ZPG: Zero Population Growth (1972)is a great look at a futuristic fascistic state, albeit a “soft” one: gentle-voiced TV psychotherapists with hypno-beams, instead of jackboots and billyclubs.
On a pollution-shrouded Earth of the not-quite-near-future, because of the horrific overpopulation problem, having babies is declared illegal for the next 30 years, punishable by death.
If you want a kid, you have to wait on a very long line for your chance to buy an ugly robot child (see above), that chirps a creepy “Mummy, I love you” constantly.
The future is a fucked up awful mess. The museums are full of stuffed cats and dogs—because even household pets are extinct. Gasmasks are always needed outdoors. Propaganda movies—consisting of footage of people eating—criticize the “past” (our present!) for being so wasteful with food, fuel and the environment.
Had ZPG been only 45 minutes, it would be perfect (and could easily have passed as an episode of The Outer Limits). As is, ZPG has a measured pace that some might find infuriating, and the characters often act like real people: selfish and petulant—which many viewers of sci-fi can’t stand; they need their Mary Sues.
But I happen to enjoy grim, early-1970s bummer sci-fi, so ZPG was a pleasant surprise (so to speak).
What really makes ZPG fascinating is all the “little stuff”: The almost throwaway details that give the viewer a fuller picture of how dreadful life is in this world— Stuff like: --the ubiquitous gasmasks --the museum tour and propaganda films which demonize the “now” --extra food rations for snitches --the long lines and constant crowds --the omnipresent pollution --the semi-omniscient police state, that even monitors what you “read” at the library
ZPG is a flick that needs to be rediscovered(and perhaps rediscovered as a socio-political philosophy, as well, what with the world’s resources diminishing so much—and with so many stupid people constantly having babies!).
BTW, the effects were created/supervised by the legendary Derek Meddings, and I think they’re effective for a low-budget early-1970s flick—and basically equal to, although more low-key than Meddings’ work for Gerry Anderson. Meddings’ presence is always a plus for me!
File ZPG With Films Such Ecological Disaster/Dystopian Fascistic Visions As:
Michael Radford’s 1984 (1984) Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451 Death Race 2000 Logan’s Run Rollerball Children of Men Punishment Park Soylent Green Escape from New York/L.A. THX-1138 A Clockwork Orange Conquest of the Planet of the Apes Terry Gilliam’s Brazil Douglas Trumbull’s Silent Running No Blade of Grass Robocop Blade Runner Idiocracy (Have I missed any? Leave a note in the comments section!)
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