Friday, October 2, 2015

Logan’s Run (1977)

          The entertaining 1976 sci-fi picture Logan’s Run precluded a sequel, since all the storylines were wrapped up in a highly satisfying manner, but that didn’t stop MGM from exploiting the movie’s success. Hence Logan’s Run, a 90-minute TV movie that was broadcast just over a year after the feature was released and that served as the pilot for a short-lived TV series set in the same world as the movie. In fact, MGM hired William F. Nolan—who cowrote, with George Clayton Johnson, the original 1967 novel upon which the whole Logan’s Run franchise is based—to help write the pilot’s script. Alas, MGM failed to generate anything resembling the pulpy vibe of the theatrical feature. Offering a modified storyline with a heavier emphasis on subcultures existing outside the domed city in which much of the theatrical feature’s action takes place, the TV version of Logan’s Run is flat and goofy, with cartoonish sci-fi concepts played much too straight and fleeting attempts at comic relief failing miserably. Even sci-fi nerds failed to support this take on the material, so Logan’s Run was pulled from the airwaves after only 14 episodes were broadcast.
          As in the theatrical feature, the TV version of Logan’s Run takes place in the 23rd century, where attractive young people enjoy an idyllic existence in a domed city until the age of 30, when they attempt “renewal,” transference of their souls into newborn bodies. Logan (Gregory Harrison) and Francis (Randy Powell) are “sandmen,” cops who pursue citizens attempting to flee the city instead of seeking renewal. The lawbreakers are called “runners.” Already skeptical about the domed city’s social structure, Logan shifts allegiances when he saves spirited runner Jessica (Heather Menzies) from being killed by Francis. Logan and Jessica flee to the outside world, encountering two dangerous societies over the course of the pilot—a slave colony and a robot city.
          In favoring plot over characterization, story editor D.C. Fontana (of Star Trek fame) and her collaborators lose nearly everything that made the theatrical feature emotionally resonant. Harrison delivers a blank performance, doing things and saying lines simply because that’s what the script demands, and the rushed first act eliminates any potential for viewers to connect with the hero’s plight. Later, when kicky gadgets and ornate costumes and silly dialogue take the fore, the pilot becomes a bloodless showcase for geeky signifiers. The considerable skills of costar Donald Moffat are wasted, and leading lady Menzies’ earnestness isn’t enough to enliven a decorative role. Worst of all, the pilot sets the characters onto the equivalent of an aimless road trip, whereas the theatrical feature depicted a quest with a clear goal. Ultimately, the sleek black-and-gray sandmen costumes and the futuristic guns with the bright muzzle flashes, both retained from the theatrical feature, sustain more interest than any of the actors.

Logan’s Run: FUNKY

1 comment:

adam said...

Apparently this was originally written as a 60 minute pilot and at the last minute the network decided to make it 90 minutes and added in the subplot of the group of pacifists living underground. Wm. Nolan was not pleased.