Soylent Green appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. 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 fairly 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, and edge haloes remained absent. Source defects were minor at worst; I saw a couple of specks but nothing more intrusive.
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, though the subdued production design didn’t offer many opportunities for dynamic tones. 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 sequence 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.
How did the picture and sound of this Blu-Ray compare with those of the 2003 DVD? I thought the audio was a wash; even with DTS-HD MA encoding, there’s only so much that can be done with decades-old monaural material, and the two mixes seemed similar.
The visuals showed improvements, but these were also tempered by the nature of the source. Soylent used photographic effects that could make it look somewhat murky, and it showed grain and other elements that meant it wasn’t going to be an attractive presentation. The Blu-ray looked a bit tighter and more concise, but it wasn’t a big step up in those realms; indeed, the increased resolution of the format may’ve made softness more apparent. The Blu-ray did clean up the DVD, though, so it came with fewer print flaws. This was the preferred transfer, but don’t expect miracles.
The Blu-ray replicates most of the DVD’s 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, two seconds 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.
The Blu-ray ends with the film’s theatrical trailer - windowboxed, for reasons unknown. The Blu-ray drops some text features from DVD, but those weren’t substantial.
Nearly 40 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 Blu-ray presents erratic but generally positive picture and audio, and it tosses in a few moderately useful extras. This is a decent Blu-ray for a moderately intriguing movie.
To rate this film, visit the original review of SOYLENT GREEN