Tag Archives: Charlton Heston

Soylent Green (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: People are the food.

This Review May Contain Spoilers.

The year is 2022 and the world is so overpopulated that people must sleep on stairwells and hallways and fight over getting their hands on the one and only food source called Soylent Green. Thorn (Charlton Heston) works as a police detective and assigned to a case involving the investigation of the murder of William Simonson (Joseph Cotten) who worked as a board member to Soylent industries. Thorn is convinced that there is more to the killing than simply an in-home robbery, but finds as he pursues the case that others are trying to prevent him from continuing on it, which makes him more determined to find the answers and connect-the-dots.

We’ll get the elephant out of the room right away by divulging that Soylent Green is made up of people who are killed to feed the rest of the population. Normally that would be considered a ‘spoiler’, but this film has become so well known for this ‘twist’ it that it seems almost absurd to avoid giving it away. If that ruins the film for you then I apologize, but the truth is I knew going into this how it was going to end, due to watching one of many parodies done on the movie particularly a SNL skit from years back involving Phil Hartman, and yet I came away enjoying it anyways. Mostly what I liked was the film’s neo-futuristic look that combines old buildings with a mod image and an opening sequence, which is the best part of the movie, used over the credits that was done by filmmaker Charles Braverman and shows visually through rapid-fire photographs how the world came into its bleak situation.

I was also really impressed with Heston’s performance. He is not an actor I’ve particularly enjoyed as I feel he is routinely too stiff and conveys his lines in an overly dramatic way that is quite stagey and even hammy and yet here he portrays a rough-around-the-edges man quite well and I consider this one of his best performances.

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This also marks the final film of screen legend Edward G. Robinson who died only 20 days after production was completed. The scene where he and Heston eat fresh food, which is something the characters hadn’t done in a long time due to its scarcity, was completely improvised, but an excellent and memorable moment. I did feel though that there needed to be a backstory about why these two men, who had such contrasting differences in age, were living together and the fact that at one point both men say that they ‘love’ the other made me wonder if it was implied that they were gay.

The ending isn’t bad and I liked the way Thorn investigates the inner workings of the Soylent factory with the only noise coming from the plant’s machinery and no music, which makes it creepier. It is mentioned earlier though that this plant is ‘highly guarded’ and yet he is able to get into it rather easily and he walks through it for quite a bit before he is spotted by anyone and even then the men aren’t armed, which makes it seem like it isn’t too well guarded at all. Also, I didn’t get why Thorn, who is quite jaded for the most part, would get so noble and heroic once he found out the plant’s secret and feel the need to ‘warn’ others. The world they live in is quite bleak, so what is he ‘saving’ them from anyways as some may actually choose death over the squalor that they were stuck in.

The ultimate logic to this ‘clever’ twist ending doesn’t hold up too well either. For instance the idea that the company would just kill a few people here and there wouldn’t be enough to keep up with the demand and at one point does the overpopulation begin to go down? If so many are supposedly being killed to feed the others then the crowding should lessen, which again only reiterates the fact that the filmmakers hadn’t completely thought this thing through and if anything the film should’ve used Thorn’s discovery as springboard to a more complex and intricate plot instead simply relying on it as a ‘shock’ ending.

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My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 9, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 37Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Richard Fleischer

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

The War Lord (1965)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Knight wants a woman.

Medieval tale set in the 11th century dealing with a Norman Knight named Chrysagon (Charlton Heston) who with his group of men take over a Druid’s Village and make it ready for the Duke who will then eventually rule it. During his time there Chrysagon meets the beautiful Bronwyn (Rosemary Forsyth) and becomes smitten. The problem is that Bronwyn has already been prearranged by her father (Niall MacGinnis) to marry Marc (James Farentino) yet Chrysagon imposes a little known right, which allows the Lord of a Domain to sleep with a virgin woman on her wedding night, but only if he agrees to return her back to her suitor by dawn. Her father complies, but then Chrysagon refuses to give her up once the night is over, which causes great outrage with the village as well as Chrysagon’s own men particularly his brother Draco (Guy Stockwell) who begins to challenge Chysagon’s authority.

The film paints a realistic portrait of medieval times by exposing the rigid social caste system that people were forced to live by with almost no ability for individual choice. The plot is compelling, but what I really enjoyed were the fighting sequences that take up almost the entire second hour and are filled with  ingenious maneuvers and creative attempts by each side to try and take advantage of the other without having the benefit of guns or any other form of ammunition.

Outside of Heston who is stiff as always the acting is uniformly strong. Stockwell who was the older brother of Dean lends a good menacing touch particularly with the way he starts out as loyal only to have his darker side slowly seep through. Richard Boone, best known for his starring role in the ‘50’s western ‘Have Gun-Will Travel’ is solid as Heston’s second-in-command and who remains amazingly stoic and sensible throughout. Forsyth is quite alluring as the love interest and Maurice Evans is also good as a meek and ineffectual Priest.

Director Franklin J. Shaffner, Heston, Evans and character actor Woodrow Parfrey all reteamed three years later to star in the much better known Planet of the Apes and while that film has gone on to become an influential classic this one has remained in relative obscurity, which is unfortunate as its production values are equally high, the story just as interesting and action sequence just as exciting making it yet another lost classic awaiting discovery by a new generation of fans.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: November 17, 1965

Runtime: 2Hours 3Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Franklin J. Shaffner

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray (Region B)