Logan’s Run, 36 years later
I must’ve been 12 when I saw Logan’s Run for the first time, in a theatre in Winnipeg; it may even have been my birthday. Besides being a glorious slice-of-’70s sci-fi cheese (though I didn’t know it at the time), the 1976 movie jump-started my adolescence.
Movie trailer – Logan’s Run (1976)
Logan’s Run (1976 version; a remake is rumoured to be in the works, although that’s been said for the last 10 years) starred Michael York as Logan, a Sandman suddenly forced to decide if he’s going to carry out his state-directed orders to kill “runners” (anyone who reaches the age of 30 and decides not to opt-in to a very suspect system of rebirth that includes either being exploded from within or zapped by some lethal death-ray, it’s never clear which) or run himself. Veteran British actor Peter Ustinov gives the only remotely naturalistic peformance within a parsec of the film; Farrah Fawcett makes a brief and green-spangly appearance as Holly, a cosmetic surgeon’s assistant. And Jenny Agutter plays Logan’s love interest and fellow runner, Jessica 6.
It’s the film’s mild nudity, and the icy English rose beauty of Agutter (also in American Werewolf in London and Walkabout) that was responsible for my quantum leap. But the movie also casts a spell, even today. Even though what, to a 12-year-old boy in the ’70s, was an action-packed futuristic and really cool-looking movie is, by today’s standards, low-rent, retro and sometimes silly, Logan’s Run does have a certain look and production design that gives the film an atmosphere unlike just about any other.
There are plotholes (like, why does Logan call the rest of his fellow Sandmen when he’s already decided to run?) and cheesy special effects galore, but the movie is also daring in letting its hero be an anti-hero – a coldblooded killer – for a good chunk of the story.
And 36 years later, the idea of a society so brainwashed as to accept their fate – death at 30 – is still thought-provoking. How different is that from the mass hysteria that greeted the death of Kim Jong-Il? How different from Mormonism, or any belief system we’ve inculcated? How different from our acceptance of Stephen Harper as prime minister (okay, the last might be a bit of a reach… might).
Logan’s Run, which was based on a novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, had an even more radical premise – death at 21 – and a far different ending. The novel spawned a couple of sequels; Logan’s Run the movie led to a TV series (the DVD of which is about to be released) and a comic book series (from Marvel, 7 issues), as well as inspiring lots of bad electronica (or maybe that’s redundancy). A remake would be interesting, but the 1976 Logan’s Run stands alone as a kind of perfect storm (pardon the cliche) of set and costume design, British acting talent, and music (Jerry Goldsmith‘s score is something else) and ideas. The following year, Star Wars would usher in the era of so-called “space operas”, or Westerns in space, and the age of idea-based science fiction movies would die.
As the fans say, “Run, runner!”