collapse.


People have to wear masks to walk anywhere and life is managed electronically in too many ways, reducing the individual to cogs, but now the state has decided that there are too many people and childbirth is illegal.  It is also punishable by death.  One couple (Oliver Reed and Geraldine Chaplin) try to follow this law, one that people help the state enforce by harassing and beating anyone they catch with a real baby.  The state offers sick robotic ones (you have to see to believe) in place of the real thing, but Carol (Chaplin) cannot take it anymore.  She becomes pregnant and they do what they can do to hide it.


No one suspects at first, including their neighbors (Diane Cilento, Don Gordon) who are supposed to be their friends, but they will only be able to keep things secret so long before either the state and those brainwashed by them to hate and kill them or they can find a way to find asylum and get to another part of the decimated planet where they can live in peace and raise their child.  This is a dark work that some will have a hard time handling, arriving the same year as A Clockwork Orange and THX-1138 (the one before Lucas digitized it), but it is worthy of those classics and deserves to be rediscovered as the genre classic it is.


Derek Meddings did the special visual effects before logging up work on six Bond films (beginning with Live & Let Die in 1973) plus the Christopher Reeve Superman films, Supergirl spin-off and first Burton Batman film.  Staring on the SuperMarionation shows like Thunderbirds, Meddings created distinctive model and effects work that has actually appreciated instead of the reverse and is still influencing films all the way to Spielberg’s A.I., among other films by people in the know.  Add the creepy production design by Anthony Masters (2001, Lynch’s Dune) and the film is a true visual original whose influence extends to Logan’s Run, Clonus and Soylent Green.


The acting is impressive and Campus’ directing is impressive for a first film.  He moved to America and followed up with two classics out of the cycle of African American drama and Blaxploitation: The Mack and The Education of Sonny Carson.  Longtime genre writer Max Ehrlich moved from TV to novels and resulting in a few feature film adaptations like this one that he co-produced (co-writing the screenplay with co-producer Frank De Felitta, who also came from TV) and also saw an impressive version of The Reincarnation Of Peter Proud (where is the DVD and Blu-ray?) also arrive a few years later.


For all intents and purposes, you could consider this a Horror film and a political one, the later of which might be the reason it was out of circulation for so long.  But now, the film is finally available to be rediscovered and is strongly recommended for all serious film fans.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image is not bad for its age, the elements are in decent shape, but this is still a little softer than one would like and though color can be consistent, depth is also compromised.  The stocks used are EastmanColor and the British labs and locations add to the sense of visual darkness in profound ways.  Director of Photography Michael Reed, B.S.C., is known for his work on British TV (The Saint, The New Avengers) as well as for the Hammer Studios and on the James Bond classic On her Majesty’s Secret Service.  He brought, along with Mikael Solomon on some shots, create a dark, dense atmosphere that is intentionally claustrophobic and creates the film’s own cold, inescapable world.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is compressed a bit, but is still audible and Johnathan Hodge’s score is a big plus.  There are sadly no extras.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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