What’s The Secret of Soylent Green?
New York City, 2022
“Soylent Green ” is a science fiction movie about OUR world, New York City in particular, in the year 2022. There are 40,000,000 (that’s forty-million!) people living there, in stairways, sidewalks, anywhere they can find room to sit or lie down. In addition, the “greenhouse effect” has caused high temperatures all year, so that people are unrelentingly sweaty and miserable. There’s pollution, a lack of resources and fresh food, so everyone survives on Soylent Red and Yellow, compressed pills of food made from the ocean’s plankton. These are dispensed to the public from the authorities. More recently, Soylent Green, is a new popular option, which provides higher protein, thereby giving a person more strength and energy. The new variety is so much in demand that it’s only available on certain days and even then it’s rationed. People fight for their place in line to receive their supply on the days it’s being doled out.
Made in 1973, The Movie Features Many Well Known Stars
The main character, Robert Thorn, is played by Charlton Heston, who is a tough detective. Edward G. Robinson (this is the final movie of his long career) plays his “book,” Solomon Roth, who supplies research on criminals to Thorn. They live in one room together and consider themselves fortunate to have it. Joseph Cotton plays Simonsen, a high ranking board member of the Soylent Corporation, who is murdered early in the movie. A “sanitation squad” comes and collects his body from his apartment. Chuck Connors (remember Rifleman?) plays Simonsen’s bodyguard, who is conveniently out accompanying Simonsen’s “furniture,” (concubine, played by Leigh Taylor-Young) the day he is murdered. Whit Bissell plays New York Governor Santini, and he wants the investigation into Simonsen’s death closed because of his own secret association with the corporation . See if you can spot a quick bit of actor Dick Van Patten as Usher #1.
Riots and Scoops
Meanwhile, riots break out because the dispensation of Soylent Green stops due to a supply shortage. During the rioting giant scoops attached to trucks are brought out, and the rioters are scooped up and thrown into the truck. Nobody could survive the fall, or if they did, they’d have so many broken bones they’d wish they were dead. What happens to them? Nobody knows, they simply are never seen again.
When Solomon leaves a note for Thorn that he is “going home,” he doesn’t mean it in the sense that we do. “Going home” in Soylent Green means voluntarily going to a government facility where they make dying peaceful and pleasant with your favorite music and scenes on a huge screen. They even ask your favorite color so they can be sure to include lots of it. They’re very courteous, and give you something to drink and in 20 minutes, you’re gone. Thorn knows what he means and races there to try to stop him, and arrives too late, but in time to see some of the video of flowers blooming, deer in a meadow, oceans that are clean, and he is overcome with emotion at having never seen these things before. Then before Solomon dies, he whispers the one piece of information that sets Thorn on a fatal course of his own, the secret of “Soylent Green.”
Comparison To Modern Day?
Soylent Green Available here from Amazon
Yes, it’s sci-fi, but the movie also makes you question our lives today
“Soylent Green” gives us pause to reflect on our lives today. Are we moving toward over-population so that there will not be enough space for everyone? Is the former “greenhouse effect,” which morphed into “global warming” which again has changed and is now called “climate change,” going to take us into a sweaty, miserable time like that depicted in Soylent Green? Will there be such a shortage of meat, vegetables, fruits, that we eventually live on man-made pills? Are our authorities so corrupted that they keep dire secrets from the populace? Are we eventually going to be living as the people did in Soylent Green? These are the comparisons, and maybe others, that can be made after watching this movie.
And what about those scoops??
The Scoops! The Scoops!
When people gather and become too unruly, the Scoops come out and SCOOP them up and throw them in the trash bins. Whenever someone dies on the street for whatever reason, the scoops also clean them up. What happens to them then? AHH…therein lies the SECRET of Soylent Green.
What is “Furniture” in Soylent Green?
Certain women in the movie Soylent Green are known as “furniture.” Why? Because they weren’t considered to be anything but a possession that was bought, traded and sold. Feelings were never considered; furniture was just an item, like a car, a couch, a dining room table, a salable commodity one could make money selling or bargain for when buying. Some “furniture” brought higher prices depending on how old, how beautiful, how pleasing it was.
Below are video snippets from the movie. The first shows rioting when the supply of Soylent Green is exhausted and people are told there is no more until next time.
The second video is when Detective Sergeant Thorn watches his friend “going home,” a euphemism for dying, and Thorn sees his first visions of what the earth used to look like before over population created nightmare living conditions. His emotional reaction is one Charleton Heston later said he felt something more than acting at the time, but didn’t know why. He would learn in a few days that his friend (Edward G. Robinson) who played Sol Roth, had truly died.
The third video is Sol’s journey “home” as he dies under the watchful eyes of attendants, who have made sure to give him a pleasingly peaceful exit from the world.
Edward G. Robinson’s Last Movie
This movie was Edward G. Robinson’s final movie before his death 12 days later. Coincidentally, he knew he was dying but never told his co-stars or the public. When Detective Thorn in the movie saw his friend Sol Roth (played by Robinson) dying, he broke down on seeing the video of the earth as it once was while his friend was “going home.” Roth was not only Thorn’s friend, but also his “living library,” providing information to Thorn about criminals, and other facts, cooking and cleaning the one-room they were greatly privileged to share, and counseling Thorn on how best to live in a world of chaos.
Soylent Green was not a tremendous hit in 1973. However, it won a Nebula for Best Dramatic Presentation and a Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film. It’s now become a cult classic with those who say it’s a harbinger of things to come in our world. What do you think?
If you are a true sci-fi movie fan, here’s a package of classics you might want to own. It contains 2001:A Space Odyssey, Soylent Green, Forbidden Planet, and The Time Machine 1960.