The Scoop: 1976 PG, directed by Michael Anderson and starring Michael York, Richard Jordan, and Jenny Agutter
Tagline: Welcome to the 23rd Century: A perfect world of total pleasure, With just one catch…
Summary Capsule: Seventies utopias-never-work movie about a society in which everybody can do whatever they want, provided whatever they want is to die at thirty.
Shalen’s Rating: Three out of five frozen naked persons. What a décor scheme.
Shalen’s Review: Far in the future, the world will be a very different place. Perhaps it will be a grim yet wickedly cool place, featuring tight leather clothing and no ugly people. Perhaps it will be an oppressive place where all emotion is forbidden. Perhaps it will be a hypermonitored Big Brother Is Watching You Shop At Gap background in which people simply disappear and no one knows why. Perhaps I’m not really typing this, because I’m actually inside a computer program myself.
But these are all fairly recent takes. Back in the seventies they thought the far future would involve draped pastel clothing, lots of ferns, and one or more bizarre notions about human reproduction. I doubt most of you have seen Zardoz1, but it epitomizes this kind of thinking, with geodesics and mirrors and shrink-wrapped plants all over the place. Naked people stuck inside glasslike things are also a recurring motif between that movie and Logan’s Run. Now, two movies does not make a trend, but I suspect if I get hold of some other 70’s sci fi I will find things in common with both. For that matter, Barbarella had its share of candy colors, immobilized people, and failed utopia, but that was a 60’s movie, and it was campy on purpose.2
Not so Logan’s Run. For all its optimistic colors and spiffy geometrics, this is in many ways a grim film. The future is all clean and pretty in its (of course) geodesic dome. Everyone has all the drugs and sex they want, and nobody has to worry about spousal commitment or child-rearing. Kids are conceived in tubes and raised by robots up until 16. The catch3 is that everyone has to die at 30. Everyone has a little palm jewel that glows the color matched to their life cycle stage (see full explanation below) and everyone has to dress in a color that matches that, and when they hit black, they have two choices. They can engage in Carousel, in which they climb into a big antigravity turning machine and are zapped to death by a laser. Supposedly the Carousel offers a chance of Renewal, but nobody even bothers to explain what that is. Or, if that doesn’t appeal, they can try to run away.
That’s where our protagonist, Logan 5, comes in. Logan is a Sandman. Sandmen track down and “terminate” the runners, because nobody in any future world anywhere is ever “killed.” They’re always “terminated” or “eliminated” or “nullified,” like programs in a computer. These terms came into vogue when computers were much simpler. If they were being invented now, we’d hear conversations like this:
- Future person 1: What happened to Instar 2?
- Future person2: He was blue-screened.
- FP1: No! Really?
- FP2: That’s right. Complete fatal error.
- FP1: Jeez. You never know when somebody’s going to hack you right out of this registry.
The Sandmen who go around crashing runners to desktop are the only ones in this entirely enclosed world who dress in black. “Ah hah,” you’re thinking. “Sleek, cool black, right? Like in every other noirish sf movie?” Ha. My friend, this is a seventies movie. The black uniforms have a big quilted silver patch across the chest, and they appear to be made of felt. Logan also has a black African-style caftan with silver trim for when he’s relaxing at home. Tres chic.
Of course, this situation can’t continue indefinitely, or the movie would have no plot. So Logan is summoned to talk to the Big Scary Computer, which docks him four years and sends him off to infiltrate a supposed resistance movement that helps runners escape to a place called Sanctuary. Logan, of course, runs, and the rest of movie is his journey with the demurely useless Jessica 6 to a place far from all that he knows. He then returns with Jessica and an old man, the only one he’s ever seen, to try and convince others to follow him out into the world outside.
He gets caught. This was the point where I expected him to make a grand speech and die nobly, or at least have to watch Jessica die. But again, this isn’t noir. The computer apparently isn’t so good at operating thumbscrews, so it interrogates him by the Floating Rainbow Head method. It turns out the computer’s not so good at this, either; the contradictory information he gives it about Sanctuary causes it to break down, destroying the entire system and also setting the domed city on fire. I’m not sure why it catches fire. Perhaps it’s associated with the tendency of movie cars to blow up in even the smallest fender benders. I won’t give away the rest of the ending, but it can probably be guessed at.
This is a very dated movie. Partly it’s the look, partly it’s the Kodachrome vision of the future that has long been abandoned in favor of plain old chrome. Don’t go into it expecting something universal, and don’t expect a vision so exact in detail that it can only be chronologically pinpointed by the hairstyles. You might be amused by the occasional unintentionally campy moment, and that also tends to detract from this movie as Serious Filme. It was nominated for some Oscars. I’m not sure for what. The acting isn’t bad, and the special effects budget was good for that time, with lots of flashy blinky lights. Maybe that was it.
I was a little disappointed in Logan’s Run. I’d heard it talked up as a classic for the ages, so I think I went in expecting too much. It’s really just another man-runs-from-omnipotent-Big-Brother movie from back when this plot was somewhat newer than today.4 I wouldn’t say it’s not worth seeing. I wouldn’t pay money to see it again, either. I’d say wait ’til it’s on cable or you’ve got a dead spot in your Netflix queue.
Be sure to bring a friend, so they can help you giggle at lines like “You’re beautiful. Let’s have sex.”
- Ever wanted to see Sean Connery in red leather thigh boots, ladies? The mustache sort of spoiled it for me.
- Unfortunately, neither Zardoz nor Logan’s Run has a man trapped inside a hookah while a group of women smoke him.
- Of COURSE there’s a catch.
- Still not all that new. Remember North by Northwest and The Man Who Knew Too Much?
- The life clocks on everyone’s hands all start out clear (at birth), turn yellow at age 8, green at 16, and red at 23. Everyone wears clothes the same color as their life clocks (except Sandmen, who wear black uniforms). As Lastday – age 30 – approaches, the life clocks flash red and black, then, at 30 turn totally black.
- The costumes were going to be scantier, but they couldn’t afford the makeup. Unintentional modesty – how droll.
- Actors Michael York (Logan), Richard Jordan (Francis) and Michael Anderson Jr. (Doc) were all over 30 when they made the film. (Not that it’s really hard to tell.)
- The “Love Shop” sequence originally ran much longer, but had to be cut down under pressure from the MGM censors. Other cut scenes include Box making a nude ice sculpture of Logan and Jessica, and several characters visiting the “Hallucimill” shop in Arcade (the latter was cut for its depiction of drug use). All of the additional footage and its background music score were subsequently lost in what is now known as “the great MGM purge”, when studio owner Kirk Kerkorian sold off what he could of the studio’s extensive archives and simply threw out the rest.
- Nightclubs are different in the future. What I want to know is, do they just leave home naked, or are they stashing their clothes in lockers somewhere? Since everybody wears the same clothes, how do they tell them apart? Name tags?
- After Jessica gets her stolen bracelet back, she puts it on her wrist and it is never again seen in the movie. This is acknowledged on the director’s commentary.
- You can see the real lips and teeth of the actor who plays Box inside his costume’s mouth when he talks.
- IMDB says you can see strings on the people in the Carousel, but I was looking and I couldn’t see them.
- The Farrah hair on the plastic surgeon’s assistant? That’s because it IS Farrah Fawcett. She’s in the credits.
- The new take on dial-a-date. Also the way Logan laughs when the first one he draws is a man. You know, I do have to wonder about him and Francis.
- One of the extras gives the Vulcan live-long-and-prosper salute when waving to the old man after everyone escapes the exploding city.
- The people in the ice are real people, not mannequins. They had to be able to stand absolutely still for several minutes at a time.
- So those “delinquent” kids that were locked behind stone doors… Did they burn to death or starve to death or what? Nobody went to turn them loose when everyone was escaping.
Logan 5: Run, runner!
P.A. System: Last day. Capricorn 15’s. Year of the city – 2274. Carousel begins.
Logan 5: Killed? Why do you use that word?
Jessica 6: Isn’t that what you do? Kill?
Logan 5: I’ve never killed anyone in my life. Sandmen terminate runners.
Box: Fish, and plankton. And sea greens, and protein from the sea. It’s all here, ready. Fresh as harvest day. Fish and sea greens, plankton and protein from the sea. And then it stopped coming. And they came instead. So I store them here. I’m ready. And you’re ready. It’s my job. To freeze you. Protein, plankton…
Logan 5: You’re sad enough. You’re beautiful. Let’s have sex.
Francis 7 (watching Logan’s son in the nursery): Do you know who his seed mother was?
Logan 5: Of course not. I’m curious. I’m not sick.
Logan 5: I’m Logan 5, and this is Jessica 6.
Old Man: I never did like my name much, even when I could remember it.
Jessica 6: How old are you?
Old Man: Well, I’m as old as I am, I guess.
Logan 5: That sweet madman!
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Battle Beyond The Stars