[box cover]

Soylent Green

You know what it's made of — you don't need us to tell you. 1973's Soylent Green gave the world one of the great iconic, jaw-clenching Charlton Heston moments, second only to his rantings about those "damn, dirty apes." Based on the novel Make Room! Make Room! by sci-fi master Harry Harrison, the film is so radical in its declamations against big business, and so ardent in its environmental message, that one has to wonder if conservative poster-boy Heston even got the point of the story. It's the year 2022 and Heston is Thorn, a New York City police detective investigating the murder of the director of the omnipresent Soylent Corporation (played by a quickly dispatched Joseph Cotten). The world of 2022 is an overpopulated mess, with the citizens of New York dependent on the vegetable-biscuits manufactured by Soylent (soy -plus-lentil equals "soylent," see?) The further that Thorn, the prototypical weary-cop-just-trying-to-do-his-job, investigates the murder, the more danger he finds himself in as he slowly uncovers the unpalatable secret behind the Soylent conglomerate. Heston is at his scenery-chewing best here, sweating and clenching and delivering every line with barely reined-in histrionics. His best scenes are with Edward G. Robinson (in his last film role) as his "book," Sol, a living encyclopedia of knowledge assigned to Thorn to help with the case. Director Richard Fleischer does a fine job of creating a future world that's hellishly crowded, where there's no more room for crops to grow and the citizens riot when supplies of Soylent crackers runs low. The film's resolution, tying Soylent's new plankton-based "Soylent Green" product to the city's euthanasia centers, is probably not as disturbing as it was three decades ago — but the old-style gun battle that climaxes with Heston's famous exultation is still riveting. Warner's DVD release offers a rich, clean anamorphic transfer (2.35:1); in Fleischer's dystopia, colors are deliberately muted to give the feeling of ever-oppressive smog and grime, but occasional flashes of unfortunate '70s fashion colors pop off the screen. The monaural Dolby Digital audio also is very clean, virtually lacking in any audible noise; the film is presented in English with an optional dubbed French track and subtitles in English, French, or Spanish. Extras include a commentary track featuring director Fleischer and female lead Leigh Taylor-Young; the two remember an astounding amount of details surrounding the production of a film from 30 years ago. Also on board are a 1973 promo featurette called "A Look at the World of Soylent Green," which includes behind-the-scenes footage and film of MGM's tribute to Robinson on making his 101st film (10 min.), another featurette called "MGM's Tribute to Edward G. Robinson's 101st Film," in case you want to see more about that (5 min.), a text feature detailing Heston's sci-fi career, cast and crew notes, and the trippy original theatrical trailer. Snap-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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