In the 23rd century, mankind lives in gigantic domed cities, protected by the elements and never allowed to venture outside. Pleasure is the only pursuit, but while there’s plenty of hedonism, there isn’t much longevity: everyone is expected to do their part to prevent overpopulation by laying down their life at the age of 30 in a spectacular ritual called Carousel, after which doctrine tells them that they will be reborn as infants. Implanted in the palm of every citizen’s hand is a glowing crystal that begins to flash red as their time draws near, and anyone who tries to defy the law and live past 30 is declared a Runner, and becomes the target of Sandmen – trained killers who, on the behalf of the city, put Runners to “sleep.”
It is this life into which Logan-5 (Michael York) is born, and he enjoys his work as a Sandman until the city’s central computer selects him for a special mission. Apparently, over the years (and carefully hidden from the general populace) over a thousand Runners have successfully escaped the city and taken refuge in a place known only as Sanctuary. Logan is assigned to become a Runner himself to infiltrate their ranks, and report back to the authorities where Sanctuary is so it can be destroyed, along with a growing resistance movement, once and for all. But no one will accept Logan unless they believe he has a reason to run – and thus he is subjected to a process which robs him of his remaining six years. With no indication that he will get them back if he accomplishes his task, and strangely drawn to a young woman named Jessica with dangerously dissident ideals, Logan finds that he now has more reason to become a real Runner than to fulfill his mission – even if it sets his fellow Sandmen against him.
screenplay by David Zelag Goodman
based on the novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson
directed by Michael Anderson
music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Michael York (Logan), Richard Jordan (Francis), Jenny Agutter (Jessica), Roscoe Lee Browne (Box), Farrah Fawcett-Majors (Holly), Michael Anderson Jr. (Doc), Peter Ustinov (The Old Man), Randoplh Roberts (2nd Sanctuary Man), Lara Lindsay (Woman Runner), Gary Morgan (Billy), Michelle Stacy (Mary), Laura Hippe (Woman Customer), David Westberg (Sandman), Camilla Carr (Sanctuary Woman), Grew Lewis (Cub), Ashley Cox (Timid Girl), Bill Couch (Sandman), Glen Wilder (Runner)
Review: In some ways, it’s regarded as pure cheese now, and even ripe for a remake, but I find that I still enjoy Logan’s Run. And despite my admiration for the movie, it’s incredibly derivative – there’s very little of the basic premise of mankind’s fate and state of existence that I haven’t already read in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, from the hedonistic lifestyle to the great outdoors being a horrible place in which our heroes are ill-equipped to survive. Where the two diverge is Logan‘s commentary and parody of ageism.
On a visual front, Logan’s Run is quite simply spectacular. Keep in mind, for the year between its release and that of Star Wars, this was the sci-fi movie to beat, and until Lucas and the fledgling ILM came along to revolutionize special effects as we know them, there didn’t seem to be any comers ready to take on Saul David’s lavish production. Now yes, it’s wildly colorful and fanciful and there are numerous visual elements among the sets, props, costumes and hairstyling that fairly scream 1970s at the viewer, but there’s also something oddly and appealingly timeless to it as well.
Michael York, naturally, steals the show as Logan, bringing a perfect balance of bewilderment and confusion and determination to his character. Jenny Agutter takes turns shining and simply being there as Jessica – a nice way of saying her performance is…well…variable. Everyone in the movie as so young that some inexperience inevitably creeps through among the secondary cast – Peter Ustinov’s Old Man being a delightful exception. (“They’ve never seen cats?”) Much was made at the time of Farrah Fawcett’s first major motion picture appearance, and while it was as giddy and airheaded a performance as she could have possibly turned in, give her some credit – it was definitely called for where her character was concerned. The other big acting kudos go to Richard Jordan as Logan’s former fellow Sandman and now pursuer Francis – it’s said on the DVD “making of” featurette that he has a great “nervous energy,” and by golly, as much as I hate to parrot the official line, I can’t think of a better way to put it. He’s pretty good, and face it, the whole movie would fall flat if we didn’t think that Logan and Jessica were imperiled by this guy’s ruthlessness.
It’s hard to make an effective judgement on whether or not Logan’s Run needed as much nudity as it got, especially in the pivotal sex shop scene (frequently completely excised for cable and broadcast showings, this is where Logan and company actually make their exit to the outside world). Thing is, that scene isn’t at all alluring – director Michael Anderson wisely played against the skin being shown to hammer home the point that our heroes are dead if they don’t resist the temptations and get out of here. There are a couple of extra scenes of nudity once Logan and Jessica reach the outside world and find they have to change clothes or bathe, but it’s nothing overpowering – in the bathing/swimming scene, it’s more implied than shown.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the late Jerry Goldsmith‘s amazing music for this movie, veering back and forth between avant-garde electronics for the sterility of the domed city and a lush orchestral treatment of the outside world. As unusual and experimental as Goldsmith’s break-every-known-mold approach was, it’s also incredibly effective – and if you want to read more about it, check out our review of the recently restored and re-released original score on CD.
So…what is it that makes Logan’s Run such a watershed even for those of us who grew up in the 70s? I can’t even say. Surely the sheer spectacle of the thing had something to do with it, yes, but there’s an appealingly universal theme about the fear of aging in there. (I’m with Ustinov – I’d be an unkempt old man living in the former U.S. Capitol with a bunch of cats. Oh, wait, I am an unkempt little man living with a bunch of cats …but we’ll come back to that later.) And finally, does the movie need to be remade? I honestly resist the idea. I really do. Granted, the filmmakers behind the remake are talking about going back to the original novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson to find the real intent of the story, and that’s admirable. There are worthwhile themes explored in the story, and it may just be worth the risk to bring those ideas to a newer, younger, hipper audience, especially when the youth-vs.-age element of modern pop culture seems to have only strengthened in the intervening years. But I’m going to hazard a guess that the new Logan’s Run will date itself every bit as much as this one did – and for that, part of me asks “Why bother?”, in which case return to the beginning of this paragraph and repeat until your head explodes. Bryan Singer has some very impressive work in the past, so I’m at least interested to see what he comes up with.
In any case, it’s a nifty movie, still very atmospheric and in places very goofy, and yet somehow it’s all appealing. Then again, I am past the age of Carousel…