“Sometime in the 23rd Century the survivors of war, overpopulation, and pollution are living in a great domed city, sealed away from the forgotten world outside. Here in an ecologically balanced world, mankind lives only for pleasure, freed by the servo-mechanisms which provide everything. There’s just one catch. Life must end at thirty unless reborn in the fiery ritual of Carousel.”
Logan’s Run started life as a pretty successful novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. The source material was really quite dark and more like Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner than the 1976 film based on the work. For some reason it was decided that this dark reflection of the future wasn’t as marketable. So, the decision was made to make this a very bright film with only hints at the nefarious realities of this future world.
Logan (York) is a Sandman. Sandmen are police officers, of sorts, charged with enforcing the maximum lifespan of 30 years necessary to maintain the crucial population balance within the enclosed city. At birth each newborn has a crystal implanted in their palm. As they go through life, the crystal glows various colors signifying the part of that life cycle they are in. The final stage is red, and signifies approaching one’s 30th birthday. Once the person reaches 30, the crystal begins to flash. That means it’s time to enter carousel, where you will be disintegrated for the common good. To make the event more palatable, the possibility of rebirth is dangled in front of the citizens. Rebirth is only possible through carousel. Any other attempt to avoid the event takes away any chance you might have at rebirth. Logan has 4 more years remaining in his own lifecycle, but his crystal is sped up and is made to blink so that Logan can infiltrate and destroy something called Sanctuary. It is rumored that Sanctuary and an underground movement dedicated to its cause is helping citizens escape death at 30. Logan, and his fellow Sandmen, track down and kill these “runners”. Now Logan is asked to become a runner himself to locate Sanctuary. He meets Jessica (Agutter), not yet red, but a member of the underground. Together they go on the run, and Logan begins to have his belief system challenged, no longer sure that there is a need for everyone to die at 30.
I hadn’t seen this one, at least uncut since perhaps its theatrical run in 1976. Then I was a kid who ate up science fiction no matter how good or bad it might have been. My memories were indeed fond ones, but the film really appears dated to me now. From the heavy synthesized score to the very obvious and not so special effects, the movie looked more like an old made for television film than it did a blockbuster box office success. Make no mistake, it was a huge success at the box office, but it never had any staying power. The film got old extremely fast and looks more like a novelty now than a serious film. The costumes look like something William Ware Theiss might have come up with on the original Star Trek. If you read the novel, then you know the social commentary that was originally intended is so watered down here as to be nothing more than a gimmick. Michael York is almost silly as the titular character Logan, and Jenny Agutter is there for more obvious reasons, as was Farah Fawcett Majors, fresh off her Charlie’s Angels success and breaking the record for poster sales that still stands today. Hey, I was never one for the whole pin-up thing, but even I had one of those posters in my room. There was some kind of obscure Federal law at the time that required all adolescent aged boys to own and display one, at least there must have been judging by how many friends also had the thing up in their rooms. The effects are crude, even for the time. The greenscreen work was so poorly done that you see halos around the actors during many of those shots. The guns are remarkably crude as they merely flash with no obvious beam or projectile. Heck, I had toys that were more sophisticated. What I’m trying to say is that you may have fond memories of this film, but I’m afraid that in high definition most of those will be shattered.
Logan’s Run is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The 1080p image utilizes a VC-1 codec at an average bit rate of 21 mbps. This isn’t the most impressive high definition title to come down the road. But the problem is that detail might be too high for this film. Flaws in the f/x that might have been somewhat coverable in a standard definition release are painfully obvious now. This isn’t a problem with the transfer, rather a pretty poor original print. I will say that colors are pretty flashy. There’s a lot of pastel green evident throughout, and it’s reproduced here with plenty of visual flair. There is some DNR evident in parts of the film. This is only a minimal upgrade from the DVD, I’m afraid, but more than enough for a film of this quality.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track works fine, I guess. That annoying synth sound production gets annoying at times. It never bothered me before, but here it is often like nails on chalkboard. Dialog is fine, which might be all that really matters here. It’s not an aggressive mix, but this was never intended as a 5.1 presentation. It was, however, the first true stereo film in theaters.
A Look Into The 23rd Century: (9:18) SD This is a very bad looking promotional style look at the film complete with dramatic narration and some voice over clips of the participants. Nothing new here at all.
The film immediately spawned a short-lived television series with Gregory Harrison as Logan and Heather Menzies as Jessica. There was a foolish robot named Rem as well. The series sported even worse f/x and didn’t last a season. Now there is a new film on the horizon slated for a 2012 release. We’re promised that it will be a more serious attempt at dealing with the themes of the original novel. It’s a good idea, but it might be too late. For too many of us this 70’s film and series are too ingrained in our heads, and it might be impossible to take a film with the same title seriously enough. It might be hard to attend the film and not feel tempted to shout at the opening credits, “There is no renewal!”