Soylent Green is a 1973 American science fiction film directed by Richard Fleischer. Starring Charlton Heston, the film overlays the police procedural and science fiction genres as it depicts the investigation into the brutal murder of a wealthy businessman in a dystopian future suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans and a hot climate due to the greenhouse effect. Much of the population survives on processed food rations, including the eponymous “soylent green”.
The film, which is loosely based upon the 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room!, by Harry Harrison, won the Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film in 1973.
The technical consultant for the film was Frank R. Bowerman, who was president of the American Academy for Environmental Protection at the time.
The scene where Thorn and Roth share a meal of fresh food was not originally in the script, but was ad-libbed by Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson at director Richard Fleischer’s request.
The videogame in Simonson’s apartment, “Computer Space”, was one of the first coin-operated videogames, manufactured by Nutting Associates in 1971 and designed by Nolan Bushnell, who later founded Atari and designed “Pong”. The videogame was painted white for the movie but the original color was either yellow, red or blue.
One set of scenes in the original release, where a second family is housed with Thorn and Roth, was deleted from later copies of the film.
The original title of Harry Harrison’s book, “Make Room! Make Room!” was changed by the producers, who feared that audiences would confuse it with the ‘Danny Thomas’ TV series “Make Room for Daddy” (1953).
Edward G. Robinson was almost totally deaf when he made this movie, and only able to hear anyone if they spoke directly into his ear. Because of this, scenes with him talking to other people had to be shot several times before he got the rhythm of the dialogue and was able to respond to people as if he could really hear them. And because he was unable to hear director Richard Fleischer yell “cut” when a scene went wrong, Robinson would often continue acting out the scene, unaware that shooting had stopped seconds earlier.
The word soylent is supposed to suggest soy + lentil.
All of the dialogue for actor Mike Henry (“Sgt. Kulozik”) was dubbed. The actor’s slight Southern drawl did not fit in with the New York cop character he was playing.
Among the buildings in the matte “skyline” in the background of the early scene where Gilbert crosses the drainage ditch, one can see the Marina City towers (Chicago) and the Transamerica Pyramid (San Francisco).
Edward G. Robinson’s final film performance.
The last film shot at MGM studios.
Deleted scene: When Tab Fielding (Chuck Connors) goes shopping with Shirl, he is mugged, and wins the fight. This scene was filmed, but deleted.
By the start of filming, Edward G. Robinson knew it would likely be his last film because he was dying of cancer.