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Soylent Green

Film (1973). MGM. Directed by Richard Fleischer. Written by Stanley R Greenberg, based on Make Room! Make Room! (1966) by Harry Harrison. Cast includes Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotten, Charlton Heston, Paula Kelly, Edward G Robinson and Leigh Taylor-Young. 97 minutes. Colour.

A New York police detective (Heston) in a 2022 CE marked by massive Overpopulation investigates what appears to be a routine murder and in the end discovers that "soylent green", the main food for the world's population, is actually made from dead human bodies. The plot has little to do with Harrison's book, whose pro-contraception message it nervously avoids for fear of alienating Roman Catholic viewers (Harrison often spoke eloquently about the perversion of his work), but the vision of a teeming, overpopulated and festering New York is recreated quite well. The cannibalistic denouement is purely for shock value, and makes no rational sense; indeed Harrison coined the word "soylent" from "soy beans" and "lentils", and the people of his future are largely and necessarily vegetarian. Edward G Robinson's fine performance as a dying old man coaxed into a euthanasia clinic is touching, for he was dying in real life as well. The film won a Nebula and a Japanese Seiun Award. [JB/PN]


Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 07:45 am on 3 October 2022.