The 70’s saw a boom in science fiction films featuring dystopian futuristic societies and Z.P.G. (which stands for Zero Population Growth) was one of the few sci-fi offerings from
In the future, the Earth is completely enshrouded in a hazardous haze of deadly smog, so everyone has to wear gas masks when they go outside. People eat out of toothpaste tubes, zoos are filled with nothing but stuffed taxidermy animals, and couples use “Audio/Visual Erotica” instead of sex. What’s worse is that overpopulation threatens the world’s food supply, so the government outlaws sexual reproduction. Any parents wishing to have a child must go to The Baby Shop and purchase lifelike doll babies that are so realistic that they even catch colds! When couples are found out to be hiding illegal children (people are encouraged to turn their neighbors in by being rewarded with “extra rations”), the whole family is put to death in an “extermination chamber”.
Geraldine Chaplin and Oliver Reed star as a couple who refuse to get their government sanctioned abortion and have to hide their baby from not only the government officials, but other baby hungry couples who want to get their grubby hands on their infant. When they are found out by the baby police, they are locked up and targeted for termination. In the end, the family manages to escape to the sea where an uncertain future awaits.
Z.P.G. is a wildly uneven but a nonetheless fascinating look into the future which is excellently realized on a low budget. The Museum of the Past segment is easily the best part of the flick as the denizens of the future look upon such ancient relics as “gas pumps”, “dentists”, and “cats” with morbid curiosity.
There are a number of effective scenes like when Reed is captured by the “Library Police” who torture him for looking up “premature births” in their archives. Or when the couple’s best friends learn about their baby and blackmail them into spending more and more time with the infant. The special effects are kinda cheesy but they have a certain Thunderbirds-esque charm about them and don’t get in the way of the film’s overall message.
If you couldn’t already tell, all of this is rather depressing and bleak, but the filmmakers weren’t out to make Starcrash here. They actually had something to say and had a complex approach so I guess that should cheer you up a bit. The film kinda loses it’s way once Chaplin actually births the unauthorized tot, but for the first hour or so, Z.P.G holds your attention rather well. The performances by the two jumpsuited (Why the heck is it in all these 70’s sci-fi movies do the main characters have to wear drab jumpsuits?) leads are a bit stiff, but I guess that’s to be expected when all the people of the future are mindless drones.
I could sit here and go on about the numerous shortcomings of the film, but all I gotta say is this: Those “real” doll babies are pretty fucking freaky. In fact, they give better performances than most of the actors in the movie! You should check this flick out for those creepy kids alone. (It would make a great double feature with The Sixth Day.)
Director Michael Campus went on to direct the minor blaxploitation classic, The Mack next.
AKA: Edict. AKA: The First of January. AKA: Zero Population Growth.
For more info on the upcoming Z.P.G DVD release, as well as a slew of others from Legend Films, go to www.legendfilms.net.