June 30th 1973

“Work, then in evening went to see Soylent Green at ABC – damn good”

Richard Fleischer’s directorial adaptation of Harry Harrison’s sci-fi novel (“Make Room, Make Room“) had quite the profound impact on this fifteen year old.

*Spoiler alert*….

Set in (what was then) the distant – and desolate – future of  2022 (scarily not quite so distant now) and on a heavily overpopulated earth, “Soylent Green” stars Charlton Heston as Thorn, a police detective investigating the murder of a senior official from the Soylent company, a massive corporation responsible for feeding New York’s impoverished masses with ‘glop’ of various colours.

Although proper fruit, vegetables and meat are apparently mostly extinct food groups in 2022, Thorn is astonished to find how the corporation’s wealthy live, rediscovering (and stealing) fresh water, cigarettes, strawberries and cuts of meat during the course of his investigation, most of which he shares with his old time flatmate Sol (a tour de force performance by Edward G Robinson).

Sol, painfully aware that ‘his era’ has come to an end decides to opt for voluntary euthanasia – conducted, as it turns out somewhat conspiratorial, also by the Soylent Corporation –  in a moving scene which (no lies) had this teenager silently tearing up with emotion.

When Thorn discovers the truth behind Soylent most nutritious food – Soylent Green – pieces of his investigative puzzle suddenly all fall into place… Soylent Green is…is… Pot Noodles! (Not really)

It feels peculiar now that the story’s twist in 1973 was considered ‘shocking’, but it certainly took me by surprise. If memory serves me correctly – and let’s face it, it rarely does – I went to see this movie with Nig & Malc, and afterwards the three of us had quite the ‘deep and meaningful’ discussion about the apocalyptic tale.

I think “Soylent Green” was the first film that made me ‘think’ and it certainly brought the concept of ‘mortality’ and ‘the future’ to the forefront of my brain – both things that I probably spend too much time still thinking about!

I’ve watched “Soylent Green” many, MANY, times again since 1973 owning, in turn, a TV-recorded copy, a pukka VHS tape and more recently a DVD of it. I think it ‘stands up’ as a credible futuristic sci-fi thriller, the storyline predating how (in 2009 at least) massive corporations control and manipulate the world’s food (Monsanto, for instance), how overcrowding and overpopulation threatens the very infrastructure of many cultures, and even how certain countries (Belgium, Switzerland and others) now accept the concept of voluntary – or assisted – euthanasia.

Testament to the idea it’s a good story – but indicative of the oft-repeated complaint that Hollywood has absolutely ZERO new ideas – there’s talk of a remake being unleashed in 2012.

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