Friday, March 24, 2023

Soylent Green!

Soylent Green ("Soy" and "Lentil") is a 1973 movie derived from Harry Harrison's 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! which anticipates and describes a world which is overwhelmed by the human population. The focus of Harrison's is clearly overpopulation and the necessary changes in attitudes and policies which would make birth control viable and widespread. The focus of Soylent Green seems to be somewhere else entirely. 

The story is set in 2022 when forty million people live in New York City creating all sorts of issues with housing and keeping folks fed. Toward that end there is the Soylent Corporation which produces sundry products among which is Soylent Green, a wafer presumably developed from seaweed. We follow Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) as he investigates the murder of an important city figure, one who apparently had a secret he was about to reveal. His live-in girl Shirl (Leigh Taylor-Young) gets romantically involved with Thorn. Solomon Roth is an old man (Edward G. Robinson in his final role) who lives with Thorn and the two look out for each other as best they can. Sol uncovers the real secret of Soylent Green and then decides he'd rather not live in the world anymore. The focus of the movie is not so much who killed the man but what is the secret he was killed to protect. 

It's a brutal world depicted in the movie, though less so than the novel. And almost no discussion is made in the movie of birth control, which was the focus of the novel. I suspect that even in 1973, the year of the Roe V. Wade decision which made abortion legal in the United States (for a time), the studio head did not want to make a movie about birth control. So, they chose another topic, one which they felt was more palatable for the tastes of people at the time -- cannibalism. 

The movie presents does a decent job depicting a grim future, filled to the brim with people wanting food and drink, and an authoritarian society built to keep the lid on. There are also beautiful images, mostly there to contrast with the dour world the movie portrays. I wish I could say this dystopian vision was ridiculous but of course it is in some ways the world in which we live, one no closer to solving the key problem of the time -- what to do about so many of us humans. 

Rip Off


  1. How does Soylent Green taste?
    Depends on the people.

    (Couldn't help myself)

    1. Gives new meaning to phrases like "Salt of the Earth".

  2. Edward G. Robinson was originally intended to play Dr. Zaius in Planet Of The Apes (alongside Charlton Heston of course) but when filming began he was too old and ill to spend hours in the make-up chair every day.

    1. I've seen those tests they did with Robinson for PotA, and he'd have been a fine Zaius, perhaps a bit more world weary, which would've worked well for the character.