And proving once again that we must thank whichever gods invented basic cable, we note, for those of you who will not be watching the coverage of the Democratic Convention today, that Turner Classic Movies is running the only credible alternative -- a Charlton Heston film festival! The all-day tribute began this morning with The Buccaneer (DeMillean mishegass, with Chuck as Andrew Jackson versus Yul Brynner's Jean Lafitte) and will continue with the likes of Ben-Hur (4:00 EST) and the William Wyler western The Big Country (8:00 EST). (The latter, of course, features a great genre-defining musical score by Jerome Moross).
I'm sorry to report that Will Penny -- the Charlton Heston film for people who hate Charlton Heston films, and the star's justifiable favorite of all his performances -- is conspicuous by its absence, but the good news is that my personal fave -- the 1973 sci-fi classic Soylent Green -- is on at 1:30 am.
SG's vision of a hellishly overcrowded futuristic New York City may not have come true (exactly), but its basic ecological theme is obviously still relevant and the film remains compelling for a lot of reasons, perhaps the most, er, interesting of which is that its term for a certain class of 21st century career women (if you catch my drift) is "furniture." Of course, it helps that the particular piece of furniture on which the plot ultimately hinges is the pneumatically interesting Leigh Taylor-Young. And then there's that fantastic surprise ending, which ultimately inspired the best-ever joke on the classic 70s sit-com Barney Miller (Spoiler Alert: If you've never seen Soylent Green, read no further.)
It's a typical day at the fictional Manhattan 12th precinct, when suddenly the getting along in years Detective Phil Fish (Abe Vigoda, second from right) enters, looking even more unhealthy and close to death's door than usual. His boss, the titular Barney Miller (Hal Linden, second from left) is immediately concerned and asks him what's wrong.
Fish: " I saw something on TV last night that really upset me. It was a science fiction movie where they were eating old people for food."
Barney: "Oh my god, Fish, that's terrible. You must feel awful."
Fish: "No...it made a lot of sense to me."