Soylent Green is a long time favorite film of mine, and am glad I had the opportunity to watch it again over the weekend. Based loosely, and I do mean loosely, on the 1966 harry Harrison novel, Make Room, Make Room, we are introduced to a dystopian society where there is a sharp divide between the haves and the have-nots. Set in the year, 2022, the action takes place in a heavily overpopulated New York City, where 40 million people are attempting to survive in a heavily polluted environment on starvation rations. Unemployment is high, and those with jobs are under constant pressure to keep their jobs as there is a long line of people waiting to get the few jobs that there are.
If you have never seen Soylent Green, then you should add this to your must see list.
Winner of a Nebula Award from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America as well as a Saturn Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, Soylent Green sports a great cast headed by Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson. Robinson was one of the all-time great screen actors, and this was his last film, passing away 12 days after filming. Chuck Connors, of The Rifleman fame, plays the main heavy, Tab fielding, and Brock Peters of Star Trek Fame, better known to Trekkers as Admiral Cartwright as well as Sisco’s father, plays Hatcher, the Lieutenant of Detectives, Thorn’s (Charlton Heston) boss. Robinson plays Solomon Roth, Thorn’s aged Police Book, a researcher who helps with investigations, skilled at finding information in various archives.
There are few resemblances between the film and the book it is based on, and for good reason. I read Harrison’s novel several years ago, and found it, well, lacking. Harrison spent too much ranting about overpopulation and the need for zero population growth. aside from the major themes of overpopulation, pollution, cannibalism, the green house effect, and the murder that triggers the investigation and the major plot line, there isn’t a lot in common, and I find that the movie is by far a superior and compelling story than Harrison’s novel. But one should read it and decide for themselves, and not take my word for it.
Thorn’s investigation into the murder of the wealthy elite named Simonson triggers a long chain of events, that leads to Sol, and others, learning the truth about what Soylent Green really is. Simonson, it turns out, was eliminated as he good not live with the truth he learned. Thorn is able to deduce, based on circumstantial evidence, that Simonson was not the victim of a burglary gone wrong, but assassinated for some unknown reason. Thorn takes from Simonson’s home a number of items for his personal use, including a pair of research books by the Soylent Corporation, which he gives to his police book, Sol.
Any rate, things become even dicier for Thorn as he and Sol get closer to the truth.
Robinson is a stellar performer, and shows it in his final scene in this film, making Soylent Green a must see for his performance alone. God, he was great! I wish we had more actors like him in film today.
Richard Fleischer directed an excellent cast in a darn good story scripted by Stanley Greenberg. All of the supporting cast turned in solid performances, a cast that included Joseph Cotton, Leigh Taylor-Young, Mike Henry (The Green Berets!) and Lincoln Kilpatrick, among many others.
Remember, Tuesday is Soylent Green Day.