Edward G. Robinson gives his very last film performance here as a former scholar who lives with the detective Thorn. There are only two things that are at all memorable from this film one being the last line of the film, and Edward G. Robinson as Roth. Although this might not be the most prestige project Robinson was ever in Robinson still gives it his all, which is always a sign of a good actor. As Roth Robinson gives the role a lot of heart as a man who seems to have lived to long to see the world he once loved completely washed away by decay.
Robinson is very good as Roth because depression is not the overwhelming element of his performance. There are moments where it comes out powerful when he is reminded too much of his past, but early in the film Robinson is very good in portraying the more optimistic elements in Roth. This not to say he is an optimist, but whenever there is moment he is reminded of the past in a positive way like enjoying food from the past Robinson infuses the moment with a lot of heart and happiness that shows just how fondly Roth remembers the past.
Robinson here has a really nice chemistry with Charlton Heston that is rather surprisingly. Their friendship seem genuine and the best scenes of the film are the two together in their small little apartment. Honestly I think it would have been a much better film if they rewrote as a film about Heston and Robinson living in this type world just through the apartment, as they are by far the best scenes in the film. The two are excellent in as they set up the dynamic between the younger man who is unaware of the past, and the old man who can do nothing to forget.
Robinson makes Roth a wise old man effectively and always seems genuine in his excitement over something as simple as just some reports on foodstuffs that are in book form. He always manganese to find the honest emotions in these scenes which is really something considering how ineffectual the scenes away from him tend to be. Robinson though achieves something that the poor art direction of the film does not, which is honestly portraying the loss at the center of the film.
The highlight of his performance, Heston's performance, and of the film is when he decides to be euthanized as a government facility. What really adds to this scene though is the scene where he decides this is particularly strong because Robinson portraying it in such a quiet way. Robinson shows that in finding the horrible truth makes Roth just sadly gives his resignation from a place he feels he can no longer tolerate. Robinson is excellent in the scene as any of his contentment goes away as the full extent of his grief comes out in a heartbreaking moment. This may be far from the best film in his career but Robinson gives a performance worthy to be his last.