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"SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!!"
—Detective Thorn (Charlton Heston)
The year is 2022. Overpopulation has brought environmental and economic collapse. In New York City (pop. 40,000,000), Detective Thorn is investigating the burglary-turned-murder of a wealthy businessman, William Simonson of the food rations manufacturer Soylent Corporation. Based on the fact that there were valuable food and books left for him to steal, and that his bodyguard Fielding and 'furniture' Shirl were conveniently away at the time, Thorn believes it to be an assassination. He gives Simonson's oceanographic survey (which he himself stole) to his roommate, Sol Roth, a book collector, and they have a memorable scene cooking up the food he also stole from the late Mr. Simonson.
In his investigation, he discovers that Fielding has more money than his job would provide, thus placing him under suspicion. Thorn is then called off the investigation and put on riot control duty, where an attempt is made on his life. He manages to get the assassin crushed under a people-scooping bulldozer.
Roth, having uncovered a terrible secret in the oceanographic survey, has lost the will to live and decides to take government-sponsored euthanasia. Thorn finds him at the suicide clinic, only in time to hear his last words. He follows Roth's corpse along to a factory that processes the dead into soylent green biscuits. He makes a call to his chief, Hatcher, and is ambushed by Fielding. Mortally wounded, he urges Hatcher to tell people the truth about Soylent Green, thus providing the famous quote.
The film contains the following examples:
- All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": That Soylent Green is people is generally known — and that knowledge brings some folk to the film. The big reveal ain't gonna work for them.
- Alter Kocker: Sol Roth, a grumpy but charming N.Y. Jew who's seen better days.
- Artifact Title: In the original book, Soylent Green wasn't people but soy and lentils, hence the title.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty: An unusual instance. While Heston does actually yell "Soylent Green is people!" during the film's climax, most people get the context wrong and believe that he screams it while running down the street and fleeing from the police. In actual fact he says it to the police, in the middle of a cathedral that has been converted into a homeless shelter, while being carried away on a stretcher. The "running down the street" scenario was actually from a Saturday Night Live parody of the film.
- They may also be getting it confused with the ending of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
- Big Applesauce
- Cool Old Guy: Sol Roth.
- Covers Always Lie: Though more of misleading in this case. Once the "Riot Control" front end loaders arrive they lift groups of people so slowly you wonder why everyone isn't jumping right off.
- Crapsack World: You have people sleeping on every inch of the street, and even on the staircases of apartments, real food is expensive, there is a year long heat wave going on, not to mention the secret of Soylent Green...
- Defictionalization: You can now buy Soylent Green.
- Downer Ending
- Enemy Eats Your Lunch: As a logical extension of Kleptomaniac Hero, Thorn doesn't pass up the chance to help himself to the food he finds in the flats he visits. Considering the lack of food though, if it hadn't been him it would have been somebody else.
- Enforced Method Acting - Heston during Sol's "going home".
- Fascists' Bed Time
- Food Porn: In this Crapsack World, some salad, beef stew and bourbon is enough to classify the "Sol and Thorn dining" scene as this.
- Future Food Is Artificial: Soylent red and yellow.
- Gaia's Lament: Prime example. Earth in Soylent Green is dying, with a year-round heat wave and limited food supplies.
- Green Aesop
- Go Mad From the Revelation: Sol Roth loses his sanity and will to live when he discovers that Soylent Green is people.
- Thorn to a lesser extent, while he tells Hatcher the secret he is clearly in an emotional state.
- Human Resources
- I Am a Humanitarian: Technically, everyone who eats soylent green is this.
- May Contain Evil
- Mega Corp
- Live-in prostitutes are called "furniture".
- Assisted suicide is referred to as "going home."
- At least Sol refers to it as such; whether this is a common term or just his own euphemism is somewhat unclear.
- No New Fashions in the Future
- Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap: A jar of strawberry jam will set you back $150, and not in the Ridiculous Future Inflation sense.
- Photo Montage: The opening credits show a stream of photos depicting the industrialization of America.
- Reality Subtext: Edward G. Robinson was really dying from cancer during filming. Thorn's tears are Charlton Heston's real tears during the assisted suicide scene.
- Scenery Gorn
- Senseless Phagia
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Beethoven's 6th (Pastoral).
- Suicide by Cop
- Technology Marches On: Shirl is shown playing an early-70's arcade machine.
- It was "Computer Space," one of the first computer arcade games ever.
- Thorn uses a police call box from time to time, since this movie predates the rise of mobile communications.
- Trailers Always Spoil: "What is the secret of Soylent Green?" just as they're showing body bags on a conveyor belt.
- It also spoils Roth's Death
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: The film was made in 1973 and is set in 2022. Thorn looks to be in his forties and has no memories of when there was green vegetation or proper food. Apparently, the filmmakers expected their dystopia to materialize in less than ten years after the movie's release.
- This would be in keeping with other then-current predictions. For instance global overpopulation was going to cause starvation on a massive scale in the 1970s, oil and other vital resources run out in the 1980s and early 1990s, etc.
- Used Future
- We Will Have Euthanasia in the Future
- Yiddish as a Second Language: Sol spouts "schmuck" and "lehaim" all the time.
- You Have to Believe Me
The book contains the following examples:
- Crapsack World: In addition to the everything crapsack-y about the movie, the transportation system has completely broken down. In other words, everyone is trapped in the city; The only vehicles mentioned are old buses taken from a history museum, used by the police, running on extremely low grade fuel.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: The book was written in 1966 and set in 1999.
- Used Future: The book is somehow more used than the movie.