Soylent Green appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Green offered an erratic transfer that varied from very good to fairly murky.
Like much of the rest of the picture, sharpness seemed inconsistent. Much of the time the movie looked nicely distinct and accurate. However, more than a few scenes demonstrated moderate softness and appeared somewhat indistinct. I saw no issues connected to jagged edges or shimmering, but some mild edge enhancement showed up occasionally.
Print flaws didn’t create consistent concerns, but they appeared sporadically throughout the flick. White specks were the most obvious and frequent problem, and I also noticed occasional examples of marks, debris, and other spots. Exterior shots demonstrated some of the dirtiest scenes, such as the images of the marketplace at the start of chapter 17. These elements seemed intentional to communicate the pollution of the environment, though the application of this was inconsistent and showed a lot of marks in addition to the haziness. Otherwise, the image wasn’t excessively flawed for a movie of this generation, but it could have seemed cleaner.
Colors usually came across as reasonably well defined. The hues occasionally appeared somewhat bland and muddy, but those occasions seemed rare. Mostly the tones were acceptably accurate and distinctive, and sometimes they seemed pretty vivid. Black levels appeared fairly dense and tight, and low-light shots came across as fairly easily visible; they didn’t suffer from excessive darkness, though some other scenes were a bit on the murky side. Soylent Green never presented a great transfer, but more of it looked good than bad.
The monaural soundtrack of Soylent Green seemed fairly average for its age. Speech lacked much depth or vivacity, but the lines remained easily intelligible and free from edginess. Some awkward looping occasionally marred the presentation, though. Effects failed to deliver much life, but they also didn’t seem problematic in many ways. The elements were clean and acceptably accurate, and they showed only mild issues related to distortion; the riot in chapter 17 came across as a bit rough, but it didn’t become terribly shrill.
Music appeared somewhat infrequently and seemed average when we did hear it. The score and source music sounded decently distinct but they lacked much range and favored the treble side of the equation. Not much about the audio for Soylent Green presented problems, but not much about it stood out as terribly positive either.
To my surprise, Soylent Green comes with a pretty decent set of extras. It begins with an audio commentary from director Richard Fleischer and actor Leigh Taylor-Young. The pair sit together for this running, screen-specific track. An erratic piece, it offers some good information but doesn’t ever become anything special. On the positive side, more than a few nice notes about the flick appear. For example, we get information about changes between the original book and the film, Heston’s behavior on the set, and working with Edward G. Robinson at the end of his career. That last topic generates some touching anecdotes and remarks. Unfortunately, the pair go silent much of the time, and the commentary drags periodically. This means that it never becomes more than fairly average, but the track presents enough good material to merit a listen.
Next we find a couple of featurettes. Created at the time of the film’s original release, A Look At the World of Soylent Green runs 10 minutes and quickly covers the flick. It opens with a look at a few prior cinematic attempts to envision the future and then gives us some basic details about Green. This mostly just recaps story points, and it gets some wrong, such as when it refers to the corrupt Thorn character as “scrupulously honest”. However, it merits a look if just for the behind the scenes shots that pop up occasionally.
Another period program, MGM’s Tribute to Edward G. Robinson’s 101st Film lasts four minutes and 50 seconds as it shows a party for the actor. We saw a little of this in the prior featurette. It covers a ceremony that celebrated the actor’s achievement. Heston reads some affectionate telegrams from notables like Frank Sinatra to Robinson, and then the actor himself delivers a short address. George Burns even shows up along the way. The piece doesn’t seem terribly interesting, but it’s a nice addition for historical purposes.
A text piece, Charlton Heston – Science-Fiction Legend fills five screens with notes about the actor’s career in the genre. Essentially this acts as little more than a glorified filmography. We learn of Heston’s sci-fi flicks but don’t get much detail about them. It’s a pretty insubstantial effort.
Lastly, the DVD includes a couple of minor components. We get the movie’s theatrical trailer. While this offers anamorphic enhancement, oddly, it uses a windowboxed approach, so it has big bars on the sides. Avoid this ad if you want to skip spoilers; it reveals quite a lot about the story. As with most Warner Bros. DVDs, the Cast and Crew area only lists the names of participants; no additional details about them appear.
30 years after its original release, Soylent Green has become known better as a punchline than as a movie. The flick itself relies a little too heavily on its famous ending for power and doesn’t seem great on its own, though it has some very good moments. The DVD presents erratic but generally positive picture and audio, and it tosses in a few moderately useful extras. Nothing about the DVD or the movie stand out as particularly noteworthy, but fans of the flick should feel reasonably pleased with this release.