Two years ago, this film was on my original "Movie A Day" project. It fit the criteria to a tee; a 1970s Summer film. So it is a little odd that I am writing about it for the first time today. The reason is that, "Logan's Run" was one of the films my guest blogger wrote about while I was in Alaska. My daughter Amanda did a nice write up but is actually somewhat critical of the film and it's 1970s trappings. My perspective is informed by two substantial differences; first of all, I actually saw the film the first time in theaters in 1976 and second, my current post is based on a viewing last night on a full sized screen rather than a video of the film. I really like the vast majority of the film. The story is a wonderful example of the Science Fiction concept films I was drawn to, and frankly, the cheesy costumes and set designs are like a ticket to my past (even though they are supposed to represent the future). Last night Amanda and I took in a screening of "The Sexist Movie Ever" , it was playing on the original big screen that I had seen it on thirty-six years ago.
The audience at last night's screening was amused at several pieces of dialogue and acting that are admittedly a little clunky. Some of the laughter was derisive but it seemed to me that at times it was also a bit warm for the more innocent film making period. "Logan's Run" was a big budget, Hollywood Science Fiction film that came out a year before the movie that would change the way Science Fiction would be visualized forever. All of the money was spent on set design rather than on special effects. The sets are garish renditions of the future that largely use shopping mall architecture to suggest a world of youthful hedonism. The characters frequently end up chasing each other in "the Arcade", which looks like a mall from the 1970s with some funky specialized stores. Neon lights and mirrors are the mainstays of the designers for this movie. Futurist travel between locations consists of sitting in a capsule that then moves thru a tube to a well lit station with some chrome fittings. The most well developed visuals in the film are the miniatures used to show the domed cities of the future and the layout of the structures in each of the domes. The serendipity of watching a movie based in a domed city, while in a domed movie theater, was not lost on me. Unfortunately, the static manner in which the miniatures are shot, emphasizes too often that they are just models. There is something about water that makes the model work in most pre-Star Wars movies look artificial.
A second element that really dates the movie is the costuming. When the film is once referred to in a popular TV show as "The sexiest movie ever...", they must have been thinking of the way the characters barely dressed. Jenny Agutter, was a beautiful young actress, and basically she wore a sheer piece of fabric tied around her waist.
So, far I have been talking about the things in the film that don't work all that well. It is time to get to the stuff that makes this worthy of your attention. Set in a future where wars have ravaged the planet, the ecological balance of the world is kept by strictly regulating the size of the population. Breeding is done in incubators and death comes a a predetermined moment. This allows the society to use the resources it has to maintain a hedonistic lifestyle for only the thirty years that are allowed. All of this seems to be largely a mechanical function, there is no political structure or power elite. The only aspect of a "government" that is detectable, are the "Sandmen" who isolate violent behavior and track down and destroy anyone who tries to avoid their deadline. Philosophical issues are answered by the ritual of "Carousel", the promise that by accepting death, the people have a chance at renewal, to come back for another life.
OK, enough with the philosophizing, back to the movie. The opening set piece of "Carousel" is one of the most successful components of the film. The visual of a crowd cheering on the deaths of their fellow citizens bears a striking resemblance to the Roman Coliseum. The masks, turn their fellow citizens into faceless bodies that they can cheer for without the remorse of knowing which exploding body was their friend. The unitards and robes add to the sense of ritual as does the dramatic music, provided again by the great Jerry Goldsmith. The bodies rising off the ground, spinning uncontrollably and then exploding is a great visual for this ominous story. Sitting in the Cinerama Dome, with the screen looming over and nearly surrounding you, it almost feels like you are in the stands for ritual.
There are some clever visuals to suggest the future which were not all that cheap looking and don't feel dated. Logan's apartment is pure 70's modern, that is true, but when his fellow Sandman, Francis 7, comes in the door with two giggling women ready for sex, and he throws a bulb filled with some sensuous enhancing gas against the ceiling, that feel futuristic. The laser surgery sequence is not far off from the way many modern surgeries are performed except the equipment is not as intimidating as the device used here in the film. The sequence in Prometheus earlier this summer is a grandchild of this sequence. (I also saw it in the James Bond film, "Die Another Day").
This movie was rated PG in 1976, it has themes of sexual perversity, there is an orgy shop with writhing naked bodies, and then the refrigerator is full of nude extras as well. We get two gratuitous nude sequences with our leading lady, and a lot of people also die. This movie came eight years before the PG-13 rating was created. At my wife's school, the general guideline is that they can show the kids a PG rated film without having a parent's permission. I think this movie might be an exception.