"What is the secret of Soylent Green?"
Ah, Soylent Green, the coveted green tile of any impoverished diet. Just marvel at the wonders of processed food rations in an overpopulated, polluted hot box of flared tempers and meek insubordination. Tuesday is Soylent Green day, and Tuesday is the day it rears its ugly head.
The montage of humanity’s progression and regression, set to a smartly disturbing out-of-place soundtrack, takes a sinister industrialised tone in what is possibly the first dramatisation of global warming on screen. Released in 1973 the prescience of both the novel and adaptation to centre the human struggle around global warming, the greenhouse effect, pollution, and subsequent depletion of resources gives Soylent Green more realistic depth than people give it credit for.
Although it’s never stipulated if the world as a whole is overpopulated Soylent Green is set in New York City, 2022, with a population pushing 40,000,000. With a heavy backlog of unsolved homocides our lead protagonist Detective Thorn, played by Charlton Heston, heads up the investigation of one William R. Simonson in this cesspool of societal decadence.
This is where we get our first real look at the monumental class divide that separates the impoverished overpopulated underclass from life’s luxuries; bourbon, running water, soap, fruit, even pillows. At the scene of the crime, with brash stoicism Thorn controls the room treating the slain victim as a moot point, instead, taking full advantage of his authority and focusing his attention on what he can get his hands on. The viewer’s alarm bells are raised when the sanitation squad arrive. No forensics, no crime scene, just collect the body and skulk out of there. Shirl, Williamson’s ‘furniture’ laments about the loss of her Grandmother and the ‘ceremony’ that was held in her memory. There’s no time or room for funerals in such a parasitic society and our inhibitions are raised further by the conspicuous normality of transporting bodies in the back of a rubbish truck.
Thorn returns home with his goodie bag to his Police ‘book’, Sol Roth, (played by Edward G. Robinson in his final role on screen) an assigned police employee to aid in solving crimes utilising their knowledge of times before global warming and overpopulation of cities. Robinson’s reminiscing performance stands above and beyond anything Heston has to offer and provides some of the most touching moments of this gritty social horror that serve to remind the viewer to value nature’s smallest wonders.
Thorn understands the significance of Williamson’s death and prioritises the case when he discovers Williamson was a member of Soylent’s board. Already concluding correctly that Williamson’s death was a planned assassination Thorn draws the link between the two and delves deeper into the case to discover the motive for killing Williamson.
Following up on a number of leads that bring him closer to the truth behind Soylent Green several attempts to initimidate and assassinate Thorn fall short of the mark and this only spurs him on. However, Sol beats him to the truth in a meeting with like-minded individuals at the Exchange resulting in a sudden but long saught after escape from this depraved society. Venturing out into the lonely night Sol walks to the ‘Home’ a Government sanctioned euthanasia facility. Shocked by the news when Thorn returns he rushes to Sol’s side and witnesses the wonders of classical music and images of non-existent nature. Smartly shot, this scene raises the tempo for the closing 20 minutes as we follow Thorn on his pursuit of the truth after Sol whispers it to him on his deathbed.
As Sol is wheeled out of the room by two cloaked figures plucked straight out of the ‘How to dress a Cult’ guidebook an eerie garage scene follows, body after body loaded into the back of rubbish trucks ready for delivery, but to what end?
Although Soylent Green has achieved cult status for its seemingly endless references in pop culture there is still one spoiler I’ll refrain from revealing. Leaving the dramatic finale for any first viewers out there who care to delve into Richard Fleischer’s gut-wrenching dystopia I recommend a viewing as it was well Worth my time to visit this dystopian cult classic.
I like something with a little cyberpunk flair and although interesting in it’s subject and approach the whole film feels incredibly dated despite its current relevance. Charlton Heston should have stuck to biblical epics and sandals, taking his annoying swagger and grin with him. Edward G. Robinson is the star of the show while everyone else panders to a script that little people, at the time, would have given heed to.
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~ One of the most interesting aspects about Soylent Green is the Talk:wiki page, for those that have seen the film ~