This is one of those films that my generation remembers very fondly from teenage viewing… solid sci-fi scenario, dystopian glamour, futuristic gadgetry, a space-age city and Jenny Agutter wild-swimming yet again. It’s part of the same strain of edgy speculative fiction as Planet of the Apes with traces of the more optimistic Star Trek and Space 1999. The future’s not what it used to be and does this film survive the tests of time as well as, say 2001 or Solaris (the first one)?
|In the City|
The story was based on the novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (who also wrote for Star Trek…) and it’s interesting to compare with how well the contemporaneous tales of Philip K Dick have endured as sources for modern films from Blade Runner onwards – the ideas don’t date but visual interpretations inevitably do. Nolan and Johnson’s contention was that the Earth would over-populate and run out of resources and in Logan’s world, the governing computer intelligence ensures that human life must be extinguished at 30 in order for the species to continue based on available resources. Birth and death are strictly controlled with humanity little more than deluded and over-indulged prisoners…. Plus ca change eh?
|Richard Jordan and Michael York|
Michael York plays Logan 5 who is a sandman, one of the policemen who help regulate life in the city. His job is to prevent “runners” escaping their death-date and it’s a role he relishes; toying with the desperate escapees along with his best mate Francis 7 (a high-intensity Richard Jordan). Their unquestioning slaughter reflects a society divorced from moral free will – everything is accepted and whilst no one grows old they seem to be stuck in childhood.
|I have what he's having etc...|
But, not everyone… Logan finds an Ankh on the body of one runner and is finds another being worn by one Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter) who gets teleported into his room as part of some kind of dial-a-date home shopping service with a difference… Before he can get to unwrap his present she has second thoughts – is it because he’s a sandman and is far too curious about the symbol?
He seeks answers from the central computer which identifies the symbol and its connection to an underground movement attempting to help 30-somethings escape the city to a place called Sanctuary. As Logan sits wide-eyed the system tells him he must find Sanctuary and pretend to be a runner. .. he has no choice especially once his life crystal is run down moving him from 26 to 30…
He seeks out Jessica and after convincing her that he’s serious about running gets put in touch with the group, who immediately plan to kill him. Escaping beyond the City to – oddly familiar - labyrinthine tunnels (multiple seventies sci-fi escape routes…) they are confronted by a group of feral children… the truth is indeed out there. Logan lets a runner continue her escape to Sanctuary but Francis has followed and kills her…
|The kids are not alright|
As the couple run deeper the temperature changes and they arrive sodden after a close encounter with Francis in an icy cave where they meet a strange robot, Box (Roscoe Lee Browne) who seems very eager to help them. Box is a congenial robot but he hides a most disturbing secret as Logan and Jessica discover wandering down a corridor containing the frozen bodies of dozens of runners. Another example of technology gone bad: a zoo-keeping mechanoid who ends up putting his intended customers on ice…
|Jenny in the water, again|
|York, Agutter and Peter Ustinov|
|Logan 5 Francis 7?|
Dusty verdict: Logan’s Run remains an enjoyable watch and has some excellent sequences and a compelling central premise. Some of the parts are less than the sum of the whole with the strange Box episode undermined by unconvincing ice and robots and the Seventies curse of overly colourful future-scapes – we’re not all bright primary flashes but shades of grey… and we don’t all live in Texas shopping malls.
That said, director Michael Anderson moves things along at pace, there’s superb cinematography from Ernest Laszlo and the city models work well.
|Soul: Jenny Agutter|
Jenny Agutter runs and swims very well and makes the most of the few moments when a genuine human connection is required; she’s under-used in what is essentially a masculine film and a solo battle between Michael York’s Logan and the city computer. Farrah seems more at home in this world of short skirts and big hair but Jenny gives the film a key part of what soul it possesses.
Ultimately Logan’s Run is comfort viewing that is not quiet as haunting as it could be... submerging its key questions beneath the techno-flash of its visuals, reducing things down to the chase albeit a very entertaining one enlivened by Jerry Goldsmith’s super score.