By the time Soylent Green was released, Charlton Heston had already been in two Planet of the Apes movies and The Omega Man; effectively cornering the market on the late 60’s and early 70’s futuristic apocalypse movies. Instead of fighting super-smart simians or mutant scavengers though, this one finds Chuck going up against a government conspiracy. You’d think this would be a walk in the park for old Chuck. After all, we’re talking about the man who set off the A-Bomb that blew up The Planet of the Apes here. Actually Chuck has a tough time in this one. He plays a cop in the over-populated future where people eat various colored “Soylent” food products. While investigating a murder, he learns that the main ingredient in the latest batch of “Soylent Green” might not be the most appetizing thing in the world.
Soylent Green was ahead of it’s time in a lot of ways. It predicted the whole “Greenhouse Effect” thing, video games, as well as the concept of recycling. (i.e. the contents of “Soylent Green”.) Having said that; the flick still is pretty goofy looking. That’s okay though because I kinda dug the film’s cheesy pseudo-futuristic art design.
Although Director Richard (Conan the Destroyer) Fleischer’s pacing sputters along and he concentrates more on the detective aspects of the story rather than the sci-fi stuff, Soylent Green still ain’t too bad. Some of the bizarre futuristic stuff was pretty cool like the Euthanasia Clinic and there was a great scene where rioting citizens get scooped up by giant bulldozers. I also liked the assassination in a confessional bit too. Had Fleischer amped up the science fictiony undertones of the movie, I think it could’ve rocked.
Despite a certain level of unevenness; what really holds the film together is the performances. I enjoyed seeing Leigh Taylor Young as a piece of human “furniture” and Edward G. Robinson was simply excellent in his final role. Familiar faces like Whit (I Was a Teenage Werewolf) Bissell, Chuck (Tourist Trap) Conners, Joseph (Baron Blood) Cotten and Brock (Star Trek 6) Peters all offered up solid support, and made the most out of their brief screen time. But the movie really belongs to Chuck. He’s dynamite in this flick and really commands the screen. Even when the movie starts to drag (which is often), you can still savor his awesome performance.
Heston’s final line in this one isn’t quite as good as “You blew it up! Damn you all to Hell!”, but it’s almost as memorable. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it for you. Let’s just say if you’re at a dinner party and someone offers you some Soylent Green, you say NO!