Logan's Run (1976)


The makers of 1970’s sci-fi were really only agreed upon one thing about the future: the outlook is bleak.
Here, in the 23rd century, humans live in the mall-like serenity and sterility of a great domed city. When their ‘life clock’ reaches its end at the age of thirty, they are selected to appear on ‘Carousel’, a kind of gameshow, where the excited audience cheer for their favourites to be ‘renewed’, while those who choose instead to run for their lives are hunted down and ‘terminated’ by ‘sandmen’ like Logan (Michael York) who never questions his job (the word ‘kill’ offends him) until he finds his own time running out.

Viewed today, Logan’s Run is purest kitsch, its futurist iconography dominated as usual by elaborate glass and silver architecture, model vehicles and togas. But on the level of ideas, the film seems to have gained something with the passage of thirty years: where once it seemed somewhat random in its satirical predictions, it can now be seen to have hit a number of bullseyes.
The society in which all is geared to the pursuit of ephemeral sensation seems strikingly prescient, and the film takes effective aim at the emerging horrors of reality television, mall culture, vanity (as represented by the shop where citizens choose new faces to replace their boring old ones) and the commodification of sexual desire. (Iconic in the latter capacity is Jenny Agutter as Jessica, conjured up by remote control unit for the perfect night in.)
The first carousel sequence, shown before we are exactly certain what is going on – is excellently staged, as is the subsequent Blade Runner-like pursuit of the ‘runners’. The architecture of the older, disused parts of the city, gleaming chrome giving way to low-tech wheels and cogs, is also effective.
The main problem with the film – and a common enough one it is – is that the first half is much more interesting than the second. The ‘run’ itself is a reasonably exciting affair of pursuing assassins, floods and homicidal robots but little is as interesting as the early sequences in the city. The section with Peter Ustinov as an old man who knew his parents is anti-climactic, and the ending itself is hokey.

Two things, incidentally, which seem to have not altered at all since the nineteen-seventies: the design of escalators, and Farrah Fawcett’s hairdo.