With Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotten, Whit Bissell, Brock Peters
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Reviewed by JB
SOYLENT GREEN, based on Harry Harrison's story Make Room! Make Room!, concerns one of the hot-button socio-political issues of the 1970s, overpopulation. At a time when Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich's* best-seller The Population Bomb was scaring people into believing that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death by 1985 due to over-population, SOYLENT GREEN takes place in a New York City inhabited by 40 million people. There is little real food to be found anywhere, only synthesized food called Soylent Red and Soylent Blue. And "new, delicious" Soylent Green. Although the film also touches on other issues such as The Greenhouse Effect (even though global cooling was the prevailing theory of the day) and voluntary euthanasia, SOYLENT GREEN is not a preachy movie. It is actually the most intelligent, if least fun, of the Charlton Heston Apocalypse Trilogy that began with PLANET OF THE APES and THE OMEGA MAN.
In short, the film is a sci-fi mystery. A prominent citizen has been murdered, and Detective Robert Thorn (Heston) attempts to find out why, with help from his old friend Sol (Edward G. Robinson). The deeper Thorn gets, the more he realizes that some powerful forces are trying to stop him. And it all has something to do with the Soylent company, which provides food for much of the population. With Heston as a jaded loner (Sol notwithstanding) who steals luxuries from those he investigates and beds the "furniture" (live-in lovers of the rich), SOYLENT GREEN is almost a futuristic film noir, something of a forerunner of Ridley Scott's BLADE RUNNER.
Although Charlton Heston gives
perhaps his best
performance of the trilogy in this film, the movie really belongs to
Edward G. Robinson. It was Robinson's 101st film, and also
last. Robinson was dying of cancer, yet, aside from
frail arms, there is no sign that Robinson is anything but 100 percent
Forty years after LITTLE CAESAR, Robinson still had the same
twinkle in his eye and full command of his substantial acting
abilities. Had he not been ill, he clearly had
many more outstanding performances left in him. Alas, there was not
He would be dead very shortly after the film was
completed. In light of this knowledge, or even without it,
anybody who does not shed a tear during Sol's "Going Home"
where he checks into a center to voluntarily end his life, has
heart of stone. It is one of the most beautiful scenes in all
cinema, and the very real friendship between Heston and Robinson is
There. I've gotten through the entire review without mentioning that Soylent Green is... nah, even though it is a famous ending, I won't spoil it for people who haven't seen the film. - JB
* Not to be confused with the more accurate Dr. Paul Ehrlich who invented a serum for diphtheria and discovered the cure for syphilis. Coincidentally, that fine doctor was played by none other that Edward G. Robinson in the film DR. EHRLICH'S MAGIC BULLET.
ADD ANOTHER QUOTE AND MAKE IT A GALLON
"Because of its enormous popularity, Soylent Green is in short
supply. Remember, Tuesday is Soylent Green day."
IS THAT WHO I THINK IT IS?
Dick Van Patten plays the attendant at the Suicide Center. Of course, Joseph Cotten and sci-fi/horror icon Whit Bissell also play parts in this film.
I LOVE YOU, SOL
Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson first worked together in 1956's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. They would have worked together again in PLANET OF THE APES, but after going through makeup tests and one test scene, Robinson bowed out of the part of Dr. Zaius, feeling that getting in that makeup every day would probably kill him.
Two months after his death in January 1973, Robinson was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy.