October 15, 2013

Movie Review: Logan’s Run (1976)

“Life clocks are a lie! Carousel is a lie! THERE IS NO RENEWAL!” – Logan 5 (Michael York)

Director: Michael Anderson

Writers: William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (novel), David Z. Goodman (screenplay)

Producer: Saul David

Studio: MGM

Major Stars: Michael York, Richard Jordan, Peter Ustinov, Jennifer Agutter

Memory is a cruel thing, sometimes. Especially when something you loved is revealed to be less than what you thought it was. Such is the realization I had while watching Logan’s Run again. I loved this film when I caught it on television during the 80s. But now? It’s not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but it isn’t the tour de force I once considered it, either.

The story is very “70s science-fiction” – a dystopian future where people are living in a domed city underground. Their every whim is provided for, but there is a catch. They wear Lifeclock crystals in the palm of their hand. When it starts blinking Red (10 days before they turn 30), the resident must decide to take part in the ritual of Carousel, which involved dressing in a costume and floating up to the ceiling in a chamber where you are instantly cremated. Of course, this is seen as a great and wondrous day by most of the people because they believe it is possible to survive Carousel and become Renewed.

But if you don’t to go to Carousel and you run, then the Sandmen come for you. That is where we meet the title character, Logan 5 (York) and his partner Francis (Jordan). They are Sandmen. After killing a Runner and discovering an ankh, Logan is summoned before the computer that controls the city (Of course he is. What 70s dystopian sci-fi film doesn’t have a computer calling all the shots?). The computer sets Logan on a mission to find a place called Sanctuary, a hidden location where Runners can live safely from the computer and the Sandmen. And to make it easier for him to do his job, the computer advances his Lifeclock to blinking red.

You see where this is going. As Logan searches for Sanctuary, he not only discovers that Renewal is a scam but becomes sympathetic to the Runners themselves. With the help of a woman named Jessica (Agutter), who helps Runners escape, the two look for Sanctuary while pursued by Francis. They eventually escape the city and make it to the surface, where we find out that…well, let’s just say our civilization is long-gone but people aren’t. And when that is reported to the computer by Logan, it has issues computing the information.

It’s not a bad story by any means. But I wonder if part of my mild disappointment has to do with the subject matter. Over-population was a huge topic in the 70s. Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb was a best-selling book that foretold of massive global upheaval as a result of over-population. Of course, none of what he said came to pass. Hell, I can drive 30 minutes north of my home in coastal Maine and be surrounded by nothing but woods. So over-population, even one driven by post-apocalyptic necessity to live underground, doesn’t carry the same punch by itself anymore.

As for the special effects…heck, it won an Oscar for Special Effects. But the effects are horribly dated when you watch in nowadays and it affects how you enjoy the film. As opposed to, say, Metropolis, which is a silent black-and-white film from the 1920s and is as incredible today as it was the first time I saw it. When the people are consumed by fire at the top of Carousel it looks like some overlaid fake explosion you would see some high-school kid do in his first movie on his mom’s video camera.

The acting is solid, if not spectacular, all the way around. I personally feel that Richard Jordan as Francis steals the screen from Michael York whenever they have a scene together. It’s not necessarily a good thing when your lead actor is upstaged like that. Then again, you are talking about the future Duncan Idaho here so it’s not that surprising.

I feel like I am dumping on Logan’s Run here and I don’t want to do that. It’s not a bad film. It’s still fun to watch and it is better than a lot of the sci-fi crap that gets churned out these days. I’d watch this a hundred times over before I let my eyes even glimpse a frame of AvP: Requiem.

But when you hold it up to even the other sci-fi films of that era (Rollerball, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind among others) it is most decidedly a bottom-third film in the “Top 100” list. That becomes even more obvious when you compare it to something like Children of Men or Alphaville.

But being a runner-up to films of that quality isn’t a bad place to be in the scheme of things. Logan’s Run is a good way to kill a lazy afternoon and should definitely be a part of any sci-fi collection. Just don’t go into it thinking you are going to see a revolutionary film.


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