- Gareth Crook
Soylent Green (1973)
Soylent Green is from that most iconic genres of 70s cinema. The future focus disaster movie. I’m an absolute sucker for this stuff. Yeah I know it’s a bit tropey, but these films really captured my imagination as a kid and that’s stuck with me. We’re in the year 2022 (don’t laugh, the way 2020 is going, this might not be that far fetched!) Charlton Heston plays Detective Thorn (Heston was all over these films, The Omega Man, Planet of the Apes). Thorn lives in a world that now sustains itself on a diet of manufactured protein blocks. Soylent Green is the latest invitation in food nutrition. There’s not much of it though. It’s not a pretty world, post apocalyptic really, streets resemble dust filled morgues to a bygone era. Cars rusted and motionless, people scavenging. That’s only one side of it of course. Class structure survives all it seems. Shirl (Leigh Taylor-Young) lives with her ‘employer’ (Joseph Cotton, who I almost didn’t recognise) in the future imagined in the 70s. This happens a lot in cinema doesn’t it. She’s surrounded by plastic, chrome and shag carpets. Maybe we’ve missed a trick, I’d quite like shag carpets I think. Anyway Shirl has it good, she can afford what’s left of proper food, vegetables and the occasional slab of beef. Mr Simonson seems like a nice enough bloke and apparently treats her well. See even in the more affluent class, women aren’t free, they’re “furniture”. It’s gonna be short lived happiness though, for Simonson isn’t going to get to enjoy that beef after being crow-barred by perhaps the nicest assailant. Here’s our crime, enter Detective Thorn, all macho confidence. He’s lax on professionalism, enjoying a brief taste of the highlife in the rich mans apartment. A rich man who’s now to be driven outside the city for waste disposal. A detail that will become important later. Thorn’s best mate is Sol (Edward G. Robinson), whom he shares his spoils with. Thorn is light fingered on the job, taking what he pleases as he slowly tries to get to the bottom of his murder case. Some of these spoils includes some books, Sol is a bit of a reader and these new books set the pair down the path of what the Soylent group are up to. This film plays a little uneasy now. It’s a male dominated world, women treated with zero respect. Something Thorn seems to be pretty good at, not all that surprising considering Heston’s attitude off screen. The more Thorn digs, the more suspicious he gets about Soylent and this corrupt society, “Something stinks!”. Every time we go outside, the air seems a little bit greener, a cloud slowly casting over NYC. The third act kicks off with a riot as ‘The Green’ runs out and ‘The Scoops’ are sent in. Giant trucks that dig into the masses like earth and take them away to... well we have to wait for that. It marks the most chilling moments of the film, as Sol discovers the truth and opts for his own peaceful conclusion, but not before telling Thorn what we already know. I won’t spoil anything here in case you’ve not already guessed and even if you have, it’s still worth a watch. The finale is pure B-Movie slightly underwhelming brilliance.