Monday, September 19, 2011

“ZPG” (1972) needs to be rediscovered!

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)
Fahrenheit 451
Death Race 2000
Logan’s Run
Children of Men
Punishment Park
Soylent Green
Escape from New York
A Clockwork Orange
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
Terry Gilliam’s Brazil
Douglas Trumbull’s
Silent Running
No Blade of Grass
Blade Runner
(Have I missed any? Leave a note in the comments section!)

Full disclosure: While I had been aware of ZPG for a long time (probably through a blurb in a John Brosnan book), it was John Kenneth Muir’s impassioned review/critique that made me add the film to my Netflix list.


  1. DEATHSPORT (1978)
    MAD MAX (1979)
    BATTLE TRUCK (1982)

    i guess WESTWORLD doesn't qualify, but DAMNATION ALLEY does, if you can even be persuaded to acknowledge it!!!

    CONQUEST OF PLANET APE was also 1972 and also uses the "dogs and cats are extinct" biz!!!

  2. Sounds like an awesome movie! I love the campy future films from the 70's and 80's.

  3. Arturo Maniax! I've yes to see Deathsport or Battletruck (sorry...), so can't comment. But I don't know about Mad Max--it's government seems to be a bit on the weak side, and not in control at all...And no, Damnation Alley doesn't qualify. There's no gubment left at all--except for Murray Hamilton's silent drunk.

    HoakzTwo! Check it out! (And bring a sixpack)

  4. Ok, you've convinced me. Z.P.G. is on my Netflix queue! Besides, I'm crazy about Geraldine Chaplin. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  5. KA:
    G.Chaplin and Ollie Reed as ZPG's married couple is as "tough" a casting decision as Nicholson & Duvall in The Shining--tough in the sense that in both cases, it's a married couple that mainstream audiences would hardly warm up to--but who are fascinating and intriguing, awfully human.

  6. The Bedsitter Room
    Ralph Richardson, Cook & Moore, Rita Tushingham etc.