April 5th, 2011: Soylent Green (1973)

Cast and Crew: Richard Fleischer (Director); Chuck Connors, Brock Peters, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Roy Jenson, Whit Bissell, Dick Van Patten

What It’s About: There are too many people (40 million in New York City alone), and not enough food.  When an executive (Joseph Cotton) at the Soylent Corporation, one of the last food supply companies,  is murdered, policeman Thorn (Charlton Heston) and his “living book” Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson) race against time to find out the secret behind his murder-and behind the popular Soylent Green foodstuff.

Why Watch it Today?: Lead Heston died today in 2008.  Heston’s long career covered many kinds of films, but for genre fans of a certain age, Heston will always be synonymous with the series of distopian science fiction films he made in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Soylent Green, while dated, is in some ways the most relevant of these today, as food prices rise and pollution increases, and features a fine, teeth gnashing performance from Heston along with the touching final film appearance of veteran actor Robinson.

Where to Get ItPublic libraries, iTunes, Netflix (Rental only) or Amazon

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3 comments on “April 5th, 2011: Soylent Green (1973)

  1. Psy says:

    It’s been at least two years and my memory of this is all tied up in warm, fuzzy feelings of watching it with my girlfriend at the time. But I’d be interested to know what parts you found to be dated, apart from the obvious technical bits. Lack of internet addiction was the biggie for us back in ’09, but we found this to be one of the “better” 70s sci-fi extravaganzas…in the sense of being one of the least-silly. (Though I realize watching this on a double bill with Logan’s Run probably colored that judgment.)

    • professormortis says:

      Internet, computers, some of the attitudes, the cops wearing football helmets rather, than, say, low end riot gear (I understand they’d probably not be in the super cool stuff we have now if they’re that stretched for resources), the death booth’s montage of nature (nowadays I wonder if it would either be some kind of virtual reality thing, if they’d just drug you, or if it would even be just a video game kind of sex and violence deal) which feels awfully inspired by 2001. I think some of the stuff that was so outrageous dark future then, too, wouldn’t make people blink now, although, you’re right, it’s horribly bleak enough that even now it’s pretty “oh, crap”. I guess in the novel “Soylent” was just lentil steaks, and, well, nothing shocking about that now!

      Justified or not, I was also thinking about how the fears of overpopulation, so big in the late 1960s and early 1970s are mostly poo-pooed now, and climate change is the big one we are fearing, and of course the film barely mentions that (though, I mean, it sure looks like NYC is permanently 90 degrees in the this particular vision of the future).

      It’s been a while for me as well-maybe as many as seven years, so I am curious what I’d think now if I revisit it soon. I agree about the warm and fuzzies though-I think it’s a shame that the marketing campaign and promotion/spoilage of the big twist has turned a reasonably thoughtful Sci-Fi film into a punchline. It’s especially sad because I love Robinson’s performance, there’s something very sweet about seeing a guy know for playing tough guy gangsters last part being a wise old intellectual, and he has some wonderful moments.

  2. […] abil­i­ties to han­dle tough and demand­ing roles. Hes­ton plays the main char­ac­ter of the movie, detec­tive Ty Thorn. He lives in a dilapidated one-room apart­ment with his friend and […]

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