Thursday, May 19, 2011

Logan’s Run (1976)

          For many fantasy fans of a certain Gen-X vintage, Logan’s Run is the most beloved sci-fi film of the ’70s—with the notable exception of a certain George Lucas-directed blockbuster. Featuring a terrific premise, exciting action sequences, memorable production design, and a musical score filled with far-out electronic sounds, Logan’s Run has an intoxicating vibe. So even though the cheese factor is high, thanks to questionable special-effects miniatures and a generally dated aesthetic, the picture still works as stylish escapism.
          Based on a novel by George Clayton Johnson and William F. Nolan, the story introduces a 23rd-century society comprising a series of interconnected domes that contain climate-controlled luxury environments. By day, the society’s gorgeous young citizens perform easy jobs aided by pervasive technology. By night, they engage in culturally acceptable hedonism, trading sexual favors without emotional hang-ups. The only catch is that when each citizen reaches the age of 30, he or she must enter a violent arena called the Carousel, in which strivers who fail to reach the prize of “renewal” die on the spot.
          The citizens are so narcotized by their easy lives that no one questions their built-in expiration dates except “runners,” rebels who flee the domes to join a secret underground. Logan-5 (Michael York) is a “sandman,” a gun-toting cop employed by the city’s computerized overlords to hunt and kill runners as a means of maintaining order. When Logan discovers a clue about the runners’ hidden citadel, Sanctuary, his lifespan is abruptly abbreviated so he can go undercover as a runner—a harsh move that eventually turns Logan against his former superiors.
          Logan’s Run is filled with imaginative details, like the high-tech “New You” plastic-surgery salon that predicts laser-guided medical procedures (and features a sexy Farrah Fawcett-Majors as a receptionist). York and leading lady Jenny Agutter, who plays Logan’s fellow runner, make an attractive couple, their posh English accents lending the film a certain elegance, and Richard Jordan is frighteningly impassioned as Logan’s friend-turned-pursuer. Yet it’s the visuals that impress the most, because the filmmakers ingeniously converted a modernist shopping mall into the interior of the domed city, then created similarly vivid environments for the Carousel, the den of a group of animalistic street urchins called “cubs,” and even the ice-covered cavern of an overbearing robot called Box.
          Like a great old Jules Verne yarn, Logan’s Run is a fast-moving adventure that introduces one wild situation after another, and the whole story is anchored by Logan’s relatable journey from conformist to anarchist. Logan’s Run may be silly and stilted, but it’s also a great ride with a handful of resonant ideas thrown in for good measure. FYI, small-screen hunk Gregory Harrison slipped on the sandman spandex for a short-lived series adaptation, also called Logan's Run, which ran on CBS for most of the 1977-1978 season.

Logan’s Run: GROOVY


adam said...

This was my favorite sci-fi flick growing up (yes, even over "Star Wars") and I still have a soft spot for it. And Jenny Agutter was the sexiest female in sci-fi/horror (american werewolf in london). I miss the day of "miniatures" in special effects ... CGI has a numbing sameness to it.

Tommy Ross said...

A love it or hate it, everyone I've ever discussed this with falls into one of those two camps. If you love it like I do, you love it forever and never get tired of watching it. When praising this if you so desire, let's not forget Richard Jordan who was a wonderful actor and turns in the best performance of the movie.

Kevin Mac said...

A favorite movie as a kid, I even remembering spending my precious dollars on the soundtrack. An act which baffles me to this day. I guess I just wanted as much of the movie as I could have.

Looking back on it, the film has a quality that evokes the far flung sci fi of 50's pulp stories. Sterile, "mall of the future" style environments, where everybody seems to be a member of organizations resembling cults, and to be wearing a uniform of one kind or another.

robin said...

Logan's Run is a fantastic film. My favourite character is Box harvesting sea greens... LOL. However the plot runs out of steam and gets tedious towards the end. Oh look! Old person!

Two things I'll add. First, the book is actually very entertaining -- well worth finding.

Second, the TV series was not as flat-out terrible as you might think. One episode was written by Harlan Ellison and is superlative. Some of th eothers are at least entertaining.

Wayne Klein said...

Actually the episode “Crypt” had a story by Ellison but he didn’t write the teleplay. David Gerrold also wrote one which he slapped with his pseudonym Noah Award (No Award) when it was rewritten by the story editor.

As to the original film, it has its moments but loses steam in the last third and, Francis crush on Logan aside, there’s no reason for him to become psychotic killer. Diving up the character of Francis, the Old Man, etc. made sense from a writing perspective for this project but we didn’t get muchmovtiation for Francis going over the deep end.