Director: Michael Anderson
Writers: David Zelag Goodman (screenplay); William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (novel “Logan’s Run”)
Starring: Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Brown, Farrah Fawcett, Peter Ustinov
Release Date: June 23, 1976
Runtime: 1 hr. 59 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG
There’s a soft spot somewhere in my heart for the subtly bad and unapologetic science fiction films of the 1970s, and Logan’s Run has it’s own place of honor therein. Viewing it again for the first time in several years had me revisiting my youth – the question is: how well does it age? Click through for my full review.
The world as envisioned in 2274 is one of utopic bliss. Everyone is happy, healthy, perfect…and young. When people reach 30 years old, they enter Carousel, a festive occasion that sees them levitated in the air and “Renewed.” This is believed by the populace at large to mean they return again as new versions of themselves, but it is simply a euphemism for death – as they float above the cheering masses, they’re hit by high-powered lasers, their bodies exploding in a shower of 70s-era special effects sparks.
The story follows a Sandman, Logan 5 [Michael York], whose job it is is to stop those citizens who don’t want to enter Carousel, “Runners,” from escaping their fate. His partner, Francis 7 [Richard Jordan], and he take an almost gleeful approach to their job, laughing maniacally as they cut down unarmed civilians just trying to eek out one more day of life. Seeking release after an energetic kill, Logan tries to find a sexual partner using the “circuit,” a kind of Tinder meets teleporter system. He finds Jessica 6 [Jenny Agutter] and tries to have sex with her, but she’s resistant, largely because he’s a Sandman.
She’s wearing an ankh, a symbol Logan found on his most recent kill. When the computer that runs the city recognizes that this is associated with the resistance, it sends Logan on a mission to find Sanctuary, a mythical land to which successful runners go.
The remainder of the movie is part chase, part discovery, with some interesting stopping points along the way, and an encounter with the Old Man, played as a crazy cat-man with cackling glee by Sir Peter Ustinov. The second act takes some obvious pointers from 1968’s Planet of the Apes, complete with beach scenes and ruins from an ancient, forgotten past, while the third act takes some shortcuts, anticipating somewhat the climactic scene in 1983’s Wargames. Overall, however, the movie does a fair job with what appears to be a rather limited special effects budget.
So my take? Okay, this movie is pretty bad. I loved it when I was young – I think I was all of about eight when I first saw it – but it just hasn’t aged that well. This has little to do with the 1970s era special effects, which are largely made up of blinking lights and sparkling explosions. Rather, it is the ridiculous and overwrought dialogue, combined with sub-par audio editing that, at times, leaves the actors speaking in echo chambers, nearly impossible to hear. But that isn’t the weakest part of the movie – that would be the acting.
Granted, Michael York was never the strongest actor, perhaps reaching his zenith as Tybalt in Zeffirelli’s masterful Romeo and Juliet (1968) (note that Tybalt is a relatively minor character, a role more suited to York’s talents), and Jenny Agutter, while stoking the dreams of a certain young man (or many young men) growing up in the 70s and 80s, wasn’t at her best here, their co-stars in Richard Jordan and, especially, Peter Ustinov, did have their share of good roles over the years. However, Goodman’s script, based only loosely on the novel by Nolan and Johnson (it doesn’t share much with the novel save for a basic premise), does not elevate itself above contemporaneous flicks such as Omega Man and Damnation Alley. Good fun for what it is, but not much more than that.
Steve’s Grade: C-
It stays out of the D range due to my nostalgia, but really, this isn’t a movie you’re going to want to watch unless you’re a big fan of 1970s cheese, or want to get a sense for where cinematic science fiction was pre-Star Wars.