**/**** Image B Sound B- Extras D+
starring Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Edward G. Robinson
screenplay by Stanley R. Greenberg, based on the novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison
directed by Richard Fleischer
by Walter Chaw I've spent a lot of time in my life dancing with Richard Fleischer's dystopian Soylent Green. Sometimes it leads, sometimes I do. For everything it does well, there are some things it does badly; and if the things it does well it does extremely well, the things it does badly it, likewise, does just awfully. No half measures here. Beginning with the good, here's Edward G. Robinson tapping his mortality (he succumbed to cancer less than two weeks after production wrapped), finding in his celluloid swan song a depth of despair he rarely touched in his career proper. It's up there with Montgomery Clift's devastated cameo in Judgment at Nuremberg--enough so that when he closes his eyes in appreciation of a leaf of lettuce his long-time companion Det. Thorn (Charlton Heston) has scavenged from the apartment of dead industrialist Simonson (Joseph Cotten, in his last role, too), it actually doesn't make you want to laugh. Not so the incongruities of this dystopian, post-apocalyptic future in a Manhattan (and world) destroyed by over-population, but not to the point where the streets don't empty in observance of a curfew. It presents a future in 2022 that seems unlikely not because we're not currently on the verge of some great ecological disaster, but because rough math suggests that the Heston character would've been born the year before the film's 1973 release and thus his declaration that he'd never seen a grapefruit (or grass, or cows) should worm its way into the audience consciousness as Soylent Green's statement that it's not serious, thoughtful science-fiction, but rather soapbox and screed timed to coincide with, in 1972, the first international conference on climate change.