Confessional Review: "Logan's Run" (1976)
I don’t know about you, but as I age I try to broaden my horizons on many levels: trying new foods, exploring new places, stepping out of my comfort zone…HA HA HA!!! Who the hell am I trying to fool? I don’t do any of those things- for an open-minded cat, I’m pretty damn set in my ways.
One place, however, that I do love to try new things is with what I watch. It’s in that spirit (and partially in the spirit of confession) that I bring to you a new kind of movie review, the Confessional Review.
Let’s face it, we all have a (long) list of movies that we haven’t seen that seemingly everyone else has. Whether you missed it because you heard it sucked or because you didn’t think it would be up your alley is irrelevant. The simple fact is that there’s only so much time for movies (even for a critic), and not everything is going to make the cut. Me being a bit of a renaissance man, I’m going to focus on the older stuff. On the docket this week? The seminal, Oscar-winning 1976 science fiction classic Logan’s Run.
The year is 2274, and mankind lives in gorgeously appointed domed cities in the lap of luxury and high technology. The wars of old, overpopulation, and pollution have rendered the world outside their paradise obsolete. Life is all about absolute pleasure. You can contact The Circuit and find a ready to go fuck buddy (predating Tinder by about four decades there). There are orgiastic sex clubs. Everyone is young and beautiful, living in high-tech structures and riding high tech servo trains. There’s a catch, though- no one lives past the age of 30!
Logan (Michael York; the Austin Powers series) is a Sandman. His job is to catch “runners”, those who attempt to flee the city and escape to the mythical Sanctuary to avoid imminent death. He and his partner/best friend, Francis (Richard Jordan; Dune) love their work and the fame it affords them. Those who don’t run willingly partake of a ceremony called The Carrousel, a ritual mass murder that takes place in a public arena. Those who go the highest and last the longest are told that they are “renewed” and reborn (hence the numbers after everyone’s name). When Logan attempts to hook up with a young woman named Jessica (Jenny Agutter; An American Werewolf in London) through The Circuit, he falls hard for her and becomes entwined in espionage that ultimately leads him outside the city on a journey of discovery that will change everything for everyone.
I instantly fell in love with the set design, art, and color palette of this movie (which is, not coincidentally, what it won at the Oscars for). The VFX are patently awful by today’s standards, but in the time before Star Wars came along and changed the game they were top of the line and Logan’s Run had a pretty big budget by the standards of the mid-1970’s ($9 million). The overall look is classic Star Trek on steroids. Every citizen wears a certain color (red, green, yellow) based on their age and proximity to their last day. This color is echoed in the jewel every citizen has on their palm. Red is the last stage, and when that little beauty starts blinking you know it’s time to either pay the piper or haul ass.
The plot isn’t earth-shatteringly original for dystopian sci-fi, but it’s a tried and true concept that instantly invests you in these folks. The characters are given layers to work with, and the chemistry between the big three is stellar. Jenny Agutter is at peak physical perfection, and you will fall more than a bit in love yourself. It’s also trippy to see a young Basil Exposition long before he thought of teaming up with Austin Powers. It’s admittedly pretty groovy shit. And how about that tagline on the poster: “Welcome to the 23rd century. The perfect world of total pleasure.”
There are a number of striking scenes that stay with you thanks to strong visuals and excellent musical score. The ice cave scene with the robot, Box (Roscoe Lee Browne; The Cowboys), is legit nightmare fuel and disturbed me on a level I’m not ready to process yet. The Carrousel ceremony is alternately silly and fucked up, replete with LSD color play. The appearance of Holly (a.k.a. the World’s Most Beautiful Human a.k.a. Farrah Fawcett) in the doctor’s office steals your breath before going full on horror show. The film truly hits high gear when the pair emerge outside of the city in a completely overgrown Washington, D.C. It’s gorgeous work done without the benefit of the computer wizardry of today. Simply put, this movie deserved those awards.
There’s also plenty being said about how easily led we are as a species. The dangers of authoritarian rule and religious dogma are simply painted over with a glittering facade, and everyone stands back and applauds. They believe in The Carrousel and the concept of Renewal simply because they are told! No one questions a damn thing. It’s more than a bit relevant in modern times. Chilling, even. For God’s sake, there’s not even a leader shown…there doesn’t need to be.
By the time they meet The Old Man (Peter Ustinov; Spartacus) they are in love with each other and their ability to make their own choices. They have emerged into Old America and discovered FREEDOM OF CHOICE!! It’s not subtle, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t have a bit of a tear in my eye. Their understanding of the terms “beloved husband” and “beloved wife” is touching in a simple and profound way.
I don’t know how I would have reacted to this movie had I seen it when I was a kid (in much the same way Soylent Green didn’t tickle my pickle when I was 10). My brain is so geared towards horror and violence that I feel like I was meant to see this for the first time as someone who’s more than a few years past his own “last day”.
4.5 out of 5.0 stars.