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23 February, 2011

Shallow Time Travel

Soylent Green is made of people!

Yeah. Planet of the Apes was not the end of my journey down the Hestonian road to the future. This time, to a closer one, a more plausible outcome to late 20th Century excess, introduced with the coy and squatty multiframe montage taking us from Manifest Destiny to Hestopia, penultidecadally before Koyaanisqatsi. Viewers are not asked to believe in evolution, just that overpopulation and pollution lead to some problems.

This time, our hero is not a space-ship commander, but a New York City dick, which you can read as 'detective' if you want, but the guy is a thief, a kicker of stairwell dwellers, who lets his friend kill himself and doesn't mind getting stains on the furniture. That last charge sounds lame, until you know that "furniture" in the far off year 2022 refers to the chick that comes (or at least pretends to) with apartments rented to bachelors. One piece took a swing at him, but didn't deserve the savage beating she got in return. Because in Soylent Green, the 'she was to be our Eve' sentimentality and desire for breeding of POTA is a thing of the unimaginable future. There are 40 million people in New York City alone, too crowded for love, even though the furniture might dream of it from time to time.

In the midst of this overpopulated mess--shot in yellow Hazescope (TM)--is some sort of college where Heston and his room-mate live in a dorm room. Books, mini fridge, squalor. Chuck's character is lucky, just like I was, to have roomed with Saul (I know, credits say 'Sol,' but it sounds like 'Saul,' and it adds another dimension), a Jewish guy (see?) whose intelligence and humor helps Heston's Detective Thorn make it through. Like the time he says something really beautiful, pauses for effect, and says "Schmuck."

Theirs is a tenderer relationship than me and my roommate, richer perhaps from having sprung from all they'd gone through back when Heston was Moses and Edward G. Robinson was that asshole Egyptian enforcer (General Suleiman, maybe?) bent on killing him. The general saw earlier than his colleagues did where the chips would fall, and besides, don't some boys have a thing about plaguing the one they love? The script does not tell us how they fell in together, just that Saul is the book-guy, with memories of the old world, and Thorn is the tough guy. Teacher, jaw-jutting antihero student. The only furniture around a random few rickety chairs and a dinette table, no complications.

Thorn investigates murders and kicks ass among hungry people who won't disperse. Everywhere he goes, he is a dick. Kills people he should have questioned, leaves every domicile with loot. But the thing is, he brings Saul treats when he can snag some, listens to the old man's stories, offers to pedal the generator bike that shines a 40-watt bulb on their dim existence. When Saul chooses a voluntary death, Thorn rushes to share the last moment, to repeatedly express their love. It is as tender and genuine as Heston gets.

Some website says Edward knew he was gonna die--and followed through (unlike Thorn with his pedal offer) just 12 days after filming the scene--and kept it secret until telling Chuck just before his death scene to amp up the emotion. Others say that's a bunch of crap, that Heston offed Robinson and concocted the cancer story to amp up the box office. Either way, there's nothing the furniture likes better than a poignant death.

On the other hand, they don't so much like the cannibalism. Neither do the characters in this flick. You'd think they'd be a little less surprised, not banished to Catatonia like the priest or executed for 'unreliability' like the victim, Simonson, in all his Joseph Cottony blandness, a scene that plays out as an over-wrought exchange between a monkey with a crowbar and a tired old thespian unaware that the audience left long ago.

Yeah, a shocking murder...1973 style. No visible carnage, just some really fake blood. To set it up, to make us understand that it is a major conspiracy, the killer meets with his handler, a state security heavy who supplies him with one of those fancy two-piece crowbars. Yeah, lock and load crowbar, man. Only the big boys have them. (Later, they make a point of Thorn deducing that the crowbar proved the killer was a pawn, a nobody being used by guys with guns. Sweet sweet guns....but back to the story.) So he has to use the bar to bash footholds in the concrete wall surrounding this rich guy's house so he can gain entry and bash holes in his head. Which cranial violations did not appear in 1973 mainstream film (I say with no data to back me up).

Somehow, all the clanging does not alert security. No matter, since this crime is just one guy and there is Soylent happening right under everyone's pollution-impaired nose. Thorn figures it out, though, not with fortuitous information and implausible plot lines, no, but with beatings and his smart roommate's help.

First, though, he must brachiate his way down stairwells full of huddled masses nearly as dumb as POTA humans. Then swagger into the building where the rich guy lived, where he must pass the super, who is an honest to god lawn jockey. Red jacket, weird hair and all. Turns out the guy is also an incredible dick, who doesn't even wait for the furniture to hit him before he beats them. Thorn lets him know who is boss, but doesn't kill him.

Another Dick in the movie is of the Van Patten variety. Dead and gone in 2022, but when this movie was made (MLMXXIII), he still had the glory years of Eight is Enough before him. Younger, but still bald and dull, his mattress-salesman future reverberating backwards, Mr. Obvious Tool played the role of usher to the chamber where the depressed and old could kill themselves in return for a 20 minute, clumsily edited sequence of nature shots that would not have passed muster in 1982, much less 2022.

I'd've blown the budget making the Styx-crossing movie mind-boggling, but back in '73 they went with a thing they called a 'cathode ray tube game,' an oversized Leggs container with a field of Asteroids featuring limited Pong action. Yes. Such a primitive video game that even I can describe it. The furniture had to stoop over to play the damn thing, desperately pretending to be thrilled, just to let us know that these are rich people without a care in the world.

Rich people. It seems like they keep coming up. This post is already getting long, and it's nearing midnight. If I forget to continue this later (I'm thinking "Soylent Greebacks" would be a good title, then remind me.

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