Friday, February 5, 2010

1976 Saturn - LOGAN'S RUN

A ‘70s science fiction film, and it’s a dystopia? What are the chances? Logan’s Run has some potential, and there’s actually a very solid bit in the middle that realizes that potential and manages to be quite decent. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is a big old mess.

The film takes place an unspecified period of time in the future. Due to pollution and overpopulation (sound familiar?), humanity has withdrawn to domed cities where population is strictly controlled. People are created in test tubes and rapidly aged to adulthood. When they reach thirty, their time is up, and they are to report to a mass execution, which is staged as an elaborate carnival that offers the hope (a false one, as it soon becomes apparent) of reincarnation. Some residents of the settlement decide to make a run for it rather than offer themselves up for execution, and there is a brutal police force (known as “sandmen”) who hunt down and execute “runners.” The titular Logan 5 (Michael York) is one of these sandmen, and he begins to suspect that the runners have a secret organization. The supercomputer that runs the dome agrees and sends Logan undercover as a runner to ferret out the secret sanctuary that hides the society’s escapees.

During their brief lives, people are pretty hedonistic; they merely dial up a sexual partner when they’re in the mood, and more permanent relationships are unheard of. Logan dials up a girl named Jessica 6, who seems to be associated with the runner conspiracy, but he soon begins to fall in love with her. Jenny Agutter plays Jessica 6, and, as far as I’m concerned, she steals the show. She completely outshines the late Farah Fawcett Majors, who gets big billing for a bit part. As part of his undercover operation, Logan goes on the run with Jessica, but they’re soon running for real, and they eventually make it beyond the dome, where they meet their first old person, a crazy cat man played by Peter Ustinov. And that’s just the first half of the movie.

There’s obviously a lot going on here, but at the same time, it’s all rather shallow. The society of the dome isn’t all that believable, and everyone is pretty vapid. I guess that’s the point, but I didn’t find it all that entertaining watching attractive but dumb people wander about aimlessly in shimmery pastel robes, make out and do drugs. The special effects and music during the dome sequences are truly terrible (the dome is represented in establishing shots by a cheap model that makes most model train sets look like they were built by WETA; the music, by the usually great composer Jerry Goldsmith, is bad, assonant synthesizer beeping noises). I know I should cut a 70s film some slack on effects, but his film came out just months before Star Wars and cost about as much money to make. There is really no excuse.

Once Logan and Jessica get out, the production values seem to go up, but the plot grinds to a halt. Still, these scenes were the strongest part of the film ; we finally learn a bit about this world’s history and the characters actually get to act like real people for half an hour. I’m afraid to say that I found the rest of the proceedings almost unwatchable.

Grade: C+

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