Out of his tree
RELEASED OUT NOW! 1972 | U | Blu-ray (4K/standard)
Director Douglas Trumbull
Cast Bruce Dern, Cliff Potts,
Ron Rifkin, Jesse Vint
After the phenomenal success of Easy Rider, Universal gambled on giving several young filmmakers small budgets and creative free rein. It didn’t pay off commercially, but did give us this idiosyncratic ecological sci-fi.
Bruce Dern plays Lowell, a crewman on a space freighter
– one of three carrying all that survives of Earth’s forests. When an order comes through to jettison and explode the bio-domes, the distraught botanist kills his crewmates to save the last one.
A dramatic premise, but the aftermath is the main focus, as the lonely Lowell develops a strangely paternal relationship with Huey and Dewey, two endearing repair droids with the waddling gait of a baby with a full nappy (ingeniously operated by double-amputees).
Dern manages to maintain sympathy for this triple-murderer, and there’s pleasure to be had from quirky design details (like a robotic-arm pool table) and the elegiac score, punctuated by Joan Baez folk numbers. While not possessed of great philosophical depth or scientific rigour, it’s a film whose heart is in the right place.
Extras Bucking the trend, the “visual essay” (14 minutes) is a highlight; it details the differences in an early draft, using voice actors and some great illustrations. A film music expert talks through the cues (14 minutes). Critics Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman team up on a chatty commentary. A 2000 track by Dern and director Douglas Trumbull sees both men asking one another good questions.
Bonuses from the previous UK Blu-ray are also carried over. These include a vintage Making Of (49 minutes). As the film was largely shot on a decommissioned aircraft carrier, there’s an interesting story to tell, with some great footage of droid costume fittings and Dern jogging on the deck. Plus: isolated music/score; gallery (635 stills!); trailer; booklet.
Douglas Trumbull was inspired to cast double-amputees to play the droids by seeing Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks.
A dramatic premise, but the aftermath is the main focus