Logan's Run (1976)

'Sometime in the 23rd century ...
the survivors of war, overpopulation and pollution
are living in a great domed city, sealed away from the
forgotten world outside. Here, in an ecologically balanced world,
mankind lives only for pleasure,
free by the servo-mechanisms which provide everything.

There's just one catch:
Life must end at thirty unless reborn in the fiery ritual of Carousel.'

So begins the opening 'scroll' of our featured film tonight. It's only in recent years that the charms of Logan's Run have fully revealed themselves to me. It's a pity that, back then, Star Wars was released so soon after Logan's and, of course, eclipsed it's impact in every way. Perhaps this film is a more dated, obviously seventies creation, but it's got a lot of human warmth in it, and still makes me a bit teary at film's end. It's probably ripe for a remake - and apparently there has been one in development hell for years - but I get the feeling it would get the Michael Bay-type treatment, and end up looking like The Island. Enough negative speculation though, our 1976 original more than stands up on it's own and while hardly languishing in complete obscurity, could always do with the miniscule amount of positive exposure this review will provide.

Our first view of this world of the 23rd century is achieved through miniature models of the domed city. No CGI tonight, folks. Excellent 'science-fictioney' music accompanies pods moving through transport tubes. Inside, Logan, or more correctly Logan 5 (played by distinguished English actor Michael York) views babies behind glass in a nursery. He's accompanied by his cocky friend Francis (Richard Jordan). The infant shows it's palm to reveal a transparent gem attached. Soon enough we'll learn what these gems mean. Logan's world is an almost perfect one, where every pleasure can be experienced, and no work is necessary. Yet, everyone has a gem, and they indicate an individual's 'lifeclock' - gradually over thirty years they turn yellow, then green, then red. As someone approaches their "Lastday" it begins to flash, and once black they have to die at Carousel, but we'll get to that. Somewhere along the line of history, computers evolved to run the world and overpopulation was dealt with by mass execution, at thirty years old. At the ritual of 'Carousel', willing participants float up to a giant gem in the hope of the legendary 'renewal' - where they're meant to get reincarnated in some way, though it's never made quite clear how.

Logan and Francis are 'Sandmen', men - there doesn't appear to be any 'sandwomen' - who are charged with tracking down and killing 'runners', people who try to flee when their lifeclock runs out, instead of facing Carousel. Logan and Francis attend a Carousel ceremony at the 'Arcade', a huge area filled with impressive, and very seventies, glass sculptures. It's like a giant science-fiction mall. As people in strange masks and robes stand in a circle, the platform begins to rotate and individual participants begin to float towards a huge suspended gem. As the crowds scream 'renew', several of the levitators explode in a shower of sparks - killed by the Carousel process. We can assume all the masked folk will end up dead, but Logan is called by the authorities to track down a 'runner'. Logan chases the hapless guy through the arcade, toying with him, but Francis has followed him and shoots the runner dead with one of their groovy Sandmen guns, which are actually flame-spewing props rather than special effects. Logan removes the dead runner's personal effects, which include a distinctive Egyptian Ankh necklace. Later, a man wearing a jet-pack hovers over the corpse, reducing it to nothingness by spraying it with some sort of acid. Later, in this hedonistic world, Logan, wearing a kaftan I am very envious for - plugs into 'the circuit' and calls up a potential sex-partner. The circuit appears to be a kind of teleportion device along with a sexual pick-up element. The first girl to materialize is Jessica 6, played by the luminously beautiful Jenny Agutter.

Though dressed provocatively, Jessica claims to be lonely and sad, and that putting herself on the circuit was a mistake. Logan's confused and wants sex, but lets her go. He notices the ankh symbol around her neck. Later, Francis and two female companions turn up, and the party begins in a cloud of red smoke. Days later, Logan turns in the personal effects he'd taken from the runner killed earlier. He's soon called by the computer that runs the Sandmen. Logan's commanded to find an underground who assists runners who are trying to reach a place of safety, known as 'Sanctuary.' The ankh is their symbol. So he can pass as a runner, the velvet-voiced computer advances his lifeclock, to Logan's horror, to flashing. It refuses to answer when he asks if it'll be restored when the mission is over. Logan has basically at this point become a runner, although for some time it's not clear when he begins to reject the tenets of his world, and is not just following the mission.

In his desperation, Logan tracks down Jessica, remembering her ankh necklace. He asks her to take him to Sanctuary - that he's running himself. She's nonbelieving at first. Logan wants to get a face-change, and he and the reluctant Jessica go to a plastic surgeon of this era who is affiliated with the underground. The surgeon's nubile assistant, Holly, is Farrah Fawcett! Trying to kill the man he recognises as a sandman, the surgeon tries to zap him with killer surgical lasers but ends up dead instead, and his surgery blown to pieces. Holly survives though. They then track a female runner amongst a group of violent 'cubs', delinquent teenagers who are exiled to a remote part of the city until they can be trained to be responsible citizens. Logan beats them easily with shots from his gun. Jessica believes Logan more, when he helps the female runner instead of killing her. In the meantime an angry Francis has been following them, and kills the runner unknown to Logan and Jessica. Logan and Jessica meet the ankh organisation who want to kill them, but Holly shows up and convinces them they're for real. Francis and some more sandmen attack and blow a lot of them away, including Holly, but Logan and Jessica escape - not before Logan has taken defensive shots at Francis and alienated him further.

Escaping through floods caused by Francis, Logan and Jessica now find themselves in an icy cavern. They shed their clothes in a titillating little scene and don some furs. Soon they run into Box, a huge silver robot, played by Roscoe Lee Browne. Box is clearly insane, having a former job of processing food for the domed city in a bygone era. When the food deliveries - 'Fish, plankton, seagreens' - ended, Box found a new job. As runners seeking Sanctuary passed through, he froze them. Horrified, Logan and Jessica find dozens of frozed, naked runners embedded into the cavern's walls. As Box lurches towards them, Logan shoots his gun and much of Box's world comes crashing down on them. Logan and Jessica manage to escape continue their journey. As the stunned pair find themselves outside the city, they see a sun they've never seen in their lives, as well as sky, streams, forests, birds, animals and grass. It seems that the world has healed itself a little since mankind encased itself in domes. Planet of the Apes-like, we also see the Washington monument and the statue of Abraham Lincoln, whom Logan surmises is someone who looks 'old'. Logan begins to understand that this outside world is the only 'Sanctuary' in existence. Logan and Jessica take a nice little skinny-dip in a pond. There is a little skin and blood in this film, it is the seventies, after all ...

Soon they meet an eccentric old man (played by character great Peter Ustinov), who lives in the ruins with dozens of cats, and quotes a lot of T.S. Eliot! They're fascinated with touching his hands and face, as they've never known anyone older than thirty. The old fellow shows them images of older men - again more Lincoln - in paintings. He talks about his mother and father, concepts Logan and Jessica have never known, as children in their world seem to be raised by computers alone, although it's never made entirely clear how child-raising happens. Still in pursuit, Francis bursts in on them and holds Jessica at gunpoint. Logan shouts that his lifeclock is clear, which stuns him long enough for Jessica to disarm him. Refusing to cease attacking them, Logan kills him in self-defense with a flagpole, of all things. Seeing Logan's clear, neutralized palm-jewel, Francis' last words are "Logan... you Renewed..!"

Logan decides to return to the domed city to tell his people the truth. Jessica just wants to stay outside the domes so they can lives as 'beloved' husband and wife, ideas they've learned from the old man. Eventually Jessica agrees and they ask the old man to join them. Once outside the domes, the old man waits as Logan and Jessica enter the city. Trying to disrupt another Carousel, they're soon arrested, and brought to the master computer for interrogation. Logan tells the computer the truth - there is no Sanctuary, all the Runners were frozen by Box, there's nothing but ruins and forests outside. We get to see real - new technology back then - holograms of York speaking, little representations of Logan's consciousness forced out of him by the computer. The computer can't handle the truth and explodes, as all its data indicates Sanctuary is real. Logan fires at the surrounding machinery,causing more explosions which blow apart the domes. The people flee, along with Logan and Jessica. Will they find more danger outside, or can we have a happy ending which can still have this old reviewer's eyes misting over, reaching for the handkerchief after all these years?

After quite a few views over the decades, I've truly grown to love Logan's Run.The filmmakers, starting with director Michael Anderson, have lavished much care on the production, and every cent looks like it's on the screen. The extensive sets and special effects, though obviously coming from a different era of cinema, are still charming and have a visual impact. The domes, arcade and 'Box' creations are all marvels of futuristic, silvery-and-mirrored delight. The music's memorably atmospheric, electronic when the scene requires it, horn-based and orchestral in the more majestic situations. There's plenty of action, violence and chases on display, but Logan's Run is a much more human arc than your average laser-'em-up. Englishman Michael York is a sophisticated and handsome action protagonist, his soft, erudite tones a nice contrast to the pursuits, action and fisticuffs. He's a champion of the system at the start, eventually being won over by the forces of life once outside the hermetically-sealed domes. Jenny Agutter is staggeringly beautiful as Jessica. Surely any futuristic hedonist would be happy to settle down to monogamy with Jessica 6! Again, she's a sensitive soul, sad at times and well-matched with York, her beauty augmented by an educated aura of English sophistication. Peter Ustinov's cat-loving old man is 'cute', but he's really just a caricature of an eccentric old chap. Still, he serves an important purpose as a counterpoint to the sanitised life of the dome-dwellers, raised by parents, free to grow grey, shuffling and wrinkled - humanly flawed - and acquits himself well. Richard Jordan as Francis is really just the antithesis to Logan, aggressive, impulsive, delighting in his death-dealing and refusing to see any other way.

It would be nice if Logan's Run was talked about more, and ascended to true classic status. Maybe it's already there in some circles, I think it's got as much to offer as the more obvious, in-your-face Planet of the Apes series of the same era. It's a pity both Michael York and Jenny Agutter didn't do a whole lot more movies as they do help to make this one memorable, along with the production design. If you're in the mood to dive into a lovely-looking sci-fi world with charismatic stars and all the trimmings of a seventies take on the future, I'd urge you to take a run with Logan 5 and Jessica 6.

© Boris Lugosi, 2008.

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Review written: 01/11/2008 22:14:29