Monday, March 2, 2015

I'd Love to Turn You On At the Movies #111 - Logan’s Run (1976, dir. Michael Anderson)

“Computer: Do you identify the word Sanctuary?
Logan 5: Negative.
Computer: Sanctuary is a pre-catastrophe code word. Used for a place of immunity.”

Released in 1976, the year before Star Wars, Logan’s Run provides a very interesting and somewhat disturbingly dystopian vision of the future. At the age of 30 everyone in this fantasy world submits to Carrousel in order to be renewed - or do they?!? The first time that I watched this poignant yet entertainingly campy film was in a literature class in my freshman year (of my first bachelor’s in 2005). The class was early and I was often prone to nodding off. However when I got to class and found out that we were watching a science fiction film my interest was piqued and I had no trouble staying awake for the rest of that class. Somewhere in my mind (and in my heart) between my love for fun science fiction, like The Fifth Element and Star Wars (to name a few), and my adoration for campy genius, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (movie and TV show) and the original Star Trek TV series, lies my obsession with this cult classic film.
In order to prime you for this film there are a few tidbits that I should probably fill you in on. First and foremost, there is no voice over or omniscient recap text scrolling across the screen. This film assumes that its audience will get quickly caught up in its future world. But for good measure I will touch on a few things about the future you are about to enter. First and foremost, in this world pleasure reigns supreme, meaning that everyone is selfish and the pursuit of happiness (in all aspects of life) is the only thing that matters. Secondly, all (or at least most) of the citizens have and know their place and are complacent in their positioning, as determined by an all-knowing, computer-centered governing force. Thirdly, (as mentioned above) at the age of 30 everyone willingly submits to their own public ‘death’ at Carrousel. This needs a tad bit more explaining: because of their belief in the system and everything that system has told them, they trust that at the age of 30 they have come to the end of their life cycle and if they have lived their life correctly they will be renewed. However not everyone has been drinking the Kool-Aid, hence some people run from this fate. These people are called Runners and there are certain people, Sandmen, whose job it is to eradicate these runners for the good of society.

This is where our story begins. Our hero, Logan 5 (Michael York), is a Sandman. When he meets an intriguingly odd woman, Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter), who questions the status quo it sparks a series of events that will change his world. Just prior to meeting Jessica, Logan had successfully taken down a runner and pulled an ankh off the body. When he checks in with his computer overlord boss, the computer recognizes this symbol as signifying sanctuary, possibly a safe haven for runners. Without a moment’s notice, and without Logan’s agreement, the computer changes Logan’s status from having 4 years of life left to ready for renewal. The only assignment he was given was to become a runner and find and infiltrate the sanctuary. Remembering that he had seen this same ankh symbol of Jessica’s necklace he seeks her out in order to attempt to figure out what is happening to him and find sanctuary. Is he trying to execute his orders or at this point is he merely attempting to escape his fate. What follows is a psychological journey to a ‘renewed’ vision of life.

So other than the obviously amazing storyline that I have set up for you, why would I want to turn you on to this film? Well, the brilliantly campy portrayal of the future and characters, the costume design, special effects, and set designs are as the kids say, ‘next level.’ In our film culture today all of these aspects that we take for granted were meticulously put together either in detailed models or in intricate set design and this movie doesn’t merely utilize these elements but beautifully harnesses the power of this strategy. There is a certain authenticity to the obvious artifice and an undeniable charm to the imagination behind the story and the concept of the future. If you are anything like me, while you enjoy the special effects in films of the present, you can’t help but love stepping back in time and watching a simpler attempt at practical special effects (which are rooted much more heavily in reality).
In the end if you are inclined to enjoy cerebral science fiction, but also drawn to the appeal of campiness, this film is for you! Let yourself fall back in time in order to spring forward into a strange new future world. Since that first time watching this film in class, I have owned several copies and watched this movie more times than I’d like to admit. So joint the cult, and discover this somewhat unknown old school science fiction film.

            - Edward Hill

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