The Riot – Soylent Green
The place: New York City. The year: 2022AD. The population: 40 million. Charlton Heston plays Thorn, a police detective investigating a killing. Delving into the investigation he starts to sniff the beginnings of a wider conspiracy and is warned off by his superiors. Of course he refuses to back off….
It’s Tuesday in Thorn’s district, and Tuesday is not just any day, Tuesday is Soylent Green Day. Seems like the whole city has turned out for their supplies. The square is packed and it’s hot, the entire scene covered in a dirty brown haze. The colours are earthen and the mood is stoic and resigned, though not unhappy. That is until…
The first signs of trouble arise when a solitary woman emerges from the Soylent Green store complaining of her meagre rations: “I stood here the whole lousy day and they gave me a quarter kilo” she intones in a furious New York brogue.
On a side note: ‘Kilo’…so The US finally adopted the metric system?
This is our first introduction to Thorn in this scene, and the first time we have seen him in riot uniform, having been temporarily reassigned. This will of course be crucial.
Lurking in the crowd is this shifty looking fella. Haven’t we seen him before? Wait, that’s the guy that killed Joseph Cotten at the beginning of the film. Uh oh.
There’s been a hitch with the Soylent Green delivery so the store has just run out. One of Thorn’s colleagues reluctantly makes the announcement to the crowd and, immediately anticipating trouble, adds ominously that “The Scoops are on their way.”
Scoops or no scoops, the crowd has had enough. The first of the stalls is overturned
A scene that is mirrored moments later by a line of cops pushed through a shop window
So these are the ‘Scoops’, well they seem kinda ok to me.
Oh I see. No-nonsense crowd control. Well, that is novel.
…and they install nothing short of terror in the assembled masses.
Chaos breaks out; the only sound in the scene being the metal clanging of the scoops as they hit the ground and the concomitant screams of the crowd. Everyone is now doing their best to exit the square…everyone that is except one man. The lurker from earlier who dons his hat in an attempt to blend and then, astonishingly starts to make a beeline toward the riot vans and cops.
Because the man has a plan. Using the entropy around him as cover he pulls a gun and brazenly takes a shot at Thorn. Regrettably an innocent bystander takes the bullet.
Another innocent shopper falls as the killer shoots again but Thorn has already sprung into action. In a mirror of the hat scene from earlier he removes his helmet so he too can blend into the crowd and pursue the gun man.
By this time the killer has lost track of Thorn and is monetarily adrift in the crowd, blind to the approaching officer whose eyes have never left his target. What is wonderful about this shot is that amongst the action and the surging mob just two figures stick out: pursuer and pursued.
Thorn gets the jump on the killer, strikes him and throws him to the ground – unluckily for both of them right in the way of a Scoop.
And doesn’t he just regret that? Justice may have been served but yet another lead just went stone cold.
This post is part of the 2013 TCM Summer Under the Stars blogathon that lasts through the month of August, and specifically celebrating the Charlton Heston day on August 5th.
TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon at @tcmSUTSblog
Soylent Green – directed by Richard Fleischer (1973)
A disillusioned cops investigates a murder in a heavily overcrowded future New York city and discovers the new wonder food keeping everyone alive might not be all it’s claimed to be.
Full clip here