Monday, February 27, 2017

Logan's Run: What Lies Beyond the Dome

In the distant future, civilization's survivors live inside a huge dome controlled by a computer. When the city's inhabitants reach the age of 30, they are "renewed" by participating in a ritual called the Carousel. Dressed in white robes and masks, they are literally lifted off the ground and disappear in a flash of bright light as the younger residents cheer their approval.

As you may have guessed, "renewal" is actually death and the implication is that the computer has implemented this process to avoid overpopulation. Most of the residents live in blissful ignorance, but there are those that seek to escape to a place known only as Sanctuary. These "runners" are tracked down and eliminated by a police force known as the Sand Men.

Michael York as Logan 5.
The computer directs a Sand Man called Logan 5 to locate and destroy Sanctuary by becoming a runner. Logan (Michael York), a naturally curious young man, enlists the aid of Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter). The two share a mutual attraction, though Jessica can't fathom how Logan can kill his fellow humans. Still, she helps him escape from the dome into the outside world. Unknown to them,  Francis 7--a fellow Sand Man and Logan's best friend--is in hot pursuit.

The first half of Logan's Run is an absorbing portrait of a futuristic society. We learn that the young people have a "life clock" embedded in their hands that changes color as they approach the age of renewal. Except for the Sand Men, the dome's inhabitants don't appear to work. They party at night, whether at a risque nightclub or by tapping into a virtual database to see who is interested in casual sex. Most of them wear red and green pastel uniforms (again, except for the Sand Men who wear black and gray). And, of course the highlight of their existence is the Carousel.

Jessica and Logan outside the dome.
The film takes a hard turn when it leaves all that behind to focus on Logan and Jessica's odyssey outside the dome. There are some interesting Ozian overtones, such as the realization of what "home" is. However, there are simply too many scenes of Logan and Jessica wandering through the forests or among the ruins of the past. Peter Ustinov pops up unexpectedly along the journey to lend some meaning to the proceedings and Francis (Richard Jordan) finally catches up with his quarries. However, by then, Logan's Run has lost all momentum and can't recapture it with an overly optimistic ending.

The Capitol building in the future.
Logan's Run earned Academy Award nominations for its cinematography, art direction, and special effects. It only won in the latter category, but that was notable in that it was the fourth Oscar for L.B. Abbott, 20th Century-Fox's long-time resident special effects wizard. In addition to working his magic for films such as The Poseidon Adventure and Fantastic Voyage, he also supervised the special effects on television classics like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space. His work on Logan's Run is a mixed bag, though, with some of the miniature sets looking like...well, miniature sets.

Logan's Run performed well at the boxoffice and inspired a short-lived 1977-78 TV series with Gregory Harrison as Logan and Heather Menzies-Urich as Jessica. The film's success also resulted in renewed interest in the 1967 novel. Co-author William F. Nolan even wrote a 1977 sequel called Logan's World.

By the way, Logan's Run is also notable for featuring a brief fight between the stars of Call the Midwife and Charlie's Angels. Yes, that'd be Jenny Agutter and Farrah Fawcett. Apparently, their fight scene got intense enough for director Michael Anderson to shorten it to prevent unwarranted hair pulling.

5 comments:

  1. Rick, I like the movie, as well. But I agree with you that it has its flaws, particularly in the second half. I enjoyed the performance by Richard Jordan as Francis. He was also great in "The Yakuza." We lost him far too soon. By the way, there was also a third novel by Nolan, Logan's Search, and various comic book adaptations of the film. The movie has long been rumored to be in the works for a remake, but nothing solid has happened yet.

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  2. "Logan's Run" is one of the few sci-fi novels I've read, and I thought it was terrific. I'd forgotten there was a movie until I read your review. It doesn't sound like a perfect film (whatever that is), but I'll be it's still worth it. Thanks!

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  3. This a good classic sci-fi movie. With out CGI in that time the movie turn out to be good.
    Watch Logan's Run

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  4. I always enjoy seeing sci-fi films profiled at the Cafe. Well done, Rick!

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  5. Despite the fact that neither of us saw it until adulthood, my sister and I both have a fondness for Logan's Run. In fact, on her wedding day, I even heard my sister describe it to her sister-in-law as one of our favorite movies. It's one of my favorite sci-fi movies anyway; I'd go so far as to call it a classic of the genre. It's not that I think it's a perfect film- it's pretty goofy in a lot of ways, but the kitsch factor is a big part of the reason that I love it. When you consider that Star Wars came out just a year later, perhaps it doesn't compare so favorably. Even 2001, which came out a decade earlier, has held up way better; 2001 is not nearly as dated-looking. Logan's Run is a fun movie, though. It's bright and colorful and has cool sets and costumes and some neat sci-fi ideas. Also, I get a kick out of Peter Ustinov's performance. In a circumstance like this, I always think of Richard Roeper's defense of The Brothers Grimm: "It's a mess, but it's a glorious mess."

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