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It's the New York of 2022, where overpopulation is rampant and the processed food manufactured by the Soylent company is at a premium. Here a cynical cop, Thorn (Charlton Heston) is put on a homicide investigation that at first seems to be an opportunistic murder by a burglar. But as Thorn works on the case, assisted by his elderly research assistant, Sol (Edward G. Robinson), he gradually comes closer to uncovering a secret at the heart of their society.

This influentialvision of an overpopulated future has ahorrific plausibility that's hard to shake off. Everyone remembers the bodies cramming the streets or sprawling in the stairways of rundown apartment buildings; the disappearance of the natural world, the incessant TV ads for dubious processed food... Revisited today,the filmseems more than a curiosity but less than a classic, directedinventively if modishly by the ultra-versatile hack Richard Fleischer (responsible for everything from the original Dr Dolittle to Conan The Destroyer). Fleischer films a food riot newsreel-style, like a documentary of events yet to happen, but also includes some studied far-out imagery (as in Edward G. Robinson's unforgettable death scene). As we follow Charlton Heston's detective on his trail through the city high and low, it becomes a teeming labyrinth where distinctions between inside and outside are subsumed in a constant feeling of claustrophobia. The smoggy haze in the streets echoes the greenish or mustard backgrounds in the interiors: colours that are both strong and sickly. A dated grooviness is most evident in the penthouse of the murdered millionaire, with its beaded curtains, piped muzak and live-in hooker (rented along with the apartment and referred to as furniture). The traces of Playboy fantasy sit oddly in the usually straitlaced context of the genre, but make a kind of perverse sense given the film's depiction of an economy based around scarcity - where even the most ordinary food items become decadent sensual luxuries. Of all Hollywood stars, Heston seems ideally suited to the tensions of this situation, a rock-like embodiment of the law whose persona also hints at ferociously repressed animal appetites. Heston's gravity helps ground the film even at its most potentially ludicrous - though he's not helped much here by Robinson, who forgivably overacts as an old codger - in his final role.
Jake Wilson

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CAST: Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotton, Brock Peters

DIRECTOR: Richard Fleischer

PRODUCER: Walter Seltzer, Russell Thacher

SCRIPT: Stanley R. Greenberg (Harry Harrison novel Make Room! Make Room!)


EDITOR: Samuel E. Beetley

MUSIC: Fred Myrow

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

AUSTRALIAN RE-RELEASE: September 30, 2001 (Melb only)

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