AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY [REGION ‘A’ ONLY] AND DVD
RUNNING TIME: 119 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In the year 2274, the remnants of human civilisation live a hedonistic life in a sealed domed utopian city, but are killed and then “renewed” when they reach the age of 30. People are implanted at birth with a “life-clock” crystal in the palm of their hand that changes colour as they approach their last day. Most accept the promise of rebirth, but those who do not are known as “Runners”, and “Sandmen” are assigned to pursue and terminate them. After terminating a Runner, Sandman Logan 5 finds an ankh among his possessions, and later meets Jessica 6, a girl also wearing an ankh pendant. Logan takes the ankh to the computer that controls the city, where he’s told it’s a symbol for a secret group who helps the Runners find Sanctuary. The computer instructs Logan to find, infiltrate and destroy Sanctuary, but then changes the colour of his life-clock to flashing red, four years early….
I hadn’t seen Logan’s Run in about 20 years prior to viewing it on Blu-ray the other day, and I remembered it to be quite a well balanced melding of the ‘serious’, ‘heavy’, ‘thought provoking’ type of science fiction movie [the type that almost disappeared, at least from mainstream cinemas, when a certain George Lucas picture came out] with the other, lighter, more escapist kind. Watching it with older, more critical eyes, it’s pretty goofy for much of the time, something probably increased by the fact that it’s all taken very seriously, but it still provides a decent amount of fun, and here and there does manage to provide just a little bit of thought, though it seems to get its messages somewhat mixed up, the special effects aren’t always exactly special even if one appreciates that the film was made before Star Wars [which came out a year later and which must have made Logan’s Run look very dated immediately], and its principal setting is a little dull and not very imaginatively realised. Still, you can’t say that the film itself is dull, even if the mediocre action scenes never get the pulse going like they should and it all climaxes far too abruptly. I enjoyed watching Logan’s Run, a film which clearly influenced Gattaca, The Island and several others; it has charm, something that seems to be in short supply in movies of this type these days, and its inconsistencies and holes almost add to its likeability rather than hamper it.
William F. Nolan’s 1976 novel was first picked up by producers George Pal [The War Of The Worlds, The Time Machine], who then fell ill, then by Fantastic Voyage and Our Man Flint’s Saul David, who then sold the rights to Irwin Allen [The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure], before buying them back and deciding to make it himself. Robert Redford was intended to star in the Pal version, while Jon Voight and Lindsay Wagner were first choices to play the leads for David, with James Cagney in Peter Ustinov’s role. Then William Devane pulled out just before shooting and was replaced in the part of Francis by Richard Jordan. Major changes from the book included the age of death being raised from 21 to 30, the method of death upon reaching 30 being different, and Sanctuary not being on Mars! Shot primarily in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, the film was originally intended to contain a major fight sequence between Jenny Agutter and Farrah Fawcett, but the ladies got carried away with the clawing and hair pulling, and only a few seconds ended up in the film [a great shame]. Logan’s Run lost around 12 min after its first preview, largely to tone down sexual content for a ‘PG’ rating. Cut were an opening of Francis killing a Runner, much footage from an orgy, Box making a nude ice sculpture of Logan and Jessica, a visit to a shop to buy drugs, and bits of dialogue here and there, some of which may well have clarified some things. It did well enough at the box office to lead to a TV series in 1977, though only 14 episodes were produced.
So what we have here is another dystopian future, and they weren’t anywhere near new even when the film came out. The background is very vague in places and some things just don’t make much sense; surely if the outside world has now recovered from whichever disasters have afflicted it then what’s the point of keeping everyone inside the city for what is supposedly their own good? The set and costume design, all white rooms and brightly coloured robes and miniskirts, are very cliched, but there are some good ideas, such as the ability to summon up potential sex partners at the click of a button [this isn’t now far away], and even some predicting of things like mobile phones and everything being controlled by technology. And soon, we get a really memorable set piece of high kitsch as those about to be ‘renewed’ enter an arena clad in white robes and hoods and stand in a circle around a big red crystal. As the people disrobe to reveal red and white leotards and hockey masks, a big white crystal begins to slowly descend while the people are lifted into the air, higher and higher before being vapourised one by one. The sequence was one of the most complex flying wire stunts ever done for a film, and resulted in stunt people having to be constantly untangled, though sadly the wires are sometimes visible [though not as often as you may expect]. As with those wires in The War Of The Worlds, I don’t feel that it would be desecration to employ computer technology to remove what the filmmakers didn’t intend viewers to see.
Logan and his colleague Francis have to leave the spectacle to find and “terminate” [seven years before The Terminator!] a Runner with their laser guns, and the glee with which they seem to enjoy shooting people is quite chilling. It’s also interesting to see Logan being quite a bad shot; he misses several times at almost point blank range! The tale soon becomes a variant on Fahrenheit 415 [with maybe a bit of Planet Of The Apes and THX 1138 thrown in], with the main guy being part of a policing force which suppresses a basic freedom, and eventually seeing how wrong he’s been, enlightened partly by a rebellious young woman who helps him flee into the countryside. However, Logan’s conversion from the dark side isn’t as well handled as Montag’s; for a start, he only begins to see the light when he himself becomes a target, meaning that we’re not given much of a genuine transformation for the character. Likewise, the relationship between Logan and Jessica, which begins when he summons her into his room to have sex and she has second thoughts, seems to be missing key scenes which would have made it more convincing. Still, even though the film’s pace never quite gets up to the speed it feels like it ought to, there’s no shortage of incident as our couple have some very narrow escapes and make their way into the outside world, along the way encountering a Resistance, a very silly-looking robot and a very hammy Ustinov as an old man who lives with loads of cats.
The relationship between Logan and Francis seems to have a slightly homosexual element which would explain the latter’s obsession with the former, though it would have been more exciting if a whole group of men had pursued Logan and Jessica all over the place rather than just one guy, while the final scenes really do seem rushed and don’t always make sense, with, more example, none of some people fleeing an explosion bothering to go back for their babies, which are locked in a place only Sandmen have access to, unless of course the story is being deliberately dark and cynical here, which could be the case. Of course the domed city is a metaphor for the all-powerful state, controlling its citizens with imagined threats, though the film also seems to be attacking the sexual revolution of the 70’s. It’s amusing to see Logan reject a man which is like having it both ways: you get to see a juicy aspect and think the film’s being open minded while all the time it’s maintaining Logan’s hetero credentials. Along with lots of people being graphically shot with lasers, Logan’s Run is quite adult really and would definitely be a ’PG-13’/ 12A certificate if it came out today, though it does have some unintentionally funny bits throughout, like a chase scene which becomes all slow motion when it passes through an orgy, and in the end doesn’t seem to have thought things through properly.
The model effects are okay but rather lacking in detail, while some falling ice would have looked bad even in 1930, but there are some terrific, and mostly convincing, matte paintings of an overgrown 23rd century Washington. Michael Anderson stages the odd moment interestingly, like a scene between Logan and Jessica where only their heads are seen through round windows, and does seem to have a feel for the material. York is his usual likeable, if a little bland, self, while Agutter, who I have no shame in saying I was pleased to see do another of her nude swims, has never looked lovelier and projects an appealing blend of innocence and rebellion. One of the big heroes of Logan’s Run is composer Jerry Goldsmith, whose brilliant score cleverly utilising a disquieting combination of strings, piano, and electronic instruments in some really avant garde tracks for the scenes inside the city, and more conventional orchestral pieces for the scenes outside it. Along with some passages of rather off-kilter loveliness, it’s one of the very best of Goldsmith’s many sci-fi scores. Logan’s Run may be seriously flawed, and it’s possible that the remake, which has been talked about for what seems like an eternity and finally seems like it could be made, could improve on it, but it has its considerable pleasures nonetheless.