Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Scenery Chewing the Main Course of 'Soylent Green'

Soylent Green is not made of Thin Mints Girl Scout cookies!

Soylent Green is a 1972 sci-fi stink bomb that became a campy cult classic—in large part to Charlton Heston’s posturing performance.
Set in the year 2022, overcrowding, pollution, and lack of natural resources have reduced society's leaders to finding food for the teeming masses. The answer is Soylent Green — a mysterious artificial nourishment.
Chuck Connors & Chuck Heston fight over beige polyester ensembles and toupees at The Soylent Green Mall.

A main source for hilarity is, though set 50 years in the future, Soylent Green looks like That '70s Show. Sadly, polyester, toupees, and elevator music apparently still rule. The future is filled with then-aging stars from the '70s like Charlton Heston, Chuck Connors, and Joseph Cotten. The only young '70s star represented here is appropriately enough, Leigh-Taylor Young.
Edward G. Robinson as Sol, who decides to 'go home.' No one knew Eddie was dying of cancer during filming.

Edward G. Robinson steals the movie as Heston's ancient roommate, Sol, who remembers better days—and steaks. The actor was dying during filming, which no one knew. When his character decides it's time and wants out of this hellish world, Sol "goes home." This was assisted suicide, performed while he experiences all the pleasures in life that are long gone. It's a tearjerker scene, even without that knowledge. Robinson died two weeks after filming wrapped.
Joseph Cotten is also touching as the aging millionaire whose murder sets off the mystery of Soylent Green. Cotten was always an understated actor and his sad, gently weary performance is a touch of class.
Charlton Heston strikes a studly pose as he helps himself to a drink, from 'the furniture.' Dig the 'futuristic' decor!

Then there’s Charlton Heston, sporting a neck-kerchief and clenched jaw, once again exploring post-apocalyptic mysteries, as he did in Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man. Always a wooden actor, but in the ‘60s, Heston seemed to imitate the cynical anti-heroes that slightly younger Eastwood, McQueen, and Newman were playing. While they came across as young and restless, Heston’s snide, sneering, and stone-faced persona came across like Hollywood's most spoiled Hollywood square. Heston's either unbearable or unintentionally hilarious here. Everything he does is so over the top, right down to mopping his brow with a kerchief. And yes, he's in '70s mode, with his safari jacket, jaunty cap, and neckerchief, looking like the Village People's aging uncle—or Charles Nelson Reilly on steroids.
The rest of the cast is filled with great supporting actors like Brock Peters, Paula Kelly, Whit Bissell, Mike Henry, Leonard Stone, Cyril Delevanti, and even Dick Van Patten!
In the future, Taco Tuesday will be but a dim memory!

Soylent Green is a futuristic detective film very loosely based on Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room! It’s amazing that the similar but far superior Blade Runner came out just 10 years later. The Green movie version barely resembles Harrison’s book, which made Harry very unhappy. Ironically, the elements people remember most about the movie aren’t even in the book, including Soylent Green’s climatic revelation. I think that Harrison’s novel is probably closer to Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi than Soylent Green’s futuristic thriller.
Heston is a Manhattan cop trying to solve a murder in the overpopulated, overheated city—and Charlton brings the overacting. The murder of a wealthy mogul seems related to the ubiquitous and mysterious Soylent Green. Hmm…
Despite or perhaps because of an abundance of dated attitudes, actors, and action—the schlocky Soylent Green is still highly watchable. And there is Heston's memorable closing line.
If you don't know its main ingredient, you probably also don't know that Psycho features Janet Leigh's last shower!

Chuck Henderson's amazing opening title sequence is truly the best part of Soylent Green. The documentary film maker does a great job encapsulating the rise and accelerated growth of the USA. It’s a real jolt, especially when you think Henderson created this in 1972.
Check it out here:
Move along, people! Nothing to eat here!


  1. Hi Rick, just watched this recently. I will always think of strawberry jam, and thinking of hookers as furniture. Exactly right about Edward G. stealing the movie. That sequence is so good, really good actor. Charleston was in all of these movies I saw with my Dad. He was the patron saint of macho middle age. Fun post.

  2. Thanks, Gingerguy!
    Chuckston, as my Mom called him, was always a source of hilarity for his wooden, macho posturing in his futuristic epics as well as disaster movies and middle aged melodramas! His appearance on our family TV screen turned our house into an instant Mystery Science Theater episode! Cheers, Rick

  3. This was just on last week and I watched it again and enjoyed so much (even though I also have the dvd!! Do you ever do that?).
    Say what you will about Heston, he was indeed one of the great stars. I love his chemistry with Edward G. in this one...

    1. Yes, I do. And even though my western loving brother owns Tombstone, every time AMC shows it, he watches, commercials and all!

      Heston admired Robinson, I know, and their last scene, when Sol goes home, is genuinely touching.

      My Mom could never stand the clench jawed trio: Heston, Lancaster, and Douglas. BUT, she did like Charlton in 'Will Penny,' where he's playing a regular cowpoke, not some superhero!

      And yes, I watched it on TCM, too!

      Though cheesy, 'Green' is quite watchable!

      Cheers, Rick

  4. As an 18 year old girl and mostly Heston fan I'm outraged by the way you describe Heston's acting in this film and in general by considering him as a wooden actor, I'm sorry but I did like him in Ben Hur, in Will Penny, in the Big Country, in El Cid, the Agony and the Ecstasy in the War Lord and so on, he's a great actor who actually brings a Shakespearian side to his characters, you may think he overracted in Soylent Green and other of his films but didn't. Just even watch the last scene in Ben Hur, his acting is very sober.