Monday, August 18, 2014

Logan's Run

I am as dedicated a science fiction fan as they come, but I have somehow managed to miss Logan’s Run until last night.  I had gotten the impression the film was a mid-range sci fi classic.  Where this impression came from is now a mystery.  The gaudy, exploitive nature of Logan’s Run is a huge turn off.  I thought Flash Gordon was gaudy and exploitive, too, but it had a charm Logan’s Run is sorely lacking.
 Some aspects are interesting.  I am generally a fan of future dystopias in fiction.  This one is a particularly insidious product of its time.  We have the general trappings of the end of humanity.  Logan’s world of sterilized, domed cities resembling never-ending shopping malls is the result of war, overpopulation, and pollution.  Pre-Star Wars sci fi in the ‘70’s was riddled with this stuff.   But the culture of the ’70’s is uniquely present.  The flower children of the ’60’s gave up on changing the world with love and freedom at the turn of the decade in favor of empty hedonism.  The people of Logan’s world exist solely for pleasure.  They have all their needs provided.  The catch is one has to die at thirty unless one wins an additional thirty years at an event called Carousel.  No one ever wins carousel, of course.
 Two elements make this arrangement particularly horrific.  One is no one ever questions anything.  No one asks if anyone ever won Carousel.  Any thirty year old person who decides to run is hunted down and killed without any questioning of the morality of doing so.  Logan, a Sandman who hunts runners down, cannot even explain the right or wrong of what he does.  You run, you get terminated.  That is the way it is.  There is no point to human existence beyond seeking amusement, and no one cares humanity’s progress has ground to a halt.  The other point is there is no elite benefiting for this arrangement.  Sure, computers are running things, but they are simply keeping it all going.  So what is the point of it all/  there does not seem to be one.  Humans just exist for the sake of existence. 
You would think with this basic set up, Logan’s Run would make for a compelling piece of science fiction.  You would be wrong.  The plot moves as slow as molasses in January until the last 35 or so minutes.  Until that point, all we have is a silly representation of Carousel, the death game in which the newly turned thirty folks float in a midair ballet while exploding for a cheering crowd.  Logan later encounters a friend of one of those who got blowed up good, blowed up real good.   He is in the mood for sex.  She is not, even though she is wearing nothing but a sheer poncho.  Her attempt to engage Logan on the moral issue of terminating runners fails when two other warm and willing women arrive.
Get used to what I just described.  It is rare for there to be more than a few minutes of plot development before a lady takes her clothes off.  I would guess director Micheal Anderson, who spent the rest of his career directing made for TV movies, felt the need to distract the audience from the razor thin plot with boobs.  There are plenty og boobs, too.  There is even a psychodelic scene in which Logan and Jessica, his almost sex partner from above, escape from the city through a maze of stoned naked people.  The naked people are there for the sake of having naked people.  Because it has been ten minutes since we have seen Jessica’s bare behind.
 I cannot knock the nudity too much.  There is not much else nice too see.  The production values make the film look like a television show.  The look and feel may explain Anderson’s career direction.  Logan and Jessica discover all the escaped runners have been captured and frozen by box, a robot that would have been laughable if featured in an old Republic serial.  Box is literally a rolling box with pipe arms and a Halloween mask from Wal-Mart.  What is Roscoe Lee Browne doing in this get up?  I defy you to resist yelling ’my birds!  My birds!” in mimicry of Box as his ice cave is destroyed.
 Peter Ustinov rounds out the cast as a crazy, old cat man living in the burnt out captol building.  The geography makes one wonder why there is an ice cave south of Washington, DC.  I think it existed solely so Jessica could strip twice when entering and leaving.  Our heroes are convinced there is safety outside now that Box is not turning runners into frozen dinners, but is captured trying to alert everyone in the city.  Logan then demonstrtes the James T. Kirk skill of talking a computer to death, which prompts the city to naturally explode, and everyone goes outside to meet the crazy cat guy. 
I do not see any particular merit to Logan’s Run.  What could have been an engaging idea to explore is told painfully slow with stilted acting.  Maybe the colorless acting was intentional, considering the shallow attitudes of 23rd century people, but I was not clever enough to appreciate that point if so.  The bad production values and constant nudity do not help the film’s claim to be serious science fiction.  I could forgive even that if Logan’s Run had any charm.  But it is completely bereft. 

Rating: ** (out of 5)  

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