Logan’s Run (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray Combo (Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment) Running Time: 119 minutes approx.
Another title in Warner Bros’ new Premium Collection line of classic films given an HD makeover for the Blu-ray generation is this 1976 cult sci-fi thriller that just might have been a game changer within the genre had a certain Mr. Lucas not appeared a year later to revolutionise and reinvigorate it with a little film called Star Wars.
Because of the close proximity of their releases, it might be too easy to compare Logan’s Run to Star Wars, especially the visual effects presentation and general aesthetic, but the former possesses a deeper, philosophical story which takes the societal mores of the day and posits them far into the future, in the year 2272 to be exact.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world humanity now lives inside a domed city where work and responsibility no longer exist and living life to the fullest is the only concern. However, there is a caveat – upon reaching the age of 30 they are condemned to a ritual called Carrousel, where they either die or are “renewed”. Anyone attempting to flee the city before then is labelled a Runner and is terminated by the elite security force known as Sandmen.
One pacifistic Sandman is Logan (Michael York) who ponders the mysteries of life while his trigger-happy partner Francis (Richard Jordan) simply follows orders. Logan meets a young woman, Jessica (Jenny Agutter), and is intrigued by her suspicions towards the “renewal” ritual. After killing a runner, Logan is secretly assigned the task of infiltrating an outside world called Sanctuary many potential runners – including Jessica – believe in.
If the premise sounds a little hippyish that is because the original novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson on which it was based was written in 1967, the height of flower power. As such, one can read much of the radical tenets and philosophies of the youth of the time and their rejections of their elders’ values and societies stultifying rules in favour of hedonism in the subtext of the story.
But for this adaptation, screenwriter David Zelag Goodman was forced to take many liberties with the source material – for beginners, in the novel the termination age was 21 and not even Hollywood could find enough younger actors to fulfil the lead roles so they increased the age to 30. Even then, Michael York was 34 and Richard Jordan was 39 at the time!
Director Michael Anderson (of Dam Busters fame), at 56, may have been outside the demographic that would relate to this film’s message, but he is canny enough to tap into the energy and sensibilities of this target audience, reflecting both the socially conscious Peace and Love types and the fun loving experimentalists within this enclosed community.
Perhaps a tacit reference to Nazi Germany or the power of religion, the mindset of most of the inhabitants of the dome is not to question anything, taking the Carrousel ritual on face value. Huge crowds fill an arena and cheer as the condemned are sucked into the air and zapped with a laser, everyone rejoicing this renewal. But as Jessica asks Logan, has anyone actually seen a renewal?
Logan brings this up with Francis who just accepts it as so, his belief being that as one person dies a new person is born. Indeed, at the beginning we meet our eponymous protagonist as he marvels at a newborn baby he calls Logan 6, himself being Logan 5. This numbering systems does cause some confusion as to their ages – Logan later reveals his is 26 while the younger Jessica is a 6.
Each person is also ranked by the Life Clocks, jewels implanted in their hands of differing colours according to their age groups – green for under 20’s, red for over 20’s then blinking red for those in their final days (Jessica is a green making her 19 at the most). The attire is also coordinated with their Life Clocks, except for the Sandmen who wear black.
This inventive uniform system makes for a vivid and vibrant aesthetic inside the dome, if a little narrow in scope, but this is a sign of the times and a drawback of creating an advanced world with limited resources of the period unable to match the human imagination. It must have hurt the producers when they saw Star Wars a year later than to this day has dated one iota in terms of its look.
Being the first film to use laser holography and Dolby Stereo on a 70mm print, it did break some new ground visually and sonically but as mentioned before, would be massively usurped just a year later. Elsewhere wires are clearly visible during the Renewal ritual whilst we can clearly see the lower half of the face of actor Roscoe Lee Browne behind the mask of the robot Box.
In terms of world building, the external shots of the Dome and the model interior structure with their electric car tracks look the part, as does the Sandman control centre but the font of the interrogation centre computer lets it down. A slight spoiler but in the latter half of the film set in the outside world, featuring an appearance from Peter Ustinov, things are ironically at their most credible as a sci-fi film in this natural location.
Despite such shortcomings and glaring continuity errors, what saves the film is the intelligence of the story and the way the message is imparted through the script without the usual ham fisted didactic approach Hollywood is known for. The structure of the journey Logan and Jessica undertake is quite episodic yet pieces together well without contrivance.
After 20 years and many failed attempts it appears a modern day remake of Logan’s Run is finally on the cards but sci-fi fans would do well to check the original first, especially via the new HD transfer. An ambitious curiosity but a worthy one.
English Language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
French, German and Castellano
English HOH Subtitles
French, German, Castellano and Spanish Subtitles
Digital HD Download Copy
Commentary by Michael York, Director Michael Anderson and Costume Designer Bill Thomas
Documentary: A Look Into The 23rd Century
Limited Edition Art Cards
Rating – ****
Man In Black