Logan’s Run (Michael Anderson, 1976)

According to the trailer, this film begins where imaginations ends. That doesn’t sell it, does it?

It’s based on a novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, although in the source people are terminated at 21 rather than 30. There’s been some sort of war, and everyone lives in domes, devoting their lives to pleasure, but to maintain a stable population everyone is invited to join the Carrousel (Carousel?) at 29 and 364 days. Allegedly some people will be reborn, others are killed. It’s pretty clear that none are reborn.

Some people elect to run, and are pursued by Sandmen. Logan 5 (Michael York) has the bad luck to fall in love with Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter) who has something to do with a revolutionary movement, and then he is handed an assignment to track down Sanctuary, the place where surviving runners hide outside the city. With growing disillusionment with the city, he sets off, with his Sandman friend Francis 7 (Richard Jordan) in pursuit.

After facing a robot, Box, which keeps runners in cold storage as food, they find their way to a ruined and overgrown Washington DC, inhabited only by a T.S. Eliot quoting Old Man (Peter Ustinov) who they bring back to the city.

I guess this needs to be read as reactionary – it’s responding to the youth culture of the late 1960s and the summer of love, and no doubt the student risings which were confronted by the National Guard (Kent State, etc). The liberation from the dead hand of old people (as it were) is not exactly celebrated – daddy’s dead so we all get to stay up late, do drugs and have sex. Jessica’s just saying no is clearly just a ploy to play hard to get. The situating of a killer cop as the main character – shades of Rick Deckard – is not necessarily guaranteed to get the youth audience on board, although there is the generic requirement for someone to be converted from support for dystopia to become its destroyer. And the world is clearly meant to be dystopia.

Logan is on a mission (although he never seems to explain that to Francis), so his opposition to the system only seems to be stirred by meeting an old man with lots of cats. Bringing down the system is presented as a happy ending, although there is no sense of what the replacement will be. Work will have to start, but fortunately the world outside the city seems green and pleasant.

Inside the city this is the future as shopping mall – the modelling is less than convincing of the outside of the city, and the scale inside doesn’t quite come off. The Sandmen seem to be remarkably bad shots as the runners survive the cat and mouse tactics for quite a long time. Post-apocalyptic Washington is rather more convincing, even if it’s not clear how the cats survived (or indeed the old man).

A tv series followed, riffing off the concept, and a remake has been promised for over a decade. I’m not holding my breath.

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