This film has haunted me since I saw the poster stuck on the side of cinemas in Liverpool and Blackpool as a child… I was far too young to see it but the images of an over-crowded future population fighting for food obviously chimed with my nascent awareness of these issues. Has it really been over forty years since Hollywood started to take climate change and over-population seriously?
Legendary sci-fi author Harry Harrison was clearly ahead of the pack with his 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! But then Malthus got there first. Soylent Green is an adaptation of Harris’ book and was another chance for Charlton Heston to rail against “the fools, the damn fools…” that were spoiling humanity’s future (some of them carried arms Mr Heston) after his previous movie encounter with the “monkey planet”.
|Another green world altogether...|
There is little food and so the majority live of a combination of soya and lentil, “soylent” which is delivered to the largely homeless masses in bulk deliveries protected by the local police. One of these officers, Thorn (Charlton Heston), lives in a cramped apartment with an old man Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson in his last film). They’re an odd couple and we’re never quite sure of their connection: Sol’s an intellectual, a reader and thinker whilst Thorn keeps the peace, just about.
|Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson|
A young man is seen collecting an ice pick from another in a run-down area - it’s not looking good for someone, somewhere…
|How the other, 100,000th, live|
|Shirl plays Asteroids|
|Chuck Connors and Leigh Taylor-Young|
He returns home where he and Sol enjoy a splendid meal made from the meat Shirl had bought.
|Brock Peters and Charlton Heston|
He reports back to his commander, Hatcher (Brock Peters) and following a hunch that Fielding is somehow involved pays a visit to his flat where he finds his lover Martha (Paula Kelly), eating strawberries from a jar… that is expensive jam indeed. Something’s afoot.
|Thorn goes rooting for clues... Martha hides her jam.|
As in all goof cop stories, Thorn’s superiors try to ward him off the case: there’s no mystery he’s told, just a routine break in that went wrong. By Thorn’s not convinced: Simonson didn’t put up a fight and there’s nothing valuable missing. Like all good cops told to lay off he digs in deeper: his instincts being proved correct when someone tries to kill him at a food riot – it’s the man who killed Simonson (although Thorn doesn’t know it…).
Thorn had presented Sol with a large book from Simonson’s flat – a detailed analysis connected with Soylent Green, the new superfood. Sol takes it to a group of elders who preserve what they can of the old learnings in an old public library: there’s an awful truth that not only keeps society going but which could threaten its very existence.
|The book group...|
|What is the secret of Soylent Green?|
|Too old? Charming...|
Richard Fleischer directs well creating a run-down world of dowdy contrasts as Richard H. Kline cinematography sees New York cloaked in a haze of green smog. The claustrophobic uncertainty is completed by an anxious electronic score from Fred Myrow.
|Sol sees the World as it was|
But if you want the clean screen view, Soylent Green is available on DVD and Blu-Ray form Amazon.