Wednesday, August 31, 2016

70’s Actual Hunger Games, or Thoughts on Soylent Green

In 2022 New York the population is at 40 million and the world is slowly dying.  A dystopian thriller done right, Soylent Green (1973), from Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! follows Charlton Heston as Detective Frank Thorn as he investigates a murder that ultimately leads to the truth about that tasty green plankton cracker.  Director Richard Fleischer of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and Fantastic Voyage (1966) crafted a taut 70’s thriller for adults and starring adults.
Charlton Heston, who cemented his place in sci-fi screen history with his Academy Award winning performance as Blue Eyes aka Taylor in Planet of The Apes (1968) lives in a city rife with food, power and water shortages, while the social and economic elite live in fortified buildings much like Fiddler’s Green in George A. Romero’s Land of The Dead (2005) except without the zombies.  (Replace the zombies with poor people and you get the picture).  It’s a heavy handed juxtaposition of the 70’s high tech chrome and Lucite apartment interiors against Thorne’s tenement housing where people sleep on the stairs like a Dickensian slum.
Soylent Green is also the final film of Hollywood legend Edward G. Robinson of Double Indemnity (1944, and one of my all time favorite movies), Key Largo (1948), and with co-star Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments (1956).  He portrays Sol, Thorn’s retired roommate who remembers the world before and provides exposition.  His first line is “Bullshit” and I’m pretty certain it’s the only movie he swears in.
Look out for Brock Peters, Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Benjamin Sisko’s father, as Chief Hatcher and Joseph Cotton, you know, from Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), as Simonson, the murder victim.  Leigh Taylor-Young from I Love You Alice B. Toklas (1968) and the Village People’s only movie, Can’t Stop The Music (1980) portrays Shirl, the mistress/trophy wife.
In many ways the movie comes across like a particularly gloomy and sexist Twilight Zone episode where women are referred to as furniture and the cops are just as corrupt as the criminals they chase.  It’s a depiction of a broken society, produced at the center of the Watergate scandal, and a dark reflection of the growing dissatisfaction with American politics and leadership. Far be it from me to spoil a 43-year-old movie (he was dead the entire movie/really Keyser Soze/Tyler Durden) but the ending remains effective, logical and un-ironic.  There’s no revolution or even hint of a change, it’s too late for one.  

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).