Logan’s Run is a 1976 American science fiction action film directed by Michael Anderson and starring Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, and Peter Ustinov.
The screenplay by David Zelag Goodman is based on the 1967 novel Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. It depicts a utopian future society on the surface, revealed as a dystopia where the population and the consumption of resources are maintained in equilibrium by killing everyone who reaches the age of 30. The story follows the actions of Logan 5, a “Sandman” who has terminated others who have attempted to escape death and is now faced with termination himself.
Produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the film uses only the novel’s two basic premises: that everyone must die at a set age, and that Logan and companion Jessica attempt to escape while being chased by another Sandman named Francis. After aborted attempts to adapt the novel, story changes were made including raising the age of “last day” from 21 to 30 and introducing the idea of “Carrousel” for eliminating 30-year-olds. Its filming was marked by special-effects challenges in depicting Carrousel and innovative use of holograms and wide-angle lenses.
The film won a Special Academy Award for its visual effects and six Saturn Awards, including Best Science Fiction Film. A spin-off TV series aired in 1977-1978 on CBS for 14 episodes.
In the year 2274, the remnants of human civilization live in a sealed city contained beneath a cluster of geodesic domes, a utopia run by a computer that takes care of all aspects of life, including reproduction. The citizens live a hedonistic lifestyle but, to prevent overpopulation, everyone must undergo the rite of “Carrousel” when they reach the age of 30. There, they are killed under the guise of being “renewed”.
To track this, each person is implanted at birth with a “life-clock” crystal in the palm of the hand that changes color as they get older and begins blinking as they approach their “Last Day.” Most residents accept this chance for rebirth, but those who do not and attempt to flee the city are known as “Runners”. An elite team of policemen known as “Sandmen”, outfitted in predominantly black uniforms, are assigned to pursue and terminate Runners as they try to escape.
Logan 5 and Francis 7 are both Sandmen. After terminating a Runner, to whose presence they were alerted during a Carrousel rite, Logan finds an ankh among his possessions. Later that evening, he meets Jessica 6, a young woman also wearing an ankh pendant. Logan takes the ankh to the computer, which tells him that it is a symbol for a secret group whose members help the Runners find “Sanctuary”, a mythic place where they will be safe to live out the rest of their lives.
Logan learns that the Sandmen have lost 1,056 Runners this way. The computer instructs Logan to find Sanctuary and destroy it, a mission which it code names “Procedure 033-03”, which he must keep secret from the other Sandmen. Then, the computer changes the color of his life clock to flashing red, suddenly making him four years closer to Carrousel. Scared, he asks if the four years will be restored to him when his mission is completed but receives no response. In order to escape this, Logan is now forced to become a Runner. Logan meets Jessica and explains his intention to run. They meet with the underground group that leads them to the periphery of the city.
Logan learns that the ankh symbol is actually a key that unlocks an exit from the city. They come out into a frozen cave, with Francis following closely behind. In the cave, they meet Box, a robot designed to capture food for the city from the outside. Logan discovers, to his horror, that Box also captures escaped Runners and freezes them for food. Before Box can freeze Logan and Jessica, they escape, causing the cave to collapse on the robot.
Once outside, Logan and Jessica notice that their life clocks are no longer operational. They see the Sun for the first time and discover that the remains of human civilization have become a wilderness. They explore an old, seemingly abandoned city which was once Washington, D.C. In the ruins of the United States Senate chamber, they discover an elderly man living with many cats. His appearance is a shock to them, since neither has ever seen anyone over the age of thirty. The old man recounts what he remembers about what happened to humanity outside the city, and Logan realizes that Sanctuary has always been a myth.
However, Francis has followed them and he and Logan fight. Logan fatally wounds Francis; as he dies, Francis sees that Logan’s life clock is now clear and assumes Logan has renewed. Logan and Jessica persuade the old man to return to the city with them as proof that life exists outside the domed city. Leaving the man outside, the two enter and try to convince everyone that Carrousel is a lie and unnecessary. The two are captured by other Sandmen and taken to the computer, which interrogates Logan about Procedure 033-03 and asks if he completed his mission.
Logan insists, “There is no Sanctuary”. What he had found was “old ruins, exposed”, “an old man”, and that the missing Runners were “all frozen”. These answers are not accepted by the computer, even after scanning Logan’s mind, and the computer overloads, causing the city’s systems to fail violently and release the exterior seals. Logan, Jessica, and the other citizens flee the ruined city. Once outside, the citizens see the old man, the first human they have met who is older than thirty, proving that they can, indeed, live their lives much longer.
MGM’s early attempts to adapt the book led to development hell. Producer George Pal’s attempt was troubled in 1969 by competing views of what the film’s story should be, including the possibility of incorporating symbolism of real life issues, in comparison to screenwriter Richard Maibaum’s vision.
Rewriting Maibaum’s screenplay would have taken between two and three months, and the budget would have had to have been reassessed. Pal became concerned the delays would cause the film to miss the wave of success science fiction was enjoying with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes in 1968.
American International Pictures offered to buy Pal’s projects, including Logan’s Run, for $200,000, but MGM declined, only willing to accept a minimum of $350,000. Pal left the project to produce Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975) for Warner Bros.
Saul David assumed responsibility in 1974, with Soylent Green author Stanley R. Greenberg assigned to write. Greenberg devised the idea of Carrousel, but afterwards dropped off the project. David Zelag Goodman wrote a nearly completely new screenplay, raising the age of death from 21 to 30 to allow for more actors to be considered for casting.
Logan’s Run explores utopian and dystopian themes, with the idea that characters willingly die instead of reaching advanced ages, reflecting the idea that “Utopias require its participants to give something up in order to create harmony and uniformity”. Common dystopian themes include an evil ruling authority, the confiscation of children from parents, life in a city, and the idea of human overpopulation, in this case causing the protagonists to leave the urban environment.[ Roscoe Lee Browne played Box and has been the subject of discussion on race in Logan’s Run.
Prominent concepts in the film are “the dangers of hedonism, youth worship, and, particularly, the dangers of government-sponsored euthanasia“. The hedonism is primarily conveyed in the form of sensuality and “images of sexual abandon”. Aside from sexual freedom, the pursuit of pleasure is also reflected in how this was envisioned in the 1970s, including miniskirts, little career, relaxed gyms, and Farrah Fawcett‘s “shag” haircut.
Author Barna William Donovan argues this serves to criticize many social developments underway in the 1970s, targeting the “Me generation“.
Writer Robert Tinnell hypothesizes the design of the city, reminiscent of a shopping mall, is also suggestive of “anticonsumerist sentiment”. The film may ultimately serve as a warning against overthrowing older generations, aimed at young viewers following the counterculture movements in the 1960s.
Another interpretation is that individualism, the “freedom to live and be,” is curbed by “social mechanisms” telling citizens to have a good life for only a limited time. Logan, originally part of an “artificial society” centred on “pleasure and spectacle,” becomes “re-individualized” and defies a “conformist system”. Despite the reflections of the 1970s, Donovan argues the film may also have relevance to the Internet age, with elements evocative of online dating.[
Writers have also examined the film’s statements on gender and race. At one point in the film, Logan asks Jessica whether she is a lesbian after she expresses no romantic interest in him. His casual, nonjudgmental tone indicates homosexuality is no longer taboo in the film’s futuristic society, a possible side effect of sex no longer being related to child bearing. Ultimately, author Bonnie Noonan believes the idea of returning to the concept of “beloved wife” is a sign that in the story, women’s liberation, and not technology, is at the root of the dystopia.
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