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Film Review: Logan’s Run (1976)

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“Logan, a Sandman, is forced to search for Sanctuary – a place to which people have apparently escaped from the sealed city of the future in which he lives. Jessica is caught up along the way and becomes his companion fugitive as they are both pursued by Francis, a fellow Sandman. Sanctuary is not what they expect.” (courtesy IMDB)

Welcome to the Twenty-Third Century – seventies style! Here, beneath massive domes, a sprawling megopolis of glass towers linked by translucent tubes that shuttle bubble-top cars hither and thither, stands as a proud testament to mankind’s magnificence. Life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure. Computers monitor every need, every want. There are Love Shops (futuristic brothels), Relive Booths (favourite memories can be relived) and New-You Boutiques that provide instant cosmetic surgery. The only downside to this Beverly Hills society run amok is that life is terminated at thirty years of age. When the Life Clock (a crystal embedded into the palm of each citizen’s hand at birth) begins blinking red, the poor sod has ten days in which they can seek Life Renewal in the fiery ritual of Carousel.

Unfortunately, Carousel is actually a murderous hoax, so to alleviate the somewhat serious Runner problem, a special squad of hi-tech police called Sandmen are employed. Ruthless, cold, immaculately blow-waved Logan 6 (Michael York) is a Sandman, content with living the privileged life that a footloose, fancy-free cop enjoys, until the central computer accelerates his Life Clock by four years in an attempt to make him locate and destroy a mythical destination sought by Runners named Sanctuary. And to make sure he doesn’t waste any time, the computer sends out some Sandmen to hunt him down. Now, that’s efficiency for you!

Even in the seventies, Logan’s Run (1976) was best enjoyed for its lurid colour scheme and splendidly tacky depiction of the Twenty-Third Century, than for its increasingly daft screenplay which borrows virtually nothing from William F. Nolan‘s excellent novel co-written by George Clayton Johnson (creator of The Waltons television series), the first of a trilogy: Logan’s Run, Logan’s World and Logan’s Search.

But even so, the film’s portrayal of the future – a heady cross between a seventies discotheque and a shopping mall – remains a huge guilty pleasure for those of us who hungrily embraced anything vaguely resembling science fiction before Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) changed the face of genre cinema as we knew it. While the old-school special effects are a deliciously mixed bag (some of which would suggest it was made twenty years before Star Wars, not the year before) there’s still a lot to enjoy.

Michael York isn’t the most appealing lead in the world, but Jenny Agutter is suitably sensuous as the mysterious Jessica, and wild-eyed Richard Jordan is impressively intense (and believably bonkers in his later scenes) as Logan’s friend/nemesis Francis. A pre-Charlies Angels Farrah Fawcett appears briefly (and convincingly) as a dimwitted receptionist at a New-You Boutique, while the director’s son Michael Anderson Junior has fun as a sinister surgeon whose skills with a laser scalpel and instant healing spray would bring Michael Jackson to tears – if he still has tear ducts, that is.

Roscoe Lee Brown, entirely covered in silver foil, is the impressively voiced robot Box, an over-zealous ice sculptor who provides a very average excuse for miss Agutter to get her gear off again – but who’s complaining? “Oh, Jenny!” is all a startled Michael York can mutter on the DVD’s frequently entertaining commentary.

In his later years, composer Jerry Goldsmith‘s soundtracks might have settled into a depressingly formulaic groove, but here he provides the film with an unusually successful fusion of triumphant orchestral bombast and ominously creepy electronic tonalities, perfectly complimenting the film’s often garish visuals.

Logan’s Run won’t win over everybody, but the superior first half – concerned with life within the domed city – is a total romp. Sadly, the latter half – set in a vine covered Washington and featuring an out-of-control Peter Ustinov chewing up scenery – tends to stop the film dead in its tracks. But hey, that’s what DVD chapters are all about! Oh, and keep your finger on the pause button near the very end of Logan’s Run, when old Peter Ustinov is surrounded by young dome-dwellers: A Star Trek Vulcan salute comes up out of the crowd of extras.

While I’m at it, I’d like to make mention of director Michael Anderson, whose science fiction projects rank among the worst adaptations of the genre: Nineteen Eighty Four (1956), Doc Savage (1975), Orca The Killer Whale (1977), Dominique Is Dead (1978), The Martian Chronicles (1980), Millennium (1989) and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (1997). His one real success was Around The World In Eighty Days (1956), but only because Anderson had no real control over Michael Todd’s spectacular production. Director Peter Jackson has been trying to initiate a remake Michael Anderson’s The Dam Busters (1955), not because it’s a great film, but because it’s a great story poorly filmed, and wishes to give the true-life tale some justice.

During the last decade there has been a lot of talk concerning a remake of Logan’s Run. As far back as 2000, director Skip Woods entered negotiations with producer Joel Silver to write and direct the remake. The director planned to make it closer to the novel than the original film, restoring previously-removed elements including Crazy Horse Mountain and Sky Gypsies. In 2004, director Bryan Singer was brought in to develop and direct the remake. Screenwriters Ethan Gross and Paul Todisco were hired to write the script with the director, with the film being slated for a 2005 release. In 2005, screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie was hired to rewrite the script, with filming to take place in Australia.

In August 2007, the project was reinvigorated with Joseph Kosinski hired as the new director and a new script being written by Timothy Sexton. Kosinski had made a presentation to Warner Brothers that illustrated his plan for the film, whose low budget appealed to the studio. Currently, the remake is scheduled for a 2012 release date, and is being directed by Kosinski and produced by Silver Pictures. I’ll leave you with that terrifying thought in mind until I return to sterilise you with fear during another terror-filled excursion to the dark side of Hollywood for…Horror News! Toodles!

Logan’s Run (1976)

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