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SOYLENT GREEN (director: Richard Fleischer; screenwriters: from the book Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison/Stanley R. Greenberg; cinematographer: Richard H. Kline; editor: Samuel E. Beetley; music: Fred Myrow; cast: Charlton Heston (Detective Frank Thorn), Edward G. Robinson (Sol Roth), Leigh Taylor-Young (Shirl), Chuck Connors (Tab Fielding), Brock Peters (Hatcher), Paula Kelly (Martha), Joseph Cotten (William Simonson), Whit Bissell (Governor Santini); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Russell Thacher; Warner Home Video; 1973)
“Modestly entertaining.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An animated futuristic sci-fi film directed by Richard Fleischer (“Fantastic Voyage”/”The Boston Strangler”) and based on the book Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison. Stanley R. Greenberg handles the literate script that warns about environmental dangers from man’s rape of the planet. It’s set in Gotham in 2022, a depressing and polluted place overpopulated with 40 million people, saddled with a police state and corruption, suffering from severe climate changes and where synthetic food is what most of the people eat. It’s marred by a preachy message, too much sentimentality for the good old days, a muddled narrative and cheesy artificial visuals. But that isn’t to say the melodrama wasn’t modestly entertaining. This was Edward G. Robinson’s last role and he’s very likable as the old timer friend of Charlton Heston, who remembers the time when there was real food to eat and becomes teary eyed from pleasant memories from the past.

A member of the board of directors of the Soylent Green company, William Simonson (Joseph Cotton), where the artificial food is produced as it’s mined from the ocean floor’s plankton, is butchered to death in the living room of his plush apartment with a meat cleaver and hard-boiled grubby Detective Frank Thorn (Charlton Heston) leads the investigation. While there Thorn helps himself to a bottle of bourbon, some meat and soap, commodities the wealthy can pay steep prices to get but the masses must do without. He also takes up with the good-looker Shirl (Leigh Taylor-Young), who comes with the swank apartment and to whom he adoringly refers to as “furniture.” Action man Thorn’s aided by the research of his bookish roommate Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson), as he will find in the dystopian world he covers a dark secret that executive Simonson also uncovered about his food company and its “waste” processing plant. It all leads to the surprise ending (which is not hard to guess before it’s revealed in an hysterical Heston shouting out what he discovered in the conclusion) of how the ruling class prospers while the masses struggle to survive on a diet of Soylent Blue, Soylent Yellow, or the latest rage of Soylent Green. Too bad it stopped short with discovering the mystery of Solvent Green and not digging deeper into this dark world of the near future.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”