Logan's Run (1976) Directed by Michael Anderson
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Jessica 6: A friend of mine went on carousel. Now he's gone.
Logan 5: Yes, well, I'm sure he was renewed.
Jessica 6: He was killed. Like the others.
Logan 5: Killed? Why do you use that word?
Jessica 6: Isn't that what you do? Kill?
Logan 5: I've never killed anyone in my life. Sandmen terminate runners.
The year is 2274 and the last remnants of humanity live in a great domed city. The 400,000 residents live lives of contentment and minimal responsibility. No one is hungry, everyone is clothed and housed. There is entertainment, and since reproduction is handled mechanically, sex is purely recreational. There are safe drugs, guaranteed jobs, and a perfectly balanced society. There is just one catch; no one lives to be thirty. Everyone bears a crystalline life clock in their palm; it is identity tag, credit card, and death sentence, all in one. The life clocks all start out clear (at birth), turn yellow at age 8, green at 16, and red at 23. Everyone wears clothes the same color as their life clocks (except Sandmen, who wear black uniforms). As Lastday - age 30 - approaches, the life clocks flash red and black, then, at 30 turn totally black. This keeps everything balanced. As one dies, another is born.
Society has methods for dealing with this. There is Carrousel, which promises renewal for a happy few on last day. Outside of this, if you want to be thirty, you have to run, and then the Sandmen hunt you down and terminate you.
Logan 5 (Michael York) is a Sandman. And he is a good one. But when he finds a runner with a brand new face, and a mysterious symbol known as an Ankh, he is given a new assignment by the city computer. He is to infiltrate the ankh group and find Sanctuary, and account for the 1056 runners unaccounted for. To turn him into a Trojan Horse, the computer changes his life clock, setting it to blinking, robbing him of four years. Now, he is to pose as a runner, and find Sanctuary, and destroy it.
His only clues are the Ankh, the word Sanctuary, the fact than the New You #483 apparently gave a runner a face change to help him, and a girl, Jessica 6, (Jenny Agutter) who wears an ankh. Can he find Sanctuary? And can he bring himself to destroy it?
Logan's Run is classic Sci Fi. Though it is thirty four now (the same age as Michael York when he played Logan) it is holding up well. It won a special achievement Oscar for Visual Effects. It was nominated for Art Direction and Set Direction, and for Best Cinematography. One of the factors I attribute it to is the brilliance of the costuming. Stuck with hairdos from the mid Seventies, they had to make clothing that would match, and yet look futuristic, without necessarily being silver lamiae with pointy shoulders. They took the hair styles, simple, free flowing, and made the clothing match; Simple Grecian inspired tunics with tights, free flowing with a great deal of variety in cut, but unified in aesthetic and colour. The colour palate is dictated by your life clock. All reds wear red, or pink or peach or crimson. The greens range from sea foam through emerald. The Sandmen stand out, stark and threatening in their black accented with gray. All of this fits into the city itself, stylish geometry, more dependent on line than detail. This of course had to fit the aesthetic of Appearel Mart Mall in Dallas Texas, where the common areas of Arcade were filmed. The water plant was filmed in nearby Fort Worth at the Water Gardens. Taken together, it has a consistent, realistic feel that manages to feel natural, not contrived.
Combine this with a great story, tapping into the fears of the Baby Boomers as the first of the wave turned thirty. Many of the audience had lived by the credo, never trust anyone over thirty. And now, they were turning thirty. Flawless timing.
Now, thirty plus years later, the last of the boomers is pushed well past thirty, and is looking at their midlife crisis in hindsight. The first of them are a year from retirement, more at home with Peter Ustinov's role, than with York's.
But young or old, there are no bad performances here. The weakest role is Holly, the ditzy receptionist at New You #483. Played to perfection by Farrah Fawcett Majors, she was a bubble headed bleach blond who never had to think, and so never developed the skill. If that is the weak link, what can you say about the strong ones of York, Jenny Agutter, and Richard Jordan as Logan 5's best friend, Francis 7. Best of all is Peter Ustinov. His character was difficult, but flawless.
Logan's Run is not only a warning about overpopulation, and the tyranny of resource management, it is also, though I don't think it meant to be, a story about breaking out of the confines of society, of recognizing the wrongness in the way things have always been done, and doing something about it. That was a powerful message for the former flower children. It is a powerful message for today.
And oddly enough, though I queued this up on Netflix weeks ago, yesterday, it was announced that Alex Garland (28 Days Later) is penning a new adaptation of the story. Good luck, Mister Garland. You have a heavy job to do better.
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