Logan’s Run ( USA 1976)

City interior - Logans Run (1976) people 2If, in the future, we’re forced to live in an endless shopping mall and wear Christmas coloured baby doll dresses, maybe I’d want to die at 30. You might want to bring a book to watch this 2 hour sci-fi hit. Men wear Lycra shell-suits and women diaphanous mini-dresses with no brassiere. It is the 23rd century and every building and monorail looks glitzy and plastic. Perhaps living in a shopping mall is a good idea. This movie was actually filmed in one!

There is a good reason why everyone is young, beautiful, fit and healthy; at the age of thirty everyone is subject to compulsory ritual euthanasia (euphemistically known as “renewal”). The greatest crime is to “run”, to try and leave the city in order to escape this fate. The title character, Logan, is a “sandman”, one of an elite police force whose function is to hunt down and kill runners. The film explores what happens when Logan himself becomes a “runner” and tries to leave the city with Jessica, a beautiful girl with whom he has fallen in love. Pursued by Francis, a former colleague of Logan, they escape to a now-ruined Washington where they meet an old man living with only cats for company.

There are a number of gaps in the plot; it is never explained how Washington came to be ruined, what has become of its former inhabitants or how Peter Ustinov has managed to survive there while everyone else has been killed or fled. Plot-holes are not necessarily a bad thing in science fiction; we do not, for example, waste much time while watching the original “Planet of the Apes” in wondering how the apes came to take over the Earth. (There were, of course, four sequels made in which it was explained exactly how they did so, but none of those sequels is anywhere near as good as the original).

There is, however, a more vital plot-hole in “Logan’s Run”, one which I think does affect our enjoyment. The film is an example of dystopian science fiction. Although such works are ostensibly set in the future, they are really satires on the ages in which they were written. Their purpose is to draw attention to some feature of modern society which the author finds objectionable and to show how that feature could, at some future date, have disastrous consequences. The main character is typically a young man who is discontented with the values of his society. He is a rebel with a cause. “Logan’s Run” follows this pattern.

The social evils against which it appears to be targeted are the “generation gap”: very prevalent in the sixties and seventies, to glorify youth at the expense of age and the “don’t trust anyone over thirty” mentality. Logan is the young malcontent equivalent to Winston Smith or John the Savage, with Jessica the equivalent of Julia or Lenina.  Most dystopian novels have a character like O’Brien in “1984” or Mustapha Mond in “Brave New World”, whose task is to persuade the rebellious hero to conform to the values of his society. There is no equivalent character in “Logan’s Run”, so we never find out exactly what the ruling value-system of Logan’s city is, why it is considered necessary to kill off the entire population in the prime of their lives and why so many people accept this fate uncomplainingly.

Michael York, 34 when the film was made, is strictly speaking too old for his role, but looks youthful enough to get away with it. (Richard Jordan, who plays Francis, was 38). The lovely Jenny Agutter makes an appealing heroine as Jessica. Jenny was one of a number of British actresses from around this period who looked to be on the verge of becoming major Hollywood stars but never quite made it. Seen as a simply science-fiction adventure the film provides some exciting moments, although some scenes today seem unintentionally comic, especially the one with Box, the frozen-food processing robot. Seen as a film of ideas, however and I think that was how its makers intended it to be seen – it never really works.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: