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Logan’s Run is based on the novel of the same name written by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. From all accounts, the film differs from the novel in significant ways. Having never read the novel (for that matter, never seen it in a library or for sale in a store) I can’t say yea or nay to that one.
It was released in 1976 and was a box office smash by all accounts. It cost $9 million to make and took $50 million in receipts, which by today’s standards is fiddlesticks. It does show its 70′s vintage; the external shots and models of the city are decidedly fake, the hairdos are definitely disco era as are the computer controls.
The movie is set in 2274 AD after the usual cataclysm concerning wars and tribulations. We are introduced to the hedonistic lifestyle of the people who live in a self-contained dome, somewhere near present day Washington DC, from later evidence.
Michael York plays Logan 5, a sandman. A sandman, according to folklore, was a being who sprinkled sand on children, putting them to sleep. Rather ironic then, that Logan’s job is to put people to “sleep” in a most permanent fashion. He is a policeman, employed by Computer (the dome’s central authority) to hunt down runners. A runner is someone who chooses not to be renewed and instead, takes flight.
The pivotal situation with the domed city is that all people have only 30 years to live. This is enforced by a life-clock embedded in the left palms of all newborns (who are bred, not born). A series of colours then indicates one’s status, as does the clothing one wears. When your 30th birthday comes about, the life-clock starts flashing. It is Lastday. The doomed individual makes their way to Carousel, where they are renewed. The population is kept in stasis this way and a harmonious stability is maintained. For each person who dies in Carousel, a newborn takes their place.
Those who buck the system and choose to live beyond 30 are runners and are hunted down. Computer tracks them down by their life-clocks.
So we have utopia of a sort. Naturally, there is no such thing as a perfect society. The fact that some people choose to run rather than be fried in Carousel is indicative of the human survival instinct. Computer tells Logan 5 that 1056 runners have escaped and have not been renewed, which leads to the revelation that people are not renewed at all, just killed outright in order to preserve the status quo.
The bulk of the film is about Logan running. He is aided in this by Jenny Agutter’s character, Jessica 6. Agutter goes through this film with an ingenuous wonder, as if everything and everyone is an astounding event. It’s amusing at times to watch her open-mouthed oh-my-god attitude. Logan meets her on the Circuit, a system whereby people can find other people for sex. A type of home delivery.
They escape the city eventually after going through a plastic surgery, and a bizarre sex-oriented disco that seems to slow down reality for the denizens. In hot pursuit is Francis 7, played by the late Richard Jordan. Francis 7 is another Sandman and Logan’s best friend. Francis refuses to believe in any alternative to the halcyon life they live and pursues them relentlessly. Jordan is quite good. He has a mean and ruthless streak about him which suits his avocation well.
The production design is very good. The interiors are convincing, the costumes accurately reflect the carefree existence the people have. It looks like a future city, if only a bit too polished and clean in places. The film used ground-breaking holographic technology, for Logan’s interrogation scene toward the end of the film. The film screams “I am science fiction!”.
The film got decidedly mixed reviews on release. Critics praised the technical aspects of the film but heaped scorn on the human ones. I can see why. For starters, Agutter’s acting is strictly from the wide-eyed bewildered school.
The small part that the late Farrah Fawcett plays is a waste. She is depicted as a totally clueless blonde (which she wasn’t) and a living definition of a Texas Ditz. Peter Ustinov isn’t given much to do except mumble here and there. You can tell he didn’t think much of what he was participating in.
The movie is full of plot holes. Logan is able to short circuit Computer and blow the city up merely by presenting it with facts (Cognitive dissonance). The ritual of Carousel is an event that should attract a metaphysical or religious explanation and creed. It doesn’t. It seems to be taken at face value by the inhabitants. The cycle of death and rebirth is not a new idea obviously. The world outside looks to be abandoned rather than destroyed.
The society inside the dome obviously thrives on sybaritic sex. It isn’t mentioned, but there’s an implication that some sort of sterility or contraception exists, otherwise nearly every post-pubescent female in that society would find herself pregnant. With this in mind, how would the society perpetuate once they’ve fled the dome?
If they’re born sterile or been operated on to make them such, then they’re doomed. It could be, of course, that the women are fed some sort of addictive contraceptive, like Zap210 was fed diko in Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure series.
Logan alleges that the city is powered by ocean tides. I find that a little hard to believe. The power mechanism does exist in reality and is in use today but I doubt the one in the film would be anywhere near sufficient to power the needs of the dome city. The life-clock system is fragile as well. It should be common knowledge to people that they are traceable with one. Wouldn’t there be some sort of underground industry devoted to removing them, or at least circumventing one? Seems to be common sense to me. People being people, and all that.
The majority of the film was made in and around Dallas-Fort Worth. In fact, the water gardens pictured at the end of the film is a real place. Sadly, four members of a family drowned there in mid 2004.
The commentary in the film rates a worthy mention. Michael York, Michael Anderson (director) and the set/costume designer all chip in with insights into the making of the film. One comment York makes is about the swimming scene after he and Agutter leave the Dome. He likens the scene to parallel real-life events during filming where they’d left the hot confines of the studio and were free in the open air. Plus, he said, there was the buzz of going swimming with his naked 17 year old co-star.
I’m not sure why he called Agutter a 17 year old though, as the biographical information I’ve seen about her posits her date of birth as 1952, which would’ve made her 24 or 25 at the time this film was made.