Logan’s Run (1976)

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This is perhaps out of the ISCFC’s wheelhouse (relatively large budget, mainstream-ish) but its age gives us something to talk about. Are you like me, and have never seen this sci-fi classic before? Well, obviously, I’ve watched it now, but yesterday was my first time.

 

Time is a strange thing. “Logan’s Run” was released the year before “Star Wars”, and three years before “Alien”. Yet an enormous gulf separates them, and this movie feels like a movie of the past, while the other two feel much more like movies of the present. Okay, the split isn’t perfect – for example, in 1980 we got “Flash Gordon” (with a look roughly similar in places to this, but which felt far more like a parody of those 1940s serials) and “Saturn 3”, but even they look more modern than “Logan’s Run”.

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For those of you who’ve spent some time under a rock, the gist of “Logan’s Run” is that by the year 2270 (or thereabouts) humanity has decided on a better way of organising itself. All our desires are granted, we want for nothing – but there’s a crystal implanted into our palms at “birth” – no gross actual pregnancies – that is designed to kill us when we hit age 30- going from green to red to flashing red to dead. One dies, one is born, so we maintain a nice even population, and to add to the whole “all your vices are catered to” thing, there’s “Carrousel”, and it’s an oddity which caused quite the discussion.

 

The Carrousel is a big circle with a crystal in the middle of it, and seemingly every night a different group of people who are right up at the age limit stand around it, then a weird light pops up and they all start floating into the air, where they’re all apparently vapourised. This bit is super-confusing, because they talk about “Renewal”, where someone has a small chance of literally having their life renewed. Now, due to a conversation Logan 5 (Michael York, our hero) and Francis 7 (his partner) have, I thought it was a case of having your life-crystal reset so you could have more years; my friend Dave just thought it meant you were reborn as a new baby (Wikipedia agrees with him, annoyingly). Logan asks Francis “have you ever met anyone who’s been Renewed?” but his non-committal reply indicates me to it’s either unimportant or incredibly rare, and if it was just going into a newborn, surely it would be incredibly commonplace? Or, as they mention the “risk” of Carrousel, wouldn’t someone who’d been successfully renewed be quite famous? It’s very badly laid out, I think, and the big reveal of the system isn’t that much of a surprise when it comes.

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Some people don’t fancy their non-chances of Renewal so become runners, and it’s the job of Sandmen to hunt them down; that’s where Logan and Francis come in. Logan is asked to go undercover to find “Sanctuary”, where a number of runners have apparently made it to successfully, and for that they need to run his clock down to the blinking red light, so he’s plausibly a runner. He meets like-minded woman Jenny Agutter and almost immediately becomes disillusioned with his assignment and decides to run for real.

 

The city is full of bright lights and plastic tunnels and ugly rotating statues and could not look any more a product of the mid 70s if it tried. As Logan runs, he meets the worst robot perhaps in the history of motion pictures; meets Peter Ustinov, the sole remaining “natural” human being; then goes back to the City and demonstrates the power of one person’s mind – something that dates it even more than the décor, as if they remade “Logan’s Run” now that ending would be very different. Oh, also, no black people whatsoever. Not a single one.

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I’ve perhaps given the wrong impression of this film, portraying it as a mess of campy acting, horribly dated design and bizarre plot holes, with the classic  “women get naked, men keep their trousers on” dichotomy (even if it is a very early film with a non-negative view of homosexuality). Although it definitely has those elements, there’s a reason it’s remained beloved down the years. It has an interesting idea at its centre (even if it’s heavily lifted from Arthur C Clarke’s “The City And The Stars”), a couple of decent performances, and the way the humans react to certain situations is clever, with some obvious thought going into it. I just wish they’d put a bit more thought into everything else! Or at least that damn robot!

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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