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Soylent Green - Blu-ray Review

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Soylent Green - Blu-ray movie review

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4 stars

Even if you have never seen director Richard Fleischer’s Soylent Green from 1973, you know its ending.  Quoted in everything from television’s Barney Miller to the mockumentary Drop Dead Gorgeous, the film’s climax exists now as the most spoiled secret in movie history ever – easily outdoing Darth Vader as Luke Skywalker’s daddy.  Yet, its cultural relevance as a study of the future is what remains and, as any film historian can attest to, what that tells us – through the lens of the 1970’s – is that their imaginations aren’t that far off from where we are now.

The year is 2022.  Man is at war with his own humanity and environment.  As a result, the earth is dying a slow and terrible death.  Oceans are drying up.  The sun is burning everything.  Animals have died.  People are being fed food rations.  Cities have taken over and not much of the world’s countryside is left unaffected by pollution, energy shortages, earthquakes, and overpopulation.

Congratulations, modern progress won.

Detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) is instructed to investigate the murder of William R. Simonson (Joseph Cotten) and bring his assailant to justice.  Living in a one-room oversized closet with his best friend, Solomon Roth (Edward G. Robinson, who easily steals the show from Heston), Thorn accepts the assignment and – while he does do a bit of detective work – isn’t above stealing from the apartment where the murder has occurred for he and Sol’s own benefit.   Yet, the “joke” of the murder becomes something more when each piece of the puzzle leads both men closer to the truth the company is keeping from its people.

The film is a weird one to review – especially in this day and age.  It doesn’t altogether work, but, then again, did it ever?  It’s grossly uneven in tone and has some wild moments of bizarre situations between women and men.  Yet, the film still speaks to our future as a society.  Isn’t there some significance in that?

The women are referred to as “furniture” and the government provides assisted suicides for its people, yet the truth of the new processed food Soylent Green remains just out of reach.  That is, until Sol learns of the earth’s truth.  The oceans aren’t dying.  They’re dead already.  The processed food rations being delivered to the people can’t be made unless the makers of Soylent products can find a substitute for the plankton…

An ending you can see a mile away, yet the gristled look of this masterpiece of 70s sci-fi continues to dazzle the mind.  Hell, it’s more relevant today than it was when it was made.  There’s no denying that fact.  Fleischer’s work behind the camera keeps the narrative tight and operating as a bleak detective story wrapped in a dystopian world in which all is lost.  Yet, it still delivers a strong cautionary tale that will continue to go unheard by future generations.

You don’t have to be a fan of Heston’s chops or politics to dig this one - the final in his holy trinity of science fiction films (a set that includes Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man).  Yes, he’s muggish and on the cusp of becoming irrelevant and bloated, but none of that really matters because – with the atmospheric gloom lurking about in every corner – he fits right in.  Thorn is a once-upon-a-time hero in a loser’s battle.

Make no mistake; the truth about Soylent Green is right around the corner...

I mean what else could make Nabisco’s products so filling?

{pgomakase}

{2jtab: Film Info}

Soylent Green - Blu-ray movie reviewMPAA Rating: PG.
Director
: Richard Fleischer
Writer
: Stanley R. Greenberg from a novel by Harry Harrison
Cast: Charlton Heston; Leigh Taylor-Young; Chuck Connors; Joseph Cotten; Brock Peters; Paula Kelly; Edward G. Robinson
Genre
: Drama | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Tagline: It's the year 2022... People are still the same. They'll do anything to get what they need. And they need SOYLENT GREEN.
Memorable Movie Quote: "is brought to you by Soylent red and Soylent yellow, high energy vegetable concentrates, and new, delicious, Soylent green. The miracle food of high-energy plankton gathered from the oceans of the world."
Distributor:
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 9, 1973
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
March 29, 2011

Synopsis: In an overpopulated futuristic Earth, a New York police detective finds himself marked for murder by government agents when he gets too close to a bizarre state secret involving the origins of a revolutionary and needed new foodstuff.

{pgomakase}

{2jtab: Blu-ray Details}

Soylent Green - Blu-ray movie review

Component Grades
Movie

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

3 Stars



Blu-ray Experience
3.5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - March 29, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish, German SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono; French: Dolby Digital Mono; German: Dolby Digital Mono; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: 25GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

Well, it isn’t the best 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer I’ve ever seen from Warner Bros, but it is better than what went before on your standard DVD.  Black levels are wildly inconsistent and lots of details are lost at night.  The soundtrack – presented here in a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix - isn’t wholly remastered effectively either, making some moments of white noise and ugly drop-outs audible.  All is not lost, though.  During the day scenes, there are some pretty nice textures sweeping across the camera, though.  Nice grain detail and the colors seem appropriate to the grittiness of the overall project.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There is a rather decent commentary provided by Director Richard Fleischer and actress Leigh Taylor-Young.  Trust me, this isn’t the most enthusiastic narration you have ever heard before, but – if you are a fan of the movie – it has some nice details about its production and about Edward G. Robinson (who died shortly after the film wrapped).

Special Features:

Nothing new to report here. Everything old. There aren’t a lot of features and everything has been ported over from the DVD release. Bummer. Anyone hoping for a retrospective on the film’s influence should keep holding their breath…

…or don’t because this is probably the last time this one gets released for quite sometime.

  • A Look at the World of ‘Soylent Green’ (10 min)
  • MGM's Tribute to Edward G. Robinson's 101st Film (5 min)
  • Trailer

{2jtab: Trailer}

{pgomakase}

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