Wednesday, June 8, 2016

LOGAN'S RUN (1976) - *½

Rated PG
Running time: 118 min.
Release date: June 23, 1976

When watching Logan's Run, I couldn't help but be amused at several scenes. Keep in mind that the film is not a comedy. There are a few scenes where the silliness of it just overcomes you and you can't help but laugh at the outlandish dialogue or plot. In 2016, Logan's Run may look like a dated film, but in 1976 this was considered state-of-the-art. Star Wars did not yet raise the bar for special effects in a sci-fi film. So Logan's Run can be excused for the dated look. That's not one of it's faults. Everything else is at fault.

In the twenty third century, mankind has been ushered into a giant domed city due to things like pollution and natural resources drying up. A computer takes care of the needs of the humans so that the people can live a life of luxury. Everyone wears color-coded garments depending on their age, and a crystal is embedded in the palm of their hand, which is used for identification. There is a strange ritual that takes place called Carousel. When people reach the age of thirty, their crystal blinks red and they attend Carousel where they are whisked into the air and blown up, being promised a "renewal", which is the reason for the babies in the nursery at the beginning of the film. Sometimes, people reject this fate and become what are known as "runners". These "runners" are tracked and terminated by the Sandmen, one of which is named Logan 5 (Michael York). His best friend is Francis 6 (Richard Jordan), another Sandman, and together they have fun chasing down runners. Unfortunately, they are not very good shots with their ray-guns.

After one such chase, Logan brings a runner's personal effects to the computer for processing. The computer analyzes an ankh symbol and recognizes it as being associated with something called Sanctuary. The computer tells Logan that over one thousand runners have eluded the Sandmen, and they all were lost to Sanctuary. The computer tasks Logan with finding Sanctuary and destroying it. In order to accomplish that, the computer "retrograms" Logan's crystal to age him four years, essentially making Logan a runner. He seeks the help of a woman named Jessica (Jenny Agutter), who has connections to the group helping people reach sanctuary. The running and chasing ensues, leading Logan, Jessica and the viewer outside the city. It is at this point that the plot, previously with some semblance of cohesion and interest, goes off the rails and into a state of silliness that it doesn't recover from.

The screenplay by David Zelag Goodman was based on a novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. There were some liberties taken with the source material, of course; but the main issue here is that there were many unanswered questions. The character of "Box" (Roscoe Lee Browne), for instance. The scene he appears in comes off as poorly executed and underwritten, leaving a lot of questions like who, what, when, and why he is part of this plot. This scene is where the movie really loses focus and starts to become laughable. Peter Ustinov appears as "the Old Man" and his character, although genuinely funny, can't even answer questions posed to him by other characters. It's certainly no help to the viewer in piecing together why things are the way they are in this film.

The cast plays it very straight the entire way through, making it feel as if the movie should carry more importance than it actually does. In fact, this aids in the unintentional humor. Ustinov is the sole exception, as he chuckles his way through his scenes. Director Michael Anderson develops an odd pace to the film, as the chase out of the city only takes us through the first half of the film, and leaves the second half missing the action. Perhaps an updated version could work, perhaps not. Regardless, this version was a disappointment.

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