Secret History – Soylent Green – tape 2061

Here’s part of a themed evening from Channel 4, with special themed idents.

Spacey 4 Logo

It starts with Secret History: The Roswell Incident. It’s the usual parade of people saying they saw something they couldn’t explain, the military saying it was a weather balloon, and cries of a cover up.

The most interesting part is the quite recent appearance of the famous Alien Autopsy ‘film’. Here’s Ray Santilli, who came into possession of the ‘film’ and would later be portrayed on film by Ant or Dec. (Declan Donnelly to be precise).

Ray Santilli

The programme talks to some experts on the likely veracity of the film. A forensic pathologist is 98% certain it’s a man-made hoax. More sure is special effects expert Bob Keen, who is certain it’s a special effect, and he thinks it could have been produced probably no earlier than the 1960s.

Bob Keen

It’s interesting to compare this programme with the American production about the Alien Autopsy film. In that, as I recall, they talked to Stan Winston, who was far more open to the possibility it was real.

Alien Autopsy

Santilli has since admitted the footage was fake – but he claims it’s a ‘reconstruction’ of footage he genuinely saw, but which had deteriorated in the time between his first seeing it and him purchasing it. That’s the basic plot of Ant & Dec’s movie, too.

There’s no credit, but the narrator on this programme sounds like Geoffrey McGivern.

After this, there’s a strange announcer – Venusian Vince – to introduce a clip that originated on the Sci Fi channel, some future news.

Venusian Vince

Oh look, Kellyanne Conway is still working.

President press conference

Next, it’s Soylent Green. A movie whose major plot twist is probably the best know twist in movie history. I guarantee you that most of the people you know what Soylent Green is, but almost none of them will have seen the film. Even I haven’t seen the film before, and I’ve watched loads of old SF movies. I’m not sure why I didn’t watch this at the time, but in my defense, I got engaged that year, so I was spending a bit less time watching TV.

The film is based on Harry Harrison’s novel Make Room! Make Room! massive overpopulation was a big theme in 50s and 60s SF, and Harrison himself wrote several stories on the subject, including one of my favourites, A Criminal Act, which would make a brilliant short film.

But onto the film at hand. It’s set in New York City in 2022, where the city’s population is 40m people.

“This interview is brought to you by new Soylent Green, high energy plankton gathered from the oceans of the world.”

Soylent Green

Charlton Heston and his roommate Edward G Robinson are complaining about the food. “How can anything grow now. The greenhouse effect. Everything is burning up.” I always think of the greenhouse effect as a fairly new theory, from the 80s, but it’s been around much longer than that.

Someone’s playing what looks like a version of Asteroids – this is 1973, well before the Atari Asteroids was released in 1979.

Asteroids

Heston is a policeman, investigating a murder of someone who was working high-up in the Soylent corporation, the maker of the dull, flavourless protein powder which is the only thing most people can afford to eat.

I’m not enjoying the sour misogyny the film displays. The murdered man had a woman as his companion, but she ‘came with he apartment’ – and we see her friends in a later scene, presumably all similarly employed. I didn’t see any male companions.

Naturally she falls in love with Heston, presumably partly because he doesn’t treat her like shit.

Something about the murder case is odd. Heston is being tailed, and then told that the case is closed. When he won’t drop it, someone tries to kill him during a food riot.

Whit Bissell plays a local politician who’s mixed up in the whole thing.

Whit Bissell

Celia Lovsky, T’Pau from Star Trek, pops up in a cameo.

Celia Lovsky

Heston’s friend Sol (Robinson) finds out more about the conspiracy, but then decides to be euthanised. Part of the euthanasia procedure is to watch a big screen film of beautiful countryside, meadows, deer frolicking, all scored with Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. This was a popular image in 70s movies – The Parallax View and A Clockwork Orange all used a similar idea (and Clockwork Orange also used Beethoven).

Edward G Robinson

Heston talks to Robinson as he’s watching the film, and is told to find proof of what’s happening. Also, Heston has never seen what the world looked like before environmental collapse. I guess their TV doesn’t have much TV from the 70s or before. Maybe it all got wiped when the earth’s magnetic pole flipped polarity.

Heston follows what happens to all the dead bodies from the euthanasia centre, and finds that they are taken to a factory, and processed into (surprise!) Soylent Green. “Soylent Green is people!” yells Heston as he’s being taken away.

After this, there’s another strange FTL news feed (see below for a compilation).

Then, a strange programme called Mothership Connection, touching on a lot of black artists and performers, with a Sci-Fi bent, including George Clinton

George Clinton

Sun Ra

Sun Ra

Lee “Scratch” Perry

Lee Scratch Perry

Goldie (the musician not the Blue Peter dog)

Goldie

Nichelle Nichols talks about her work in encouraging people of colour to work in places like NASA.

Nichelle Nichols

Novelist Ishmael Reed

Ishmael Reed

SF Author Samuel Delany

Samuel R Delany

SF Author Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler

It’s a tad pretentious, but there are some interesting people here.

There’s another slice of FTL news, followed by the start of John Sayles’ Brother from Another Planet. The tape ends during the film.

Here’s a compilation of all the links and FTL news bits.

Adverts:

  • trail: Eleven Men Against Eleven
  • Irn Bru
  • Littlewoods Pools
  • Adidas
  • Renault 19
  • Comfort
  • trail: Equinox: Cybersecrecy
  • Rover
  • Shredded Wheat Fruitful
  • AA
  • Axa Equity and Law
  • Castrol GTX
  • Surf
  • Renault 19
  • I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
  • Allied Dunbar
  • American Express
  • Persil
  • Domestos
  • Mitsubishi Shogun
  • Too Good to be True
  • Orange
  • Flora – Valerie Singleton John Noakes
  • Domestos
  • Organics
  • Callard & Bowser Creamline Toffees
  • Volvic
  • Eleven Men Against Eleven
  • McDonalds
  • Axa Equity and Law
  • Daily Express
  • Colgate Total
  • The Usual Suspects in cinemas
  • Castrol GTX
  • Rover
  • Arm & Hammer Dental Care
  • Fruitopia
  • While You Were Sleeping in cinemas
  • Clorets
  • Hovis
  • Thompson’s Roof Seal
  • Sure
  • Persil
  • Colgate Total
  • Levis Double Stitched
  • Renault 5
  • True Lies on video
  • McCain Oven Chips
  • Texas Instruments
  • Carling Black Label
  • Safeway
  • trail: Frasier
  • Midland Bank
  • 7Up Light
  • Head & Shoulders
  • Rolo
  • Nissan Micra Hollywood
  • Anadin Extra
  • Coors
  • trail: Equinox: Cybersecrecy
  • Littlewoods Pools
  • Peperami Minis
  • Imperial Leather
  • Royal London
  • DHL
  • Fruitopia
  • Castrol GTX
  • John Smith’s
  • trail: Pump Up the Volume
  • Nissan Micra Hollywood
  • Orangina
  • Nike
  • Texas Instruments
  • Sony
  • Midland Bank
  • Murphy’s
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6 comments

  1. I remember Frank Skinner sending up the Santilli footage on his show (Flanagan and Alien singing Underneath the Arches, etc). It was easy to make fun, because, well, it was so obviously fake, right? Looked nothing like film footage from 50 years before apart from the black and white. When he knew he was rumbled, Santilli blathered some excuses, but whatever the truth of Roswell, we’ll never find it out now, just too much made up stuff in the way.

    Soylent Green I was lucky to see as a kid, unaware of the twist (I watched Psycho that way too). It was one of Cheston’s dystopian/disaster movies he settled into with Planet of the Apes, and I still think it’s not badly done as a nightmare future, in fact the bit where Edward G. Robinson is euthanized is pretty moving, especially as he died not long after filming. But you do wonder what happened to Cheston’s character next! What if everyone was OK with it?

    1. I couldn’t believe anyone could look at the autopsy ‘film’ and not immediately see that it wasn’t remotely real. The first thing that I noticed was that it had a lot of ‘noise’ on the picture that might have been trying to be film grain, but which was so obviously video noise.

  2. Ah, I remember that Sci-fi weekend! Thanks for sharing those clips. I taped a couple of the FTL Newsfeeds but should’ve tried harder to record more of them. I remember being insanely jealous that my family didn’t have satellite so we couldn’t get the Sci-Fi Channel.

    Am I right in thinking there was a “making of FTL Newsfeed” programme broadcast at some point over the weekend as well? I vaguely recall seeing something but can’t find any mention of it anywhere.

  3. “Someone’s playing what looks like a version of Asteroids – this is 1973, well before the Atari Asteroids was released in 1979.”
    It’s the 1971 video game “Computer Space”, designed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney who together founded Atari.

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