Soylent Green (1973)
April 17, 2016 1:07 PM - Subscribe

It's people. PEOPLE!

NYTimes: "Soylent Green" projects essentially simple, muscular melodrama a good deal more effectively than it does the potential of man's seemingly witless destruction of the earth's resources.

Charlton Heston, as a harried detective investigating the murder of Joseph Cotten, a bigwig in the dictatorial Soylent Company (whom we see only fleetingly), is aided by the late Edward G. Robinson in his last role as an aged, wise, suspicious researcher, who remembers the good old days of steaks and the like. And, finally exposed by a bewildering succession of hungry citizens, overcrowded streets, fancy pads and the resident, luscious lasses (called "furniture" here) of the rich few, is the awful truth about the secret ingredient of "Soylent Green."

Roger Ebert: The movie doesn’t quite live up to its promise; if the implications of the 2022 society had been completely followed through, the ending would have been more disturbing than it is. But I suspect the ending - which comes as no great surprise - was a bow to s-f convention and to the original Harry Harrison novel the movie’s based on.
The movie looks good. A lot of money apparently was spent on it (which is nothing new for director Fleischer, whose credits include “Dr. Dolittle” and “Tora! Tora! Tora!” - about which the less said, the better). The most impressive scene is one of the last, when Robinson decides the time has come for him to die. He goes to “Home,” a gigantic euthanasia center, where he gets 20 minutes of his favorite color (orange) and wraparound movies of the way life used to be on Earth. His acting here is tremendously dignified, and all the more poignant when we realize this death scene was his last.

denofgeek: This was Robinson’s 101st film, in a career that stretched back to the late ‘20s. He knew he had terminal cancer when he took the role, but never breathed a word of it to anyone on the cast or crew. He was also nearly completely deaf by this point and each of his scenes required a few practice takes before he could get the rhythm and timing down and know when he was supposed to speak his lines. It took some doing, but you see his performance on the screen and it’s simply one last, extraordinary bit of evidence that he was one of the finest actors this country’s ever known. Certainly better than Charlton Heston, Brock Peters or Chuck Connors.

Serious Question: Would You Eat Soylent Green?

Art of the Title

The Long Tail of 'Soylent Green'

Trailer

Soylent Green is people
posted by MoonOrb (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really love this film - for me it's a bunch of ol' stinky cheese wrapped around that amazing last scene from Edward G. Robinson. I love this film.
posted by parki at 2:04 PM on April 17, 2016


As much as I love this film, I also think this one is ripe for a remake. Not a reboot. A remake. Just to bring some of the tech and sketchier bits (like repainted football helmets on the cops, and the "obviously made on the backlot" look to the street scenes) up to snuff. No added violence or anything. Just spruce it up a bit.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:19 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's definitely a piece of its time but I still find it pretty compelling and moving.

The scariest part of the ending isn't the reveal from the classic line, it's the fact that it doesn't really matter. The human race is on the way out and Soylent Green as horrific as it is, is just a stopgap measure and the end is soon.
posted by octothorpe at 7:33 PM on April 17, 2016


Thorzdad, I think you're talking about a "deluxe remastering" - use CGI to "repaint" scenes, which I think is an interesting option in the era of George Lucas re-touching Star Wars et al every time they're re-released on a new medium (of which, he's not alone -- Hideaki Anno kept tweaking his Evangelion reboots).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:34 PM on April 17, 2016


The images from the opening of the book stick with me more: people crowded into every tiny cranny of every corner of every room - genuinely terrifying if polemical - but the sheer pleasure of getting to yell, "It's people!" is one of life's gifts.
posted by latkes at 10:29 PM on April 17, 2016


Very prescient. Overpopulation becomes such a burden to the planet global warming becomes our major downfall, but the sight gag of people just trying to find a spot to lay down is pretty great. Of course the rich are so rich, they're the only ones that count because nobody else's death really matters. Poor people's lives mean so little they're reduced to objects such as "furniture", "book", and ultimately the most basic of necessities - food.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:52 PM on April 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


But I suspect the ending - which comes as no great surprise - was a bow to s-f convention and to the original Harry Harrison novel the movie’s based on.

If Ebert was referring to SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE, then he was dead wrong. Soylent green is NOT people in Make Room! Make Room!. It's soybeans and lentils, per the name.

The book is rather different, and to my mind, better.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:46 AM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Saturday Night Live once did a sketch about a seemingly endless series of imagined Soylent Green sequels, each less dramatically and financially successful than the last. It was done pretty much solely so Phil Hartman could do his Charlton Heston freaking out impression, but it was funny nonetheless.

First was Soylent Green II, where Hartman comes out yelling "Soylent Green is still people! They said they changed the formula, but they didn't. It's still people!"

Then there was a Soylent White, in which correction fluid turns out to be made of people.

There may have been a couple others, but eventually they trailed off with Soylent Cow Flop, in which people are reduced to eating cow manure - which then turns out to be made of people - and when Hartman tells them the horrible truth, they aren't all that worked up about it because they thought they were eating cow manure to begin with.

I sort of wish a couple of these were real, actually.
posted by Naberius at 6:51 AM on April 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


The most impressive scene is one of the last, when Robinson decides the time has come for him to die. He goes to “Home,” a gigantic euthanasia center, where he gets 20 minutes of his favorite color (orange) and wraparound movies of the way life used to be on Earth.

It's been a long time since I watched SG, but that scene has stayed with me. A lovely way to go, ultimate fate notwithstanding.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:53 AM on April 18, 2016


Tragically, being ushered to the grave by Dick Van Patten is no longer possible.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:40 PM on April 18, 2016


Jerry Van Dyke's still kickin', though. We could probably get him.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:08 PM on April 18, 2016


As much as I love this film, I also think this one is ripe for a remake. Not a reboot. A remake. Just to bring some of the tech and sketchier bits (like repainted football helmets on the cops, and the "obviously made on the backlot" look to the street scenes) up to snuff. No added violence or anything. Just spruce it up a bit.

Pff, a film about a dystopian future where global warming has effectively doomed life on Earth but the elite class that covers up the full extent of the damage lives in relative luxury while the poor literally eat each other to survive? Good luck getting that made.

Part of why this film is so interesting to me is the gap between what it is and how it's remembered--it's beaten out only by The Crying Game, which is a meditation on guilt and healing that happens to have a trans woman as one of the main characters. Even that last line is a lot less campy in the actual film than in the millions of parodies that followed--Heston's character is beaten, resigned, and it seems like his declaration is unlikely to change much. Soylent Green is people? Who cares, when the oceans are dead and you're likely to die scooped up by a police tractor.
posted by Krom Tatman at 6:30 PM on April 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


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