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Part ecological nightmare, part police procedural and part cautionary tale, SOYLENT GREEN ($20) is one of the most relevant science fiction movies of the 1970s. Adapted from Harry Harrisonís novel Make Room! Make Room!, SOYLENT GREEN paints a bleak portrait of the future, depicting a world blighted by pollution and rampant overpopulation. In the year 2022, there are forty million people cramped into New York City. There are few luxuries for even the wealthy, and there is little enough food to feed the huddled masses living in every square inch of available real estate. Because of the heavily polluted environment, real food, such as fresh fruit and vegetables are a rarity, and most have to subsist on tasteless wafers cultivated from plankton- such as Soylent Green.

The plot of SOYLENT GREEN revolves around the investigation that follows the murder of William Simonson (Joseph Cotton), a board member of the Soylent Corporation. The sole murder investigator is Detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston), who is aided by Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson), an elderly scholar that gathers all ancillary information pertinent to the case. Although, the crime has the earmarks of a burglary gone wrong, Thorn suspects the murder was only staged to appear that way. During the course of his investigation, Thorn manages to step on some rather important toes, and as he gets closer to the truth about Simonsonís and the Soylent Corporation, he finds himself a walking target. The cast of SOYLENT GREEN also features Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Brock Peters, Paula Kelly, Leonard Stone, Whit Bissell, Celia Lovsky and Dick Van Patten.

Warner Home Video has made SOYLENT GREEN available on DVD in a very fine looking 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. I was pleasantly surprised by this transfer, which is not only good looking, but also easily bests all preceding video and broadcast versions of the film. The image is rather sharp and pretty nicely defined. Some of the photography is heavily filtered, and as such, has a softer appearance than the main body of the film. Colors appear fairly vibrant, although the color scheme of the film is locked into that less than appealing seventies look. Flesh tones are rendered pretty well and there is no evidence of chroma noise or smearing. Blacks are accurate, whites are solid and contrast is good. Shadow detail is more than decent, which is pretty much on par for the era. The film element used for the transfer displays some minor blemishes, as well as a bit of a noticeable grain structure, but neither is distracting.

SOYLENT GREEN comes with a rather solid Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Fidelity is rather good for a thirty-year-old track, with the classical music segments that underscore a key sequence of the film sounding quite pleasant when given some amplification. Additionally, the filmís sound effects come across in a rather convincing manner- perhaps not up to todayís fully digital standards, but effective nonetheless. Dialogue is crisply rendered, with excellent intelligibility. Almost all traces of background hiss and surface noise have been removed during the mastering process, leaving a consistently clean sounding track. A French language track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a couple of extras. Director Richard Fleischer and actress Leigh Taylor-Young are on hand to provide a running audio commentary. The track isnít as technically detailed as one might like, but fans will get some enjoyment out of Fleischer and Taylor-Youngís recollections. MGMís Tribute To Edward G. Robinsonís 101st Film is a vintage five-minute featurette to celebrate Robinsonís work on SOYLENT GREEN, which was also his final film. A Look At The World Of Soylent Green is another featurette from the time of the filmís production, which includes movie clips and a glimpse behind-the-scenes. Charlton Heston Sci-Fi Legend is a brief text essay concerned with the actorís genre film appearances. A cast & crew listing, plus theatrical trailer close out the extras.

With its ecologically relevant message, SOYLENT GREEN is certainly one of the most intriguing science fiction films of the 1970s. Warner has done a fine job with the DVD offering both a good looking and sounding presentation that will more than please fans. If you are a genre buff, or a Heston or Robinson fan, you will definitely want to pick up the SOYLENT GREEN DVD.



Soylent Green (1973)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2003 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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