Release year: 1973
Director: Richard Fleischer
Screenwriter: Stanley R. Greenberg, Harry Harrison (novel ‘Make Room! Make Room!’)
Starring: Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chick Connors, Brock Peters, Joseph Cotten, Paula Kelly
Ratings: 1 Saturn Award: Best Science Fiction Film of the Year.
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #168, week 36 2017
In a dystopia future destroyed by the greenhouse effect and overpopulation natural resources have been exhausted and food is provided by Soylent Industries, making food from plankton from the ocean. When one of the board members of the company is killed, Detective Thorn (Charlton Heston) is assigned to the investigation. But as he digs deeper into the case, he discovers Soylent Industries have some secrets they wish to keep hidden.
Based on Harrison’s novel, Soylent Green sets a dire scene for the future. Dealing with especially overpopulation and pollution, the movie also shows the great differences that those problems, much like today, affects poor and rich differently. While the poor sleep in staircases and gather in crowds to fight over food, the rich live in luxury eating real food and enjoying warm running water and air condition and furniture. Not furniture like in beds and sofas, that too, but also in the form of beautiful young women who comes with the appartment. As one of these futuristic concubines is Taylor-Young (I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!, 1968), more than beautiful enough to play the part, plays her part so timid and humble that her position is devastatingly evident while also providing balance to Heston’s (Ben-Hur, 1959) rough cop. The towering actor with features chiseled in stone and his ruggedly good looks is an almost obvious cast as the strong and efficient Detective Thorn, excelling especially when opposite Robinson (Key Largo, 1948) playing his loyal police analyst and trusted friend. The scenes between the two men, who also starred together in The Then Commandments from 1956, are the most tender and warm scenes in the movie, something emphasized by the clinical approach to something reminding of love there is between Thorn and the concubine. The movie uses strong scenes in the beginning to set the scene of a horrific future (people being scooped up by machines to clear the streets) and quickly focuses on the mystery, making Soylent Green a crime movie that just happens to be set in a dystopian future where people live in dying surroundings. As viewers we hardly know more than Thorn (that is if you have managed to never hear the famous ending) and as the mystery rises, so does the tension before a satisfying conclusion. Soylent Green is perhaps most famous for said ending, but it deserves to be remembered as a strong crime and a fine example of a dystopian film.
Warning! The original trailer may contain spoilers for the aware audience of today.
This was the last part for Edward G. Robinson who died of bladder cancer only twelve days after filming was completed. He knew he was terminally ill will shooting the film, but didn’t share this info with anyone on set.
In the novel, the word “soylent” is supposed to suggest soybeans and lentils.
The Soylent Green manufacturing facility is the Chevron oil refinery and power plant in El Segundo, California.
Picture copyrights: Warner Home Video