Monday, March 22, 2010

1973 - SOYLENT GREEN is people yeah ok

Soylent Green is one of those fondly remembered science fiction films from the 1970's that is thought better of than it actually is as a film.  Charlton Heston is the cop in the future investigating a mysterious murder of a corporate executive who is involved in the manufacturing a popular food source called soylent green.

Heston plays his usual stoic character as a rather unlikable guy.  Contrary to popular belief Heston wasn't afraid to play unlikable characters and his police detective of the future is actually pretty corrupt.  In his final role, Heston's research assistant is played by Edward G Robinson.  Robinson and Heston actually have pretty good chemistry together in this film.  It's probably even better chemistry than Heston has with his leading lady.

The director Richard Fleischer was always a competent technician for the most part.  Fleischer was pretty much a traffic cop when it came to making films.  He worked a lot of years at Twentieth Century Fox handling some of their big projects like Tora Tora Tora,  Dr. Doolittle and Che.  He directed Disney's big fantasy film 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.  Name a genre and this guy probably worked in it.

Soylent Green is from the period of film history when science fiction films were considered to be a second class genre to work in.  With the exception of 2001: A Space Odyssey,  nobody thought very highly of science fiction films.  Soylent Green is about overcrowding and ecological disaster but nobody making this film was going to be doing a real serious film on these subjects.  This film was mostly a detective thriller with a science fiction setting that was put together by old style Hollywood actors and technicians.

Probably the most interesting things on the DVD are the special features.   The short "making of" documentary shot during the filming shows a production shot on the backlot of MGM.  It's a good example of conventional early 1970's film making.  The other special feature is a tribute to Edward G Robinson that Heston hosted during the filming of Soylent Green.   This was Robinson's 101 and last feature film, he was apparently a very sick man during the filming and died shortly after he completed his part.  Heston seems very sincere emceeing the tribute to Robinson and Robinson himself seems genuinely moved during what is probably a staged publicity event for the making of the film.  

As a film Soylent Green is OK if no great shakes as a science fiction story.  Soylent Green now looks like an interesting relic made by people in the 1970's trying to imagine what an ecological disaster would look like in the 21st century.  That's probably the most interesting thing about the film.  Not the actual film itself.

97 minutes.

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