Charlton Heston 70s Scifi Double Header

The first of the two is 1971’s The Omega Man. Directed by Boris Sagal the movie was written by John William Corrington and Joyce Corrington, based on the 1954 novel I Am Legend by the American writer Richard Matheson. The film’s producer was Walter Seltzer. This film is the second adaptation of Matheson’s novel, the first being The Last Man on Earth (1964) which starred Vincent Price and ofcourse had 2007’s I Am Legend starring Will Smith.

In 1975 biological warfare between China & Russia creates a plague that kills most of the world’s population. U.S. Army Col. Robert Neville, M.D. is on a helicopter that crashes and is about to succumb to the disease when he injects himself with an experimental vaccine that he was carrying for more tests and this makes him immune. Over time most of humanity has been wiped out and the remaining survivors in Los Angeles, join together as “The Family,” a cult of crazed nocturnal albino mutants who seek to destroy all technology due to science being the instrument of humanity’s downfall. Two years later, 1977, Neville is living all alone in a fortified apartment building equipped with an arsenal of weaponry. During the day, he drives along the deserted streets of LA, looking for mutants to kill. We see him wander the stores, watch a movie (Woodstock) in the theatre and trade his old car that e crashes for another one at a used car dealers store. He makes it home by nightfall, fending off attacks by the albinos, who want to kill him, believing him to be a last remnant of the old culture.

One afternoon he sees a woman in a clothing store and chases after her but later decides he is seeing things and dismisses the sighting. On another day, the Family finally captures Neville. After a summary trial he is found guilty of heresy by Jonathan Matthias (Anthony Zerbe), a former news anchor who is now leader of the Family. Neville is sentenced to death and nearly burned at the stake in Dodger Stadium. He is rescued by Lisa (Rosalind Cash), the woman he had earlier dismissed as a hallucination, and Dutch (Paul Koslo), a former medical student familiar with Neville’s work. With them are a young group of children, although infected, their youth has given them some resistance to the disease and its symptoms are slow to manifest. But given time they too will succumb to the effects of the plague. Neville realizes that even if it is possible to duplicate the original vaccine, it would take years to salvage humanity. However, he believes it may be possible to extend his immunity to others by creating a serum from his own body. Lisa’s teenage brother Richie is the one most affected and is succumbing to the disease, so Dutch drives Lisa, Richie and Neville to the latter’s place and returns back to the kids. At night Lisa & Robert become romantic but the generator runs out of fuel and the lights go off, causing the family to attack the place. Neville restarts the generator and returns back in time to fend off Brother Zachary, one of the Family, who has snuck in and throw him off the balcony to his death.

Neville is successful in creating the serum and treats Richie with it.  Neville and Lisa plan to leave the ravaged city with the rest of the survivors and start a new life in the wilderness, leaving the Family behind to die. However a cured Richie shows sympathy towards the Family and argues with Neville about trying and treating them as well, which may or may not work as they are so far gone. Richie, at odds with Neville’s shoot first and ask questions later approach towards Matthias and his followers, goes to the Family to try to convince them to take the serum. Matthias refuses to believe that Neville would try to help them, accuses Richie of being sent to spy on them and has him executed. Neville discovers Richie’s body and, enraged, he fights off the Family after they force his car off the road. Lisa, who had left her brother in Neville’s care to collect some essentials in the stores succumbs to the plague changes into a mutant and betrays Neville by giving the Family access to his apartment. Neville returns to tell Lisa about Richie, but finds himself captured by the mutants and is forced to watch them destroy his home and equipment. Neville breaks free and, once outside with Lisa, he turns and raises his sub-machine gun to shoot Matthias but is injured fatally by the latter using a spear.

In the morning Dutch arrives with the kids to find a dying Neville in a fountain outside the building, who hands Dutch the serum before he dies. Dutch and the kids takes the infected Lisa with them and leave the city with the serum. The last scene is of Robert lying in the water in a Christ like pose. The story is similar but the funny 70s music takes away some of the feeling of read and horror of humanity destroyed. 7 outta 10 for me!

In 1973 Heston starred in the Richard Fleischer directed Soylent Green a scifi film set in a dystopian world of the future (for us not that far in the future) suffering from  pollution,  overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and a hot climate due to the  greenhouse effect. The film is loosely based upon the 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room!, by Harry Harrison.

In the year 2022 the earth is permanently overcrowded, polluted and stagnant and our setting is New York city which alone has a population of 40 million! People are living on the street, in cars, sleeping huddled on staircases when they don’t have a home. 20 million are unemployed with the few “lucky” ones with jobs scraping by, and food and working technology is scarce. Most of the population survives on rations produced by the Soylent Corporation, whose newest product is Soylent Green, a green wafer advertised to contain “high-energy plankton”, more nutritious and palatable than its predecessors “Red” and “Yellow”, but in short supply. NYPD detective Robert Thorn (Heston) lives in a cramped tiny apartment with his aged friend, former university professor  Solomon “Sol” Roth (Edward G. Robinson), who now helps Thorn by doing research when he is not reminiscing about the time when he was young and the earth wasn’t so polluted and it wasn’t always so hot. When William R. Simonson, a wealthy member of the elite is murdered in his own apartment, Thorn is sent to conduct the investigation.

Thorn goes to the luxury apartment and questions Simonson’s bodyguard Tab Fielding, who was out escorting Simonson’s concubine Shirl to a grocery store selling meat “under the counter” for the very rich when the murder took place. While there, Thorn helps himself to the luxurious lifestyle like air conditioning, hot running water, real bourbon, and appropriating a flank steak Shirl had purchased earlier. He finds the classified Soylent Oceanographic Survey Report, 2015 to 2019 reports in the apartment and gives it to Sol along with some of the fresh food & a a bottle of bourbon he took from the apartment. Roth’s research reveals that Simonson and the current governor of New York were partners in a high powered law firm, and that Simonson was also a member of the Board of Soylent. Thorn goes to his boss and tells him that he suspects an assassination took place – nothing was stolen, the sophisticated alarm didn’t go off as it was down for the first time in years and the bodyguard just happened to be away!  Continuing his investigation, Thorn visits Fielding’s apartment and questions Fielding’s concubine, Martha, helping herself to a teaspoon of strawberry jam, later identified by Roth as too great a luxury for the concubine of a bodyguard. Shirl tells Thorn that Simonson was greatly disturbed towards the end and so Thorn visits a priest who Simonson had visited, but the priest at first fails to remember Simonson and is later unable to describe the confession. Fielding later murders the priest to silence him.

NY Governor Santini, once Simonson’s partner in a high-profile law firm, orders the investigation closed but when Thorn disobeys they send Simonson’s murderer to kill Thorn, who was working security at a ration distribution center. Then Thorn threatens both Fielding and Martha to scare Fielding out of following him anymore and returns to Shirl, telling her that all cities are like theirs and the more valuable, unharmed countryside is guarded to protect the better-off class’ privileges of better food and shelter, leaving the majority of people trapped in the cities with no way out. Meanwhile Sol, taking the help of like minded researched, finds out that the oceans no longer produce the plankton from which Soylent Green is reputedly made, and infer that it must be made from human remains (which is the only other source of the same protein). Sol seeks assisted suicide at a government clinic called “Home” and Thorn is too late to stop him, mesmerized by the euthanasia process’s visual and musical montage— a display of forests, wild animals, rivers, and ocean life, now extinct. Before he dies, Sol tells him what he has discovered and so Thorn sneak his way into a disposal center where he sees corpses converted into Soylent Green. Returning to make his report, he is ambushed by Fielding and others.

He calls for back up retreats into a cathedral filled with homeless people. In the ensuing fight, he kills Fielding but is seriously injured. When the police arrive, Thorn urges Hatcher to spread the word that “Soylent Green is people!” A great film of a dystopian possible future that must have scared people when it came out. 8 outta 10!

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