Friday, September 20, 2013

Film Friday: Soylent Green (1973)

Tuesday is Soylent Green day... and I’m not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, Soylent Green is a fantastic dystopian film about a world destroyed by overpopulation and pollution. Unlike its contemporaries, it is a shocking, visceral film that can bring real emotion. On the other hand, it’s an unpleasant film to watch with unlikable characters, lousy ideology, and the surprise has long been spoiled.
Soylent Green takes place in 2022. The world is massively overpopulated. Forty million people crowd into New York City alone, and the film suggests that the East Coast cities at least have grown together into one huge mega city. Overpopulation has caused the world to collapse as people now live in overcrowded dilapidated apartments. The homeless crowd into churches. The government has no control and can’t even begin to stop crime. Making this all the worse, pollution has destroyed the land and food is scarce. Humanity now depends on processed plankton for food. That plankton is processed by the world’s food company, called the Soylent Corporation, which provides Soylent Yellow, Red and now Green to the people through the government. The story takes place against this backdrop.
Charlton Heston is NYPD detective Robert Thorn, a “good” cop. He’s called in to investigate the murder of a rich man named William R. Simonson. Simonson was a director of the Soylent Corporation, but political pressure is soon applied to make Thorn drop the investigation. Thorn refuses to stop and soon learns that before his death, Simonson told something to a priest, which the priest says is “destroying him” – he seems almost delusional by the time Thorn speaks to him. Thorn then gives his friend Sol (Edward G. Robinson) a book he discovered in Thorn’s apartment titled: “Soylent Oceanographic Survey Report, 2015 to 2019.” He wants Sol to examine it. When Sol grasps the conclusion in the book, he decides to end his life, so he goes to a euthanasia center. Thorn races there when he finds out what Sol is doing. He is too late to stop the death, but Sol tells him what he learned and he tells Thorn to get proof and expose this. It is a horrifying moment. Thorn then follows Sol’s body to discover the horrible secret.
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
In some ways, this is easily the best of the 1970s dystopian films. Indeed, where this film succeeds and so many of the others fail is in making the overpopulated, overpolluted world feel real. The writer very smartly draws constant references to the details that give you a visceral feeling for what this world is like: a horrible uncomfortable world of absence and want. Society has exhausted its resources, so things like cars (and even buses and trains) are a thing of the past. Food vendors hawk crumbs and broken bits of house wares on the street. The apartments look like slums and seem to have been furnished from garbage dumps. We are constantly reminded of the heat wave, the poisoned air, and the fact that most people have never even seen the foods we take for granted. For example, Heston compares a pair of breasts to a grapefruit, only to be reminded he’s never seen a grapefruit. He needs Sol to taste a spoon to tell him what the little bit of food he’s found on it is – strawberries. He hasn’t had a hot shower in living memory. And when he sees the short film showing the images of the world long gone, e.g. trees, animals, fields, he breaks down and weeps because he wasn’t even able to image what the world had been like.
This is where the film excels, and where you feel the oppressiveness. The government is brutal, murderous and oppressive (though it still wants to pretend to follow procedures) and it has absolute power over all aspects of society. The cops are like Gestapo agents in a way, that they can simply walk into your home and take what they want. Yet, society is also beyond the control of the government. There are too many people to police. There are too many people to control... to protect... to feed. This is a world without freedom or safety or order. It is oppressive in other ways too. There are so many people that life is intolerable. In what is truly a great scene, you see Heston struggle to chase a man who has shot at him, but both are barely moving as they force their way through the crowd. As you watch this scene you feel physically sick knowing this feeling of being caught in a crowd and how confining that can be, and then you realize... that is life in this world every day for these people.
This is a polluted word too where the air is dirty and green, and where a constant heat wave burns your body up. And there is no escape. You can’t go home to escape this because you live in abject poverty, without electricity or water and with almost no food... yet, you need to lock your doors and be careful not to venture out alone because someone will attack you to take the almost-nothing you do own.

Three things make this world completely believable and make you cringe watching it. First, there are constant references to these conditions. This isn’t a film that mentions this and then forgets about it to tell its story. Every single character in every scene makes some reference to the conditions under which they live, and that keeps it constantly on your mind. Secondly, everyone accepts this reality. The government admits that it’s incapable of changing things, the people take the world as normal, and even the rich live in somewhat similar conditions. Yes, they have running water and air conditioning and modern apartments, but those things are minor. They have no cars, no estates, and not much more food than everyone else. That’s actually the key point to selling this. No possibility of escape is shown because there is no other world to escape to: this is not a tale of two worlds, nor is this a world caused by a villain who can be defeated and the world freed... this is the world.

Finally, the most important piece is Sol’s death scene. Up to this point in the film, everything has been grim and dystopian except the luxury apartment where Thorn spends a couple days with the concubine (something which suggests a very different set of morals in this world, by the way). What this has done is adjust your expectations so that you see the luxury apartment as the ideal world compared to the horrible world outside. Then Sol is shown the video of our Earth and nature in all its glory, and it strikes you how horrible this world really is that the tiny, sparse luxury apartment is viewed as paradise. This is enhanced by the death of Sol, who is the one character who gives Thorn hope. (As an aside, this is a powerful scene made all the more powerful in that Edward G. Robinson was dying of cancer when he filmed it – it was his last scene – and only Heston and Robinson knew about this. Heston claimed the scene haunted him for years and it really is easy to feel the emotion within the scene.)
Then the other shoe drops. Having had your eyes opened by the short film, you are suddenly shown the secret. Not only is this secret horrible, but even worse, you realize right away that knowing it changes nothing because there is no other food supply... this is their fate. At that moment, you truly realize what genuine dystopia is. No other 1970's dystopian film comes close to this. To the contrary, all the others, like Logan’s Run are about worlds where people seem happy until they learn they aren’t truly free. That’s kind of a piddly complaint compared to the hell on Earth that is Soylent Green. Even something like Planet of the Apes lacks the punch of this film because it seems so implausible and like it can’t happen to us. Soylent Green feels like it can. And that makes this a special film.

Ok, but that brings up a couple problems. First, this film feels like it rambles. Had this film been made with modern storytelling techniques, it would have been a much stronger film... think the style of Minority Report. Secondly, this is a hard film to enjoy. Heston is not a likable character; he’s an abusive cop. It is an ugly film to look at. And it posits a horror, but without a solution so it is frustrating to watch.

Further, the film is ideological crap. This film was made in the 1970's when Paul Ehrlich’s “The Population Bomb” was the big seller among liberals. They were convinced that humans were going to breed themselves into a polluted, overpopulated, starving world. But their ideology was deeply flawed. They ignored the fact that population growth, like other growth, is not straight-line growth... it peaks and then falls again. They wrongly assumed that “overpopulation” leads to poverty – to the contrary, some of the richest places on earth are the most densely populated (Tokyo is as large as the nightmare city in Soylent and is one of the most prosperous on the planet). And they utterly failed to grasp how vast the Earth really is. That makes the message here of culling the population before the peons breed rather obnoxious.

If you can set those things aside, however, this is a super smart and well-made film. It is one that everyone should see, even if you know the ending. Just try to forget the ending and imagine the shock of realizing the twist for the first time... and that there isn’t a thing those people can do about it.

In any event, remember that Tuesday is Soylent Green Day. Yummy.


Mike said...

This was on last week and I watched a little of it, then gave up. (same thing w/ Logan's Run a few days later) It used to be one of my fav. sci-fi flicks, but it just seems dated now. I'll give the film credit, though, for giving me an interest in classical music (Sol's death scene) and understanding how a soundtrack can make a mediocre movie better and a good one great. That scene was emotional - made even more so by the lovely music.

(and, on a related note about soundtracks: it's my opinion that An Inconvenient Truth made such an impression and was believed by so many solely because of the soundtrack.)

JMHO, but Soylent Green was probably the movie that brought forth the term "spoilers". I don't remember the term being used before with any other movie.

shawn said...

This is a good flick, but lacks repeat viewability. As you say, it truly is a dystopian world with no one or nothing to root for. Still, if you haven't seen it, you should see it at least once.

Logan's Run on the other hand is rewatchable. There are people to root for, and even if the ending is a little ambiguous, at least it leaves room for hope.

Tennessee Jed said...

I remember this film, of course. It has been decades since I saw it, but your review strikes me as highly accurate. The one question it raises is your reference to "modern story-telling techniques." Perhaps this would better be saved as a separate article unto itself, but I would be interested to know in more detail what you mean by that; i.e. why modern techniques, more detail on what they are, and why they evolved a particular way.

tryanmax said...

Any world trapped in the 1970s is dystopia according to me. That said, I agree that Soylent Green is, in itself, an excellent film. Even having some flaws, this is the dystopian film which other dystopian films are measured against.

Like you said, it could certainly benefit from some modern techniques: tighter pacing, varied camera angle, less use of the color brown.

Frustratingly, despite being proven wrong so many times, "population bomb" worries persist. Like you said, the common misconception is that growth is straight-line. But world fertility rates have been on the decline since the mid-60s.

I slogged up some numbers once, forgotten where now, that basically state the earth's carrying capacity is ~10 billion and that, given falling fertility trends, the maximum human population is also ~10 billion.

There's a phenomenon in nature, still not fully understood, where the population of a species adjusts to fit the environment it is in. Just because the human environment includes the whole globe, why should we be any different?

Of course, one theory is that the excess population starves off, and this does occur occasionally. But if that were the primary mechanism, there'd be a lot more bodies. So there's clearly more at play. The reality is that there are probably different mechanisms in different species.

In humans, there is an inverse correlation between prosperity and fertility. So the surest way to avoid a population bomb is to develop the undeveloped world. Why is it that, if you dig deep enough, the humane solution and the pragmatic solution are almost always in alignment.

KRS said...

Spot on, Andrew. I liked 'Soylent Green' when I saw it as a teen. And, as you say, it can never have the same impact when shown a second time or outside of it's decade.

Dystopian story telling is a big family topic right now with our high school assigning a series of such novels and movies in English classes and other courses. The fixation is really remarkable and I have yet to see them assigned any inspirational stories. My daughters hate all of it.

My daughters ask me why they have to read or watch such 'awful' stuff and I tell them, "it's the Baby Boomers. We grew up in the shadow of our parents, who saved the world from fascism, imperialism and communism and we knew we'd never measure up, so we fantasize about ending it all."

I'm being a little facetious, but I do rather enjoy the dystopian stories and I am the only member of my family who does (the only boomer, too). My Dad was a combat veteran in the Pacific: Ie Shima, Aka Shima, Takashiki Shima, Okinawa and Suicide Bay.

I have often wondered if many of our modern ills are not inspired or abetted by our generation's inherent inferiority complex - the realization that, so protected and unchallenged as we have always been, we can never measure up.

Btw, my eldest has a photography teacher (whom she loves and is truly a gem) who has counseled my girl that, while her pictures are excellent and she should stick with her style, she also needs to develop a portfolio of depressing, angst-ridden pictures just for the college reviews. College professors, apparently, detest hope.

PDBronco said...

I'll disagree with the comments on rewatchability. As I watch this film again as I get older (and this is probably my favorite 70s-era sci fi film), I really enjoy more and more the acting and how well they set and carry the mood. And the quality of the acting goes down to a number of the more "minor" rolls as well. In his very short time on screen, Joseph Cotton as the Soylent exec who gets murdered conveys the despair and resignation that he feels because of his knowledge of the secret - you can just feel the full moral weight on his shoulders (a level of detail I missed when I was much younger). The killer's conversation with Cotton shows that he deep down craves a moral compass, which society isn't really providing. Even in her small role as the head of the Exchange, "T'Pau" (sorry, don't feel like looking up her real name, so I'll call her by her more famous Star Trek role) conveys the despair and hopelessness of the few remaining intellectuals. Then there's the gut-renching death scene of Eddie Robinson, both he and Heston convey a ton of feelings and emotions in a very simple manner that today's "actors" couldn't come close to matching.

KRS, I love your last paragraph. When I was going to college in the early 80s, the Art Department would hold their student (and professor) shows in the lobby of the University Auditorium (where my Dad worked and where I worked as an Usher). The Freshman show was always superior to the Senior show - and the annual Professor show was laughable.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent review, Andrew!
Edward G. Robinson literally shined in this film.
I loved the part where he lovingly made the beef stew and you could feel their ecstacy as they ate it.

Which also served to highlight the despair caused by their tyrannical form of govt., and the bleak environment it had caused.
I pretty much ignore the myth of the over-population scares.
All of that crap relies on the zero sum thinking of leftists.

Of course, bad governments and oppression rather than liberty can cause apocalyptic conditions, but it's not due to over population a lack of food or resources.

And many of the problems that liberals were so scared of in the 60's and 70's were solved by new innovations and technologies that only work when there is liberty.

Kenn Christenson said...

I haven't seen this film - but the review reminds me a lot of the recent film, "The Road." That film really makes you feel the dread of trying to survive a planetary holocaust - although, it never seems to give up hope as "Soylent Green" appears to do.

Dwizzum said...

I just re watched this last week and I really enjoyed it. (Thanks TCM) I was surprised on how rich and well thought out the world it. Heston is not your typical hero/protagonist. He gleefully pilfers "luxuries" from the murder victims apartment, and avails himself of the furniture. However in the world the movie takes place in, these are expected and accepted actions. It demonstrates just how far down society has gone. I do think he does qualify as a protagonist in the sense that he is does have a sense of justice for the murdered exec. He could have easily just been bought off.

I also find it interesting on how there is no real "love story". Shirl and Thorne are not in love. There is no magic happy ending for them. They are just two people who share some tender moments. In the Soylent Green world that is the best one can hope for. Shirl wants to move in with him, but he tells her to stay with the apartment because he knows she will have a better life. Another example of just what a sad and horrible world they live in.

I liked the ending too. SPOILERS

Its really open ended. Did Thorn die? Did the people rise up when they heard what Soylent Green was? Or were they so fried and burned out (like the priest) that it didn't even matter?

Anonymous said...


This is my own BS theory but I personally enjoy dystopian stories because they present great "What if?" scenarios, plus it's always interesting to connect the dots to discover how we could possibly get from here to there.

I'm one generation younger than most of you guys but given my limited knowledge on the subject, there seems to be a consensus that previous generations simply had more challenges to deal with, whereas mine doesn't. Yeah, we have problems but we don't have to worry about nuclear annihilation either. Technology has played a role as well.

(Simplistic answer, I know!)

Anonymous said...

I saw this movie (along with The Omega Man) years ago. I liked it but it's nothing I need to see ever again. And I knew the ending going in but it was still interesting to see how we got there.

One wonders if these movies would be fondly remembered if Heston wasn't in them.

Backthrow said...


That's an easy enough question to answer, with a simple question:

Who, besides me, remembers (let alone fondly remembers) NO BLADE OF GRASS (1970), Z.P.G. (1972) or THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR (1975)?

Nah, I didn't think so...

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, I find the film re-watchable, but not a compelling must watch like so many others. On the other hand, Logan's Run has really worn on me and now feels rather stupid all around.

That said, this film feels very dated. It's shot in 1970's style and themes. The science is total bunk. Heston screams 70s as much as a leisure suit. And its impact is lessened by the film largely being about the reveal of the secret.

I do think it is one of those films everyone should see though, and I think that one scene (in particular because of the soundtrack and the strong contrast in the visuals) makes this film what it is.

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, It is a hard film to watch because there is no hope. There is no answer and no one to really like. But I think that is what makes the film as strong as it is, because it gives you the sense of hopelessness, which in turn makes you think about how to avoid this situation. That's rare for films.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That would make a great article for an upcoming Wednesday! :D

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I haven't heard the 10 billion number, but I suspect it's a lot higher than that depending on the public's expectations.

As for this being the film other dystopian films are measured against, that's probably true. Not only was this a strong film about a hopeless future, but it was consistent throughout (it didn't cheat either), and it applied the big environmental fear at the time rather than making something up like Planet of the Apes or inventing a silly solution like Logan's Run... which would have been better if it focused on the killing of old people rather than the frustration of the young.

That said, the science is wrong... very wrong, but it's still a compelling look at the theory for what it was. And you're right, sadly, the overpopulation theory continues to stagger along in all the wrong circles.

AndrewPrice said...

KRS, College professors do detest hope. Personally, I think it's because angst is easier to create angst than hope, so they view angst as a higher form because it's something they can do.

I enjoy dystopian films for their thought-provoking nature, but I'm honestly tiring of them. I think the modern ones at least have crossed over from setting up an interesting issue to just being disaster porn, and I don't really enjoy watching the world explode.

As for the Boomers, that's a huge topic! The Boomers have caused a lot of problems as a generation.

AndrewPrice said...

PDBronco, I'm amazed at how packed with emotion this film is and how it all needs to be conveyed by the actors because it isn't in the dialog itself. This is a very strong movie that can (in scenes like Sol's death scene) bring out tears, and in the overall feel of the film bring out feelings of hopelessness and disgust.

Great point about the exchange too. They really are the last intellectuals and you have to wonder where this society is headed when they are dead... Morlocks?

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ben! The reason I don't dismiss this film outright for ideology is the combination of overpopulation AND pollution. It's the pollution that destroyed the food supply. Without that, I would just shake my head at the idea that they could use up all the farmland. But if the land is poison, and now the sea, then the film works.

I also get the feeling that there is a totalitarian government here. The way the cops act and the way the ministers dress make me think the world has gone communist... only the public is too large for them to control effectively.

AndrewPrice said...

Kenn, I think The Road is similar in that regard, though they are very different movies. The Road isn't as hopeless, and the characters in Solyent Green don't see themselves as living in a destroyed world... to them it's just kind of what their world is, there was no shocking event to change everything.

AndrewPrice said...

Dwizzum, I love how rich the world is. This is a fully developed world with its own set of morality (as you mention), and its own set of everyday problems. This isn't just a premise hung on a fake background.

On the ending, the ending is what most people consider unsatisfactory for that very reason you like -- because it is ambiguous. I think people wanted to see him tell everyone and then the Soylent company collapses and everything changes. But honestly, with their premise of the seas dying now, that isn't possible. There is no alternative anymore.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think this film (and Planet of the Apes made Heston, not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

Mike -

Film Score Monthly released a Soylent Green soundtrack 10 years ago. It even includes the classical music.

Click here. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, This was a much bigger production than just Heston and I think they could have plugged in pretty much any leading man from the era and had the same impact.

Backthrow said...


Maybe, but I was more addressing Scott's referencing "these kinds of films" (early-1970s dystopian sci-fi, with ecological/overpopulation themes) in his question, rather than just SOYLENT GREEN specifically. The big ones were OMEGA MAN, SOYLENT GREEN and the non-dystopian WESTWORLD... most of the others fell by the wayside.

Also, while he certainly helped the films and vice versa, I seriously doubt the three sci-fi flicks "made" Heston (maybe only to post Gen-X sci-fi fans born after their release); he was a huge international star from the early-1950s through the late-1970s, wasn't experiencing a career lull just before or during his sci-fi trio (so he wasn't "slumming" when he did them, unlike other stars would), and was one of the very few stars to top-line his debut studio feature, DARK CITY (1950).

That said, sure, if they had starred, say, Burt Lancaster or Sean Connery, they probably would've fared the same.

Anonymous said...

Backthrow (and Andrew) -

I watched the trailer for Z.P.G.... I think I saw the candy shop owner from Willy Wonka in there somewhere. :-)

Yeah, my point was that certain otherwise forgettable films are made memorable by the right stars. It's not always a guarantee, of course.

And lest we forget, it's almost a miracle when a movie is remembered years later. So many movies are released and then just... vanish into the ether.

KRS said...

Kenn, I recently watched "The Road" and left it feeling a bit perplexed. The implication is that the Earth is absolutely done for good and there's no second chance. On the spiritual side, the scene with Robert Duvall appears to drive in the final nails of this coffin. Without those preludes, the final scene would have been hopeful. Instead, it appears as though a cruel joke on the characters or just plain cluelessness on the part of the writer. Never read the book, so I'm not sure how to judge that ending, but I'd have to say that "Soylent's" ambivalent and hopeless ending was truer to the mood of the piece.

Andrew, were you being sarcastic when you said this film and Planet of the Apes made Heston? He had "Ben Hur," "The Agony and the Ectasy," "The Big Country," "The Ten Commandments," AND "The Jackie Gleason Show" (ain't IMDb a wonderful thing?) on his extensive resume before his post apocalyptic daliances.

I mean, c'mon, The Jackie Gleason Show!

tryanmax said...

Andrew, I'm not asserting that 10 billion figure as accurate. I'm merely comparing numbers from various experts and they all come together to say there is no population problem. But, normally, you don't get all the figures together. You get falling fertility when it's time to panic about supporting an aging population. You get the 10 bill figure when we're panicked about resources. And you never get the one about development lowering fertility b/c leftists are hot and bothered for things like one-child policies and wouldn't entertain any alternative.

KRS said...

Btw, Andrew, while I haven't tired of the post apocalyptic (PA) genre yet, there is an awful lot of dreck out there. A well written dystopia typically leaves me trying to imagine survival scenarios - kind of a dark pastime. Whereas the poor ones drop from memory at the button click.

"The Road" is sorta in between - well acted and fascinating world building, but the storyline has short comings and they do some odd things.

For example, in a PA world where cannibal hordes prevail, every road is a death trap, so why would a nearly defenseless man drap his son along one? In a country where over 300 million firearms and Lord knows how many trillions of rounds of ammunition once existed, we appear to be a little more than a decade+ into the PA and our two heros are left with two rounds in a single revolver?

Yet, the relationship between father and son is very compelling, as is the scene with Duvall.

One problem I have with these PA flicks is how society falls apart to every man for himself levels - I think we would all group up first and tend to cooperate with other groups for our mutual survival.

Also, the PA trope seems to be that the good people who do form tribes or villages are singularly ill-equipped to deal with threats (as in "The Postman") I think that an actual American PA village would slaughter the marauding horsemen in minutes and take their mounts. Same issue with "Revolution." Pathetic.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I think the difference between this film (and the others that remain memorable) compared to the ones that vanished is that the "bigger productions" tend to have survived -- based on literature plus significant studio money plus a "named" star plus a named director/writer plus a solid marketing campaign. Because of that support, I don't think any of these actors are the reason these films became big. I think they were part of it, but I'm pretty sure they could all have been replaced by any of a dozen others.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I've been trying to think of the number of films that needed the star they chose and I think the number is a little small actually. In the case of these films, I think there are a dozen or so actors who could have had the same impact in the role.

AndrewPrice said...

KRS, I was being a bit hyperbolic. I think Ben Hur made Heston for modern audiences as a big name, and then Apes remade him as a caricature. Those two together create the image history would give him.

On The Road, I have admit that it's not a film I enjoyed and I felt it lacked a consistent point.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Very true.

As an aside, it will be interesting to see if they get fully on board with the need to boost population now that the population is aging? The flies in the face of everything they know, but they are good at compartmentalizing dogma to avoid conflicts. It actually wouldn't surprise me if they kept all three ideas: falling population is bad, overpopulation will kill us, we have wasted all our resources.

AndrewPrice said...

KRS, Those things bother me too. I don't see human society falling apart the way films like to portray, I do think people will band together (as they've always done), and people resourceful enough to pull together won't be incapable of defending themselves.

For me, other problems include a real lack of thought into how the world would get there and what it would be like, and that most of these films just end up as excuses to become "first-person shooter" films. That's gotten really old to me. If you're going to tell this story, then I want something to think about.

K said...

Heston was a star of my parent's era. Planet of the Apes and Soylent made him a star to the next generation.

PikeBishop said...

KRS You said: "Also, the PA trope seems to be that the good people who do form tribes or villages are singularly ill-equipped to deal with threats (as in "The Postman") I think that an actual American PA village would slaughter the marauding horsemen in minutes and take their mounts. Same issue with "Revolution." Pathetic."

Not to hijack this thread, but one of the things that drives me nuts is the following trope in PA films, the wimpy survivors are cowering behind their barricades while the punk/biker-horsemen villians demonstrate in front of them, listing their demands, describing what they will do to them etc.

And my simple solution to this: I call it STFL. "Shoot the fucking leader."

You see this in films like "The Road Warrior" and the tv show "Jericho." The head biker in the first one just parades up and down in front of the good guys and the leader in the next one isn't even wearing body armour or a helmet.

If I am in charge of the survivors, I just make sure every gun is trained on his head and his head only. And I tell him. "If anything happens You die first there Custer! go ahead give the order!"

The show "Under the Dome" did it recently as well, the farmer who as hoarding the water had thugs with guns drawn on the good guys, who had three guns between them. The idea that he would be the first to die, would have probably changed his mind about violent conflict very fast.

KRS said...

PikeB, Can't agrue that. I'll share a little STFL story from my family. Back when Colorado was a territory, my great grandfather went out and built a ranch outside of Colorado Springs. Somebody, we don't know who, found himself the object of a lynch mob. My GGF and a neighbor heard about it and rode out, finding the guy just before the lynch mob showed up. GGF faced them down, armed with just one .38 revolver. All these guys were armed to the teeth, but they backed off. Nobody got shot that day and that is how humanity really works. In PA flicks, the writer too often has to strip characters of their humanity. I don't see it.

One more thing, Western Civilization, when threatened, has shown time and again that free men are superior warriors in all aspects to slaves and serfs - free men and women are protecting home and family. Taking a village of yeomen would be a fearful venture for any gang of hoodlums in any circumstance.

Loyal Goatherd said...

Very interesting stuff, gang. Of course I'm late as usual. I had never thought of this as the ultimate dystopian vision put to film in the 1970's. It is, perhaps, just that. It is indeed unpleasant to watch as the misery just drips off the screen.
I don't agree that any other team of actors could have pulled this off in the same manner. Only Heston and Robinson could carry off this friendship on screen (as indeed it was off screen as well) . Wayne and Bond, Hackman and Borgnine, Martin and Lewis? No, all those would be farcical in comparison. And that friendship is the only hope in the whole film, and when it dies, hope itself dies.
I saw this knowing the big ending going in, didn't matter. I still try to catch it whenever it is on. The Omega man is a close second, though it ends with the symbology of hope. The omega man's blood purchasing a second chance for mankind. If you doubt the symbology, look again at Heston's final scene, he dies in a crucified position. Only Heston could have puled that one off, too. A great actor.
The one film no one has mentioned, and I think can rival this as the most dystopian, is Rollerball (please not the re-make). In this world the corporate culture provides all societes' needs and demands only obedience to its will. True Jon-athan triumphs in the end, but is that the end? Jon-athan's defiance will be erased, and soon. He is free to defy only because he has nothing left to lose, his life without rollerball, dead friends and wife removed, not worth living, "The game was created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort. If a champion defeats the meaning for which the game was designed, then he must lose." That, it seems to me, is far more chilling and dystopian than any processed protein source.

AndrewPrice said...

LG, I love Rollerball. That's probably my favorite 70s dystopian film... and probably my favorite dystopian film period. I love the depth of the message and the sinister feel throughout.

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