Warner Bros. // 1976 // 120 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // November 16th, 2009
The only thing you can't have in Logan's world is your 30th birthday...unless you run away.
"Sometime in the 23rd Century...the survivors of war, overpopulation, and pollution are living in a great domed city, sealed away from the forgotten world outside. Here, in an ecologically balanced environment, mankind lives only for pleasure, freed by the servo-mechanisms which provide everything. There's just one catch: Life must end at thirty, unless reborn in the fiery ritual of Carrousel."
When the Sandman Logan 5 (Michael York, Cabaret) submits the personal effects of a terminated runner for processing, one of the items -- an Egyptian Ankh -- triggers a system response drawing him into a deep conspiracy, one which shelter runners in a place known only as "Sanctuary." Upon learning there are 1,056 unaccounted-for runners living outside the dome, his orders are to go undercover and infiltrate the resistance, locate the unauthorized colony, and destroy it. But the revelation that Carrousel and the process of Renewal are not what his people had been lead to believe, combined with a retrograde procedure that steals four years of his life, ultimately shatters Logan's perfect world, leaving him a mess of human emotion and existential turmoil. However, a chance encounter with a headstrong, reluctant circuit girl (Jenny Agutter, An American Werewolf in London) provides a link to this enlightened underground and perhaps Logan's own salvation.
There's something unsettling about the dissolution of fond childhood memories. I was shocked at how quickly Buck Rogers in the 25th Century fell apart, upon viewing the complete series DVD, and suffered a similar experience here. Between the feature film and short-lived CBS television series, I remember loving these adaptations of William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson's novel, Logan's Run. Unfortunately, the shine has worn off and the cracks in what was then considered visually stunning sci-fi are all too evident to 21st Century sensibilities.
In what may have been the dying breath of a once powerful MGM, Logan's Run was given a big budget, tremendous sets, and a respected creative team lead by director Michael Anderson whose resume included such arresting films as The Dam Busters, 1984, and Around the World in 80 Days. Nolan and Johnson's dystopian future -- an Earth destroyed by humanity's own greed and carelessness -- was disturbing enough, but brought to the screen only amplified the uneasiness. Logan's Run is an intriguing Bradburyian/Asimovian tale of a good soldier who accidentally learns more than he should, gaining enlightenment which peels back the facade of a Utopian Hedonistic society whose malevolent control of its populace is far scarier than any nightmare could dream up. Hell, even 30 years later, the Carrousel process, with its rabid Roman Collesium crowd, hooded robes, hockey masks, and figure skater leotards still gives me the creeps...as does the careless disregard for life in general, evidenced by the "cleanup" of terminated runners. Unfortunately, to put it crudely, the film's carpet doesn't quite match the drapes.
Given the advances in cinematic storytelling, the quaint sci-fi of the 1970s and '80s -- The Omega Man (1971), Silent Running (1972), Battlestar Galactica (1978), Buck Rogers (1979) -- now comes across as rudimentary, resplendent in its cheese factor, and begging for an appearance on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The costumes, set design, miniature work, and visual FX (such as Logan and Jessica's cringe-worthy confrontation with Box) are all signature versions of our future as seen through the filter of the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. It's a fascinating time capsule, but doesn't hold up well as a compelling film.
Give credit where credit is due, though. The cast and crew took what they were given and committed 100% to project, even when nothing by lycra/spandex was available from wardrobe. Michael York in his androgynous mumu is quite a sight to behold, as is Jenny Agutter in her sheer circuit attire. Michael was a classic '70s leading man, comfortable in his own skin, with an accent and cocksure demeanor lending an air of Cary Grant to his role. Jenny held the majority of teen boys enraptured, playing a damsel-in-distress who could still handle herself in a tough situation. Richard Jordan (Dune) steps in at the last minute, when William Devane bails on the film, and knocks the ball out of the park with a creepy, determined, Terminator-esque performance. And even Sir Peter Ustinov (Spartacus) gets the opportunity to play, crafting a dodgy elder whose wisdom holds hope for the future.
Unfortunately, the disconnects overwhelm the picture. We never know or understand who built this Big Brother society, established its rules, and enforces its policies. We're introduced to The Cubs (violent youth) who live within The Dome, but they never play a significant role in the story. Are we expected to believe that Box (Roscoe Lee Browne, Jumpin' Jack Flash) was truly responsible for disappearance of all 1,000+ runners? Is the Old Man the only survivor of the naturalistically conceived human race? And how the hell does an entire domed city self-destruct from what little damage Logan and company were able to inflict upon the computer system? Top it all off with a god-awful performance from a pre-Charlie's Angels Farah Fawcett Majors, and we're left with a cinematic museum piece. Nothing more.
Presented in a slightly reframed 2.40:1 VC-1 1080p transfer, the image detail is certainly enhanced, but the picture remains relatively flat. Yes, it's partly due to the mid-'70s color palate, but the warmth we've seen in other films of the era (The Omega Man) is lacking here. It's also a surprisingly dirty print with some film elements that are a complete disasater, such as the 15:40 mark where Jessica 6 rebukes Logan's sexual advances. It looks as though someone's cat scratched the hell out of the negative. Not much cleanup effort on the part of the Warner Bros. team for this release. As for the TrueHD audio, I'm not a fan. It's a front heavy mix with very little soundscape activity, save for Jerry Goldsmith's score, whose electro-synth within the city walls is far more annoying than the sweeping orchestral segments once Logan and Jessica move outdoors. There are also numerous instances where the dialogue gets swallowed by the rest of the mix, so keep your remote handy to adjust accordingly.
In the realm of extras, fans of the film will be disappointed there's nothing new here. All three features are ported over from the previous DVD release:
Commentary by director Michael Anderson, actor Michael York, and costume
designer Bill Thomas
Not a traditional group discussion, but rather a series of intercut interviews with each of these men. Location shoots were primarily in Texas. The Carrousel stunt was one of the most complicated ever designed (at that time) and backfired during rehearsal causing a hasty restructuring. Jon Voight was the original choice for Logan and Lindsay Wagner for Jessica. Jon wasn't interested and Linsday did not test as well with Michael as Jenny did. Blah, blah, blah. A rather bland offering all the way around.
A Look into the 23rd Century (10 min)
Vintage featurette which is noticeably worse for wear. It actually looks and sounds like the educational films we saw in elementary school during the '70s. "A motion picture of great imagination. A blend of technical marvels, effects, imagery, and action." Even the publicity machine back then was lacking.
Somehow I have fonder memories of Logan's Run than what I just witnessed. If the Blu-ray sells well, perhaps we'll be blessed with a DVD release of the television series, but even so I have a feeling it won't stand the test of time any better than this did.
Rent and return or purchase and sell. Only the die-hards will need to make room on their shelf for this Blu-ray. Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2009 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (German)
* English (SDH)
* German (SDH)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 1976
MPAA Rating: Rated PG