While Soylent Green
may be one of the many dystopian visions
of the future, the film stands out because it's one of the few titles that addresses current environmental issues head on. Adapted from Harry Harrison's novel Make Room, Make Room
, it gives us a nightmarish vision of an over-populated, polluted future on the brink of collapse--a vision that gets uncomfortably closer every year. Charlton Heston as police officer Thorn investigates a murder in between suppressing food riots and uncovers the nightmarish truth about Soylent Green, the new foodstuff being sold to the poor.
The film neatly combines police procedural with conspiracy thriller. Heston's scenes are counterpointed by more elegiac ones in which the centenarian Edward G Robinson as his friend Sol broods on the world he has outlived--his death in a euthanasia chamber is a gloriously lachrymose moment, which he plays to the hilt. Heston, too, is good as Thorn, a morally equivocal cop who loots the apartments of the victims whose deaths he investigates--he's a man just getting by in an impossible world.
On the DVD: Soylent Green on disc comes with a commentary from director Richard Fleischer, the highpoint of which is a memorable description of what it was like to work with the brilliant ailing, entirely deaf Robinson. He is joined by Leigh Taylor-Young whose work on the film as heroine led to years of serious environmentalist commitment. It has a useful contemporary making-of documentary and touching shots of Robinson's 100th birthday party with telegrams from Sinatra and others. The feature itself is presented in anamorphic widescreen with its original mono sound. --Roz Kaveney