Friday, February 24, 2012

See Logan Run. Run, Logan, Run.

Just re-seen: Logan's Run (1976), a lovely HD transfer. I may not have seen this film since it was in theaters-- Star Wars came out the next year, ya see, and well, it just seemed so irrelevant...

It was a big-budget sci-fi film from MGM, at the time on it's last legs as an independent studio. It posits a post-apocalyptic society where the survivors live in a vast domed city. For reasons that really, really aren't made 100 percent clear, everybody is given nifty little crystals in their hands which mark the days until they turn 30. When they do, their crystals start blinking and they must to submit to “carousel,” where they fly in circles in an amphitheater until they “renew” (i.e explode). Those who choose to opt out of this program are called “runners,” and are chased down the the black-clad Sandmen.

The main plot concerns Sandman Logan 5 (the very pleasant Michael York) who is bamboozled by the computer that runs everything to go and find "Sanctuary," a sort of underground railroad for runners. With friend Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter) in tow, they manage to escape the dome and discover the world outside the dome is pretty, but full of lizards and ruins and an Old Man (Peter Ustinov) who has a thing for T. S. Eliot cat quotes.

There are no profound insights to be gleaned from a mature evaluation of this film-- like, for instance, seeing The Incredible Mr. Limpet again and discovering it's a sub rosa tribute to singlehood. But it's still a curious little sci-fi franchise (and it IS a franchise: it spawned a short-lived TV series with Gregory Harrison and Donald Moffat):

Daniel's remake formula gets a workout in this film. To drive this point home I'm gonna •••spoil••• the ending (I don't feel too bad spoiling a 36-year-old film). Logan's Run was a sci-fi film made in the pre-franchise era, when sci-fi films had amazing endings. Soylent Green is made of people. You blew it up, you maniacs. Star Wars had an ending so iconic and exciting people are still trying to imitate it. But Logan's Run had a lousy ending: Logan is recaptured, jammed in a mind-reading chair, and apparently the illogic of him not finding Sanctuary, the existence of which the master computer only suspected in the first place, causes said computer to “renew” (i.e. explode) so hard it cracks open all the domes, letting everyone out. Huh?

This Deus Ex Machina was one of many divergences from the 1968 novel the film was based on. But really, honestly: the ending of the novel (which I read before I saw the movie, a first for young me) is even hokier. “Sanctuary” in the novel is a space station “near Mars;” so in the last pages Logan and Jessica just rocket away from the whole magilla. Again: huh?

• Every film reflects the time it was made in, and Logan's Run reflects it like a gigantic mirror ball. The premise at the core of the novel is based in the late-60s youth movement-- "Never trust anyone over 30" taken to it's logical extreme. The 1976 version tops this premise with a layer with Me Generation hedonism: It's a society of casual sex literally enveloped in a fog of drugs, and there's no such thing as marriage and parenting. As far as I could see, living under the dome swings like a singles-only condo. Caftans, disco-fabric dresses and hideous chrome furniture abound: Add Boone's Farm and diagonal wood paneling and it wouldn't be sci-fi anymore.

• I was amazed by all the nudity. The principals get naked at least three times-- and not sensual, darkly-lit love scenes, but right under the key lights, more like “we'd better take off these wet clothes before we freeze.” Several of the places Logan and Jessica “run” through feature wall-to-wall tits. This film had an MPAA rating of PG. Man, have ratings changed since '76.

• For Farrah Fawcett (Farrah Fawcett-Majors at the time), Logan's Run was her breakout movie, even though her part as Holly 13, a receptionist, was quite small. Still, the attention she got from it landed her a starring role in “Charlie's Angels” a few months after this film came out, and the rest is history. And strangely, it's not for any sort of amazing performance: she was simply so arrestingly beautiful at the time, such a personification of 1970s “it,” that the plot would grind to a complete halt when she was on-screen. Much was said at her passing in 2009 of her unreal looks: Her mother described how, when Farrah was a teen in Corpus Christi, total strangers would peer into their house to catch a glimpse of her. Then again, I may still be under the spell of her poster: to quote Ms. Fawcett herself, “God gave women intuition and femininity. Used properly, the combination easily jumbles the brain of any man I've ever met.” Me too, Farrah.

• And, in what must seem a quite repetitive theme by now, Logan's Run is being remade, slated for a 2014 release. It is supposed to feature Ryan Gosling and Rose Byrne, and it hasn't actually entered production yet. Don't bet the farm on a green light, though: Ryan Gosling is riding high from the acclaim from his role in Drive, and a sci-fi film with a remarkably similar premise just came out a few months ago (In Time). But if it does, that gives Hollywood a second chance to fix that lousy ending.

No comments:

Post a Comment