The year is 2274, and after having gone through a terrible war humanity now lives in a society that can only be described as Utopian. Every possible need can be met. There is no political strife, no hunger, where wants and needs are met. It’s almost hedonistic where pleasures of the flesh are easily taken care of for anyone who seeks them. In fact it’s almost too good to be true! What could go wrong? Oh, there is one catch. You must die when you reach 30 in a religious ceremony referred to as Carousel. If you don’t submit then you then are classified as a “runner” and men known as Sandmen hunt you down. Logan (Michael York) is a Sandman, and is happily enjoying his life underneath this Dome where humanity has been living and dying since the last Great War. During one of Logan’s chases, and subsequent termination of a runner, Logan collects the belongings of his target and turns them to the organization he works for. The computer system that runs the Dome recognizes one of the objects as being an ankh, which is considered to be synonymous with a place called “Sanctuary,” where all runners hope to get to and then live out their lives peacefully. It is here that Central Computer adjusts the life clock imbedded in Logan’s left hand (all citizens of the dome have one, which changes color as the person ages) and is then ordered to masquerade as a runner in the hopes of trying to find, and destroy, Sanctuary. Having befriended a woman named Jessica (Jenny Agutter), whom he believes is associated with a group of people pledged to find Sanctuary, he makes his escape from the Dome all the while being pursued by his friend and fellow Sandman, Francis. They find an icy realm that is maintained by something of a cyborg named Box, who has some rather icy plans for them as well. Once they escape and make it to the outside world, things are not what they seem. “Outside” is a strange place, and then they met the Old Man (Peter Ustinov).
Logan’s Run has become something of a cult classic. Having come out during the pre-Star Wars era, it doesn’t quite have the same stylistic touches that we’ve come to expect in science fiction movies. Taken from a book written by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, the film adaptation took some liberties for the screenplay, which for me actually made for a better story. At the risk of giving away spoilers (This movie was released in 1976!), the revelation that there was no Sanctuary was a welcome one. Having a Sanctuary in the book (Argos, a previously abandoned space colony near Mars) be a real place just felt too convenient. In the film however, realizing that there is no Sanctuary forces Logan, Jessica, and the rest of humanity, to face the truth about what they have become, that the computer system has essentially reduced the human race to living in a dome sized petri dish. This alteration, along with Logan’s and Jessica’s discovery of both Outside, and of themselves and each other, helps speak to what can be best about science fiction. It suggests that humanity must attain Utopia through advancement, growth, and evolution; that it cannot be bestowed and run by a dispassionate computerized system solely based on maintaining a perfect population control.
Some of the characters are a bit on the ridiculous side, with some hokey lines given here and there. One of the most amusing is that of Peter Ustinov’s Old Man. Then again, he’s an aging eccentric of a man who has lived only with cats for company. Michael York is more than a competent actor, but here he sometimes feels uncomfortable in the skin of his character. Jenny Agutter’s character on the other hand almost comes off as vapid, which does not speak well of the society if this is how all women were supposed to be under the Dome. Agutter is also a well-respected actor having been in the business as far back as 1964, making this performance something of an oddity. Perhaps the premise of this film gave neither York nor Agutter much information to work with, but neither performance was believable. Then there is the character of Francis. He is the other Sandman who almost relishes what he does, and actor Richard Jordan almost plays him with a psychotic flair. This pairing made for a feeling of incongruity among the characters. The only real treat is Ustinov’s Old Man. He presents him with a sense of elderly whimsy, which is unusual considering that he was only 55 years old when the movie was released, and that’s younger than me! Still, his performance gave this film the honesty that it needed for this story to be told.
Lastly there are the production values. In a world that pre-dates CGI, or even computer controlled visual effects (as done by ILM), the production values have a certain nostalgic feel to them. It’s not that they entirely stand the test of time, because in all honesty they don’t. But for a generation of moviegoers who enjoyed something of a simpler time in their science fiction films, this movie does sort of come off as a breath of fresh air. Many visual effects these days try to cram too much into their movies with digital effects, but given that Logan’s Run had to work with practical effects there ended up being a limit as to what they could do. The miniature work looks laughable at times, but some of the set work is pretty amazing, with some pretty impressive details with some of the scenes in this film.
Logan’s Run is not a movie you want to introduce to young people as a good science fiction work. Even the first Star Wars, which came out only a year later, stands head and shoulders in both acting and visuals over this movie. However, if you’re looking to reminisce about the “good ol’ days,” then Logan’s Run is a fun film (it looks pretty good on Blu-Ray) to take down off the shelf and watch from time to time.
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