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Film (1971; vt Zero Population Growth UK). Sagittarius/Paramount. Directed by Michael Campus. Written by Max Ehrlich and Frank DeFelitta. Cast includes Oliver Reed, Geraldine Chaplin, Diane Cilento and Don Gordon. 97 minutes. Colour.

Set on a future Earth afflicted by massive Pollution, this film was a product of a period when (perhaps not before time), the question of Overpopulation had almost overnight become a matter much publicized by the media. Books like Paul R Ehrlich's The Population Bomb (1968) had become bestsellers, and the Club of Rome was about to publish a very alarmist report in The Limits to Growth (1972). "Zero population growth" is a term which refers to a situation where the population of a society remains steady, neither increasing nor decreasing. But the screenwriters of Z.P.G. assume, absurdly, that it means nobody having any children at all during the 30-year period of a world government's ban.

As a result, in this Dystopia where animals are all extinct and breathing masks are necessitated by the omnipresent smog, domestic bathrooms are equipped with abortion machines and Robot child-substitutes are provided by "Babyland". A married couple (Reed and Chaplin) defy the edict and have a baby secretly. They are betrayed by their jealous neighbours (Gordon and Cilento), whose initial help with concealment develops into wanting to share and then to wholly own the baby. Finally, after being sentenced by the authorities to death by suffocation in a plastic execution dome, the parents and child escape by descending into a sewer and making their way through imperfectly explained tunnels to a remote Island which seems unaffected by the global pollution (but may perhaps be poisoned with radioactivity).

The novelization is The Edict (1971) by co-screenwriter Max Ehrlich. [JB/DRL]


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 14:14 pm on 26 May 2024.