It is 2022 New York City’s population is 40,000,000. The world is a dystopian society.

Overpopulation, food shortages and poverty are rampant. Global warming and greenhouse gases mean people exist on synthetic food. Only the rich can eat real food, if they are willing to pay the price. Still some things like fresh meat are still hard to come by no matter how much money you have. The cops are as corrupt as ever, and the government is merely a small branch of Soylent Industries. Soylent Industries is an international conglomerate that controls two-thirds of the world’s food supply. They manufacture cheap tasteless crackers out of chemicals and vegetable matter.

There are no trees, there are no animals, water is rationed, and the city averages over a hundred murders a day. The temperature never goes below 90 degrees. Any countryside is cordoned off to protect the valuable land. The farms are like fortresses. People live in cars and stairways. Riots are a normal part of life and riot control consists of giant dump trucks with huge scoops on the front that scoop up the disenfranchised and toss them into the back.

William R. Simonson (Joseph Cotton) is one of those rich guys. He has a nice apartment. Nice fresh hot water, air conditioning and lots of room. He lives with Shirl (Leigh Taylor-Young). She goes with the apartment. She is considered furniture. Simonson has a bodyguard, Tab Fielding (Chuck Connors). Simonson sends Fielding and Shirl out for some groceries. While he is alone, a man comes in and kills him.

Frank Thorn (Charlton Heston) is an NYPD detective. He has a not so nice apartment but he does have an apartment. He lives with Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson). Sol is not furniture. He is Thorn’s roommate and researcher. Sol has a small library. He helps Thorn investigate the backgrounds of victims, suspects and anyone or anything else Thorn needs.

Thorn is assigned to Simonson’s case. Sol discovers that Simonson is a big shot at Soylent Industries. Supposedly made out of soy and lentils the product is manufactured to replace normal food since normal food is in very short supply. They make Soylent Red, Soylent Yellow and now their new product, supposedly made out of sea plankton, Soylent Green.

Thorn knows that Simonson went to see a priest for confession. What he told the priest shocked him. Thorn continues to dig to find out Simonson’s secret. Why he was killed. Sol continues to research Simonson through his sources and finds out the secret that Simonson was killed for. Then a shocking revelation from Sol. What Thorn hears chills him to the core and puts him in mortal danger.

“Soylent Green” was released in 1973 and was directed by Richard Fleischer. It is a futuristic murder mystery and, hopefully, science fiction. It is loosely based on the book “Make Room! Make Room!” written in 1966 by Harry Harrison. I haven’t read it but I heard there were no furniture women, suicide companies or cannibalism in it.

Not without its flaws “Soylent Green” is still a visually and psychologically depressing film and a cautionary warning that, so far, we have not heeded. There is a moral in the cryptic detective story. A depressing one. Unchecked, are we doomed to, at some point; reach a level where life is cheap and you are more valuable when you’re dead?

By 1973 Edward G. Robinson was almost totally deaf. People had to speak directly into his ear in order for him to hear them. This caused some problems on the set. He had to reshoot his scenes with people before he eventually got the pace of where he should say his lines as if he was hearing what was being said. Of course when director Richard Fleischer yelled “cut” Robinson couldn’t hear him and so keep running the scene as if it were still going.

This was Robinson’s last film and his 101st movie. He was terminally ill with cancer but told no one about it. Robinson’s final scene in the film was his death scene. A strange foreboding that makes it all the more memorable. He died January 26, 1973. Robinson received an Academy Honorary Award for his work in the film industry, which was awarded two months after he died in 1973.