It is 2274. Some type of holocaust has decimated the earth, and the survivors sealed themselves into a domed city near Washington, D.C. To maintain the population balance, the computers that run the city have decreed that all people must die at 30. This system is enforced by "sandmen": black-clad police operatives who terminate (kill) "runners" (those who attempt to live beyond 30). Logan, a sandman, is sent on a mission to find "sanctuary," which is a code- word used by the master computer to describe what it believes is a place to which runners have been escaping. Logan begins to question the system he serves and after seeing for himself that there is life beyond the dome, he returns to destroy the computer.
Directed by: Michael Anderson
. Starring: Michael York
, Richard Jordan
, Jenny Agutter
, Roscoe Lee Browne
, Farrah Fawcett
, Michael Anderson Jr.
, Peter Ustinov
, Randolph Roberts
, Lara Lindsay
, Gary Morgan
, Michelle Stacy
, Laura Hippe
, David Westberg
. Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
In the 1970s there was a clear division of opinion among film-makers about how the future would look. Those who made films like "Rollerball", Westworld" and "Capricorn One" did so on the assumption that the future would look like a marginally trendier version of the seventies and that they could therefore save money on designing expensive sets and costumes. The other school of thought held that the future would look very different from the present, although even this school tended to rely on a few clichés rather than use their imaginations. "Logan's Run" was made according to the tenets of this second school, and duly trots out their standard received ideas. We learn, for example, that in the twenty-second century all buildings will still be in the Modernist style of the twentieth, only made of plastic rather than steel, glass and concrete. Men will wear Lycra shell-suits and women diaphanous mini-dresses. Everyone will travel by monorail or moving walkway. And everyone will be young, beautiful, fit and healthy.
The plot borrows elements from a number of other science-fiction works. From Arthur C. Clarke's "The City and the Stars" it borrows the idea of a domed city, hermetically sealed off from the outside world. From Huxley's "Brave New World" it borrows baby factories; children are not born naturally but produced in hatcheries. The scenes of a ruined Washington DC owe something to the "Statue of Liberty" scene in "Planet of the Apes".
"Logan's Run" has one original idea of its own. 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 (like "Brave New World" and Orwell's "1984") 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. (Orwell's main targets were totalitarian ideologies like fascism and communism). The main character is typically a young man who is discontented with the values of his society.
In general "Logan's Run" follows this pattern. The social evils against which it appears to be targeted are the "generation gap", the tendency, 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. In one important respect, however, it departs from the standard model. Most dystopian novels have a "raisonneur", equivalent to 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.
When I recently saw this film for the first time in many years, I realised that I had confused its plot with that of the spin-off TV series. In that series the city was controlled by a hidden elite of elderly men who killed off everyone else at thirty in order to prevent their power from being challenged. Francis was so anxious to hunt down his former friend because he had been promised membership of this elite if he succeeded. Although the series was not a great success, it did at least try and answer some of the questions that the film avoided.
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.
Review by James Hitchcock from the Internet Movie Database.