LOGAN'S RUN - Blu-ray review

Maybe its ambitions outpace its performance, but at least it tries.

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.

You may not be old enough to remember a common saying in the late Sixties and early Seventies: "Never trust anyone over thirty." What, you were already over thirty when the saying was in vogue? Now, that's really dating you. Well, Hollywood capitalized on the youth movement with a number of motion pictures at the time, most notably "Wild in the Streets" in 1968 and "Logan's Run" in 1976. For my money, I'll take "Logan's Run," a futuristic sci-fi adventure with a message that actually favors an older age than thirty. (Spoken, I hear you say, by someone's who's old.)

The new Blu-ray high definition doesn't hurt, either.

"Sometime in the 23rd century...
The survivors of war, overpopulation and pollution are living in a great domed city, sealed away from the forgotten world outside. Here, in an ecologically balanced world, mankind lives only for pleasure, freed by the servomechanisms which provide everything. There's only one catch: Life must end at thirty unless reborn in the fiery ritual of Carrousel."

So, the setting for this sci-fi romp is the twenty-third century (2274 to be exact), and Michael York stars as Logan 5, a Sandman, a government enforcer who tracks down "runners," old people of thirty who try to run away from state-imposed termination. Yes, it is truly a youth-oriented world these people live in. Crystals embedded in their hands change color with the passing years. The crystals start clear at birth and proceed to black. You hit thirty and it's over. The trouble is, Logan is fast approaching thirty himself, thanks to a special mission his mysterious superiors assign him, and he soon gives the situation some second thoughts. Together with a rebellious young woman, played by Jenny Agutter, Logan decides to escape for good to a better place, an unknown place, a mythical place known as Sanctuary, beyond the domed walls of their sterile, antiseptic city.

This is a "message" picture. Message pictures were big in the Seventies. This one has a theme dealing with nonconformity and the need to be free at whatever age. Today, the movie's themes may seem more than a little simplistic, but in 1976 they were all the rage.

The special effects seemed pretty dazzling in 1976, too, but they won't look very spectacular by our modern CGI standards. In particular, the miniature sets and models in the first half of the movie look too much like what they are--corny little miniature sets and models. Still, they serve their purpose. The opening sequences in the fully enclosed city are fascinating, the city looking like one of today's typical shopping malls, and, amazingly, the hairstyles of three hundred years from now appear identical to ones worn in the Seventies. Coincidence, I suppose. The actual run, the escape from the city to a better place, remains exciting. And the last part of the film, while derivative of "Planet of the Apes," at least looks good, the sets seeming far more real than the miniatures at the beginning. The final resolution is a decided let down, though, and may have viewers shaking their heads in disbelief.

Richard Jordan costars as Logan's friend and fellow sandman, who doggedly pursues him as he runs. We also find Farrah Fawcett-Majors featured in the cast as an air head, and Peter Ustinov appears toward the middle of the film as a dotty old man who steals the show.

I should also mention Jerry Goldsmith's musical score because it appears to be an amalgam of every sci-fi movie cliché in the book. It starts out sounding like Richard Strauss's fanfare from "Also Sprach Zarathustra," which Stanley Kubrick had used so successfully in "2001," and then goes on to more spacey tunes and effects. It's all very melodramatic and only supports the corniness of some of the film.

Nevertheless, the movie became popular enough to inspire a television series, and its fans remember it fondly. Viewers these days who have never seen it before may wonder what all the fuss was about, but "Logan's Run" continues to offer some delightful performances, some imaginative set designs, and a stab at social awareness. Maybe its ambitions outpace its performance, but at least it tries.

Warner Bros. offer the MGM film in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen Todd-AO, using a VC-1 encode and a single-layer BD25 for the high-definition Blu-ray transfer. The picture quality is OK, the showy costumes and cityscapes standing out distinctly, if not always as vividly as one would like. The fact is, even in high-def the image varies from smooth and clean to slightly gritty and noisy. The photography is soft-focused and the hues mostly pastels, so don't expect much more than subdued, sometimes washed-out looking colors despite the solid black levels. This soft-pastel look was the effect the filmmakers must have been going for, and that's what we get. Yet once you get away from the city sets and the colored lights, many of the outdoor shots look crystal clear.

The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is an improvement over the lossy Dolby Digital, but that's still not saying much. Dialogue more often than not comes off pinched, choked, and nasal, and the overall balance is bright and forward, occasionally even edgy. The 5.1 mix puts a good deal of musical bloom and ambient crowd noise into the surround speakers, just not with much directionality.

WB use the extras from the previous DVD editions, again in standard def, including an audio commentary by director Michael Anderson, star Michael York, and costume designer Bill Thomas; plus a ten-minute vintage featurette on the making of the film. The featurette has seen better days. Rounding out the bonuses, we also get a generous thirty-two scene selections; a widescreen non-anamorphic theatrical trailer; English, French, Spanish, and German spoken languages; French and Spanish subtitles; and English and German captions for the hearing impaired

Parting Thoughts:
One can hardly hail "Logan's Run" as a landmark science-fiction film in the ranks of "2001," "Close Encounters," or "Star Wars," but it is thoughtful science fiction, nonetheless. Moreover, the movie's technology may look dated, but its ideas at least approach something meaningful. Sci-fi buffs, take heed.


Film Value