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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Soylent Green can be found here.
Soylent Green is very loosely based upon the 1966 novel Make Room! Make Room! by American science fiction author Harry Harrison. It was adapted for the screen by screenwriter Stanley R. Greenberg
Chuck Braverman was the editor of this sequence, and he manages to convey in two minutes a splendid, devastating commentary on the Consummation of Progress. Starting with leisurely pans over the images from the slow-paced Good Old Days (when "progress" was still a magical world that promised a return to a Golden Age of Plenty for humanity) to the sweeping pans over the fruits of mass-production and into a hard-and-fast barrage of Machinery, Electricity and Urbanity that builds and builds in speed and intensity like a machine gun spitting image after ugly image—until the crescendo is broken and we are left to once again view leisurely pans, over a ravaged, savaged world where the shining dream of Progress has been perverted into a never-ending nightmare of smog, concrete, greenhouse heat, dead car graveyards, a few glass towers amidst a sea of crumbling buildings—and people, people, everywhere people. Yes, brilliant!
The name "soylent" was coined by combining "soy" and "lentil". Soylent green is a food product, supposedly manufactured in the year 2022 from high energy, green plankton. There is also soylent red and soylent yellow, advertized as high energy vegetable concentrates. Soylent green, however, is eventually discovered to be made from human bodies.
Shirl is "furniture"—slang for a live-in prostitute in the year 2022. Her body is open for the whim of whatever man happens to walk in. Therefore, Thorn's having sex with Shirl is akin to him sitting on the couch of the apartment or reading a coffee table book.
Thorn (Charlton Heston) sneaks into the Soylent factory by hitching a ride on top of a garbage truck transporting human bodies. He follows their disposal from the intake and discovers that the bodies are being processed into green soylent crackers. After escaping from the factory, he places a call to Lt. Hatcher (Brock Peters) to ask for his help but is fired upon by government agent Tab Fielding (Chuck Connors). Bleeding from bullet wounds, Thorn attempts to find shelter in a church filled with several hundred sleeping people, but Fielding follows the blood trail. The people start to wake up from the sound of the gunshots and fighting. Just as Fielding is about to kill Thorn, Thorn picks up a knife and stabs him in the abdomen. Fielding dies, and Hatcher runs into the room. As Hatcher prepares to have Thorn taken to a hospital, Thorn tells him what he's seen and warns that they have to stop them. Thorn is carried out shouting, "Soylent green is people!"
The book varies widely from the finished film, sharing only a few elements (such as the characters of Sol, Shirl and Simonson, among others, and the setting of New York City). The "Soylent" of the book shares none of the "ingredients" of the film's version of the staple food.
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