Soylent Green (1973)
It’s the year 2022… People are still the same. They’ll do anything to get what they need. And they need SOYLENT GREEN
Harry Harrison – Novel
Stanley R Greenberg
Edward G Robinson
Dick Van Patten
Review by Noel Baily
Great sci-fi but production values defer a “classic” status!
So much to like about this film – IF you want to give your perception free rein. Another Big Brotherish future which is drab, dismal and depressing in the extreme. The gulf between the “haves” and the “have nots” is now greatly more than just “one small step for mankind!”
Heston is a tired amd basically honest cop who is not averse however to sometimes using his (barely) elevated status to filching a few of life’s little delicacies (a wafer thin sliver of steak, a tin of fruit etc) to bring home to his ailing mentor Sol Roth, played so touchingly by Edward G Robinson in his last role. Sol remembers the good times, animals running free, blue skies, plenty of food. All they have now is Soylent Green – the latest in the corporate food chain. A rather unappetising tablet that the Soylent Corporation has produced for the starving masses.
I will divulge nothing further at this point.
Yes the highlight of the movie is Sol’s decision to accept voluntary euthanasia at the “Recall” type clinic built for the purpose. Heston is heartbroken and heads off there to stop him. What he sees in the “termination” chamber shocks him to the core. Edward G, peaceful on his bed having received his fatal injection, watching the scenes on his wall viewer that he has chosen to go out with. Scenes Heston has never imagined…beauty and natural wonders he cannot conceive as existing. As he says, tears running down his face “I never knew!!!” As moving and emotional a moment in cinematic history as has never been topped!
The sequence is all the more touching when you realise that Edward G himself was terminally ill during the making of SOYLENT GREEN and one can only wonder what must have gone through both his and Heston’s mind as they were shooting this scene? Perhaps his tears were real!
The question of Soylent Green is shortly answered. I see no purpose in commenting further. There ARE sub-plots but they are best left for the individual viewer to balance out against the rest of what unfolds. As someone quite rightly suggested here, perhaps a purpose of this film is that we SHOULD appreciate now, so much more of what we have! It may not always be with us!
Review by Theo Robertson
The Best Environmental Film Of Its Era,
As with all environmentally aware films from the 1970s SOYLENT GREEN has a rather cheesy view of what ecological meltdown is. Overpopulation means there are too many people to feed? I was under the impression that famines were caused by either war or failed economic policies. Stalin’s policy in the Soviet Union in the 1930s left millions dead because of famine and to this day the greatest man made tragedy was Mao’s rural policy in China which led to over 30 million starvation deaths in the 1950s. And let’s not forget the great famines in the horn of Africa in the 1980s and 90s, which were to do with conflicts not overpopulation.
You might like to also consider that two of the most heavily populated areas on Earth, Hong Kong and Macau, have never suffered a famine in modern times. Likewise the expansion of shanty towns around cities as seen here isn’t strictly down to overpopulation – it’s down to economic factors where people flock to cities to find better paid work than in the countryside (It’s a symptom of industrial progress – not of too many births) so the image of the streets of New York city being too congested to walk through and of having people sleep in stairwells is somewhat laughable.
But don’t be fooled into thinking SOYLENT GREEN is a pile of corny tree hugging crap because I consider this to be the best ecological film of the 70s. It plays on the contemporized audience’s knowledge of the world where Sol and Thorn are beside themselves with joy at finding fruit, brandy and fresh meat. Thorn gasps in amazement at having ice in his whisky, puffs on a cigarette and delivers the classic line ” If I could afford it I’d smoke two, maybe three of these a day “. But it’s the visage of the euthanasia chamber that’s memorable as Thorn gazes at the images of wild animals, flowers, running water and snow covered mountains, a world Thorn’s generation has never known. This is a very haunting scene, which makes SOYLENT GREEN a very memorable film, combined with the fact it features the final screen appearance of Edward G Robinson as the wise old Jew Sol Roth