powered by AFI
Logan's Run (1976) was originally meant to be produced and released in 1968 when its cautionary tale of a futuristic society bent on destroying all but its youngest citizens might have had somewhat greater resonance in the youth-oriented culture of the time. But even eight years later, audiences found the premise fascinating, making a great financial success of what was at the time one of the most expensive sci-fi movies ever produced. The $9-million picture grossed close to $3 million in its first week of release, enough of a hit to cause its studio, MGM, and industry trade analysts to herald a new era for science fiction movies. Although its position was quickly eclipsed by Star Wars (1977), Logan's Run remains a major reference point for fans who first saw it in 1976. It also spawned a TV series a year later.
Logan's Run takes place in 2274, and survivors of some sort of holocaust have sealed themselves into a domed city near Washington, D.C. To control the population, the computers that run the city mandate termination for anyone who reaches the age of 30. The policy is enforced by police operatives called "Sandmen." Logan (Michael York) is one of these agents assigned to terminate "Runners," those who try to escape the compulsory fate. But he begins to question the system he serves, and in the company of a young woman named Jessica (Jenny Agutter), he escapes the city to seek a possibly mythical place called "Sanctuary," pursued by hisfriend and fellow Sandman Francis (Richard Jordan).
William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson's 1965 novel originally had the life cut-off age as 21, which the authors believed made even clearer their point that a society living without its old people loses its sense of continuity. "In our society right now," Johnson said in a 1976 interview in Cinefantastique magazine, "with the old people living in nursing homes instead of with their families, this continuity has already been lost. That's why we have so many dumb 40-to-60-year-old people around, because they weren't living with someone older who could pass along accumulated knowledge." The authors knew from the very inception they wanted to make a movie of their story, and as soon as publication was secured, they set out to sell the film rights, holding out on several big offers until they got the $100,000 they wanted. They agreed to up the age, largely because it opened casting to a greater number of experienced actors. Initially, noted fantasy/sci-fi producer George Pal was hired by MGM to produce the movie, but after holding on to the property for nearly two years, he couldn't come up with a satisfactory screenplay. The project was almost scrapped, but Nolan said the studio's success with Soylent Green (1973) and Westworld (1973) convinced it there was a market not only for sci-fi movies but for ones that were more complex and mature, as opposed to the "monster-that-ate-New-York" variety that had dominated the genre for many years.
As if to support Johnson's notion that the world was well on its way to becoming the society the authors imagined in their book, ideal locations already existed. In his first planning stages, Pal visited Brasilia, the newly constructed capital of Brazil, built from scratch in the country's interior from concrete, glass, and arching steel, and incorporating vast plazas and courtyards. When filming actually began in 1975, Dallas was chosen, because its ultra-modern architecture could save the project an estimated $3 million in set construction. A number of corporate headquarters provided the setting and backdrop for many scenes in the 23rd century city. The look was greatly enhanced by Dale Hennesy's art direction and by special effects - the most extensive in any film since 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - under the supervision of L.B. Abbott, who had done wonders for Fantastic Voyage (1966), Planet of the Apes (1968), and The Towering Inferno (1974).
A great deal of the film's appeal, however, was due to its all-too-human characters and storyline, and here the deft casting helped tremendously. Michael York was then one of the most respected young actors around after his recent successes in Cabaret (1972), The Three Musketeers (1973), and Murder on the Orient Express (1974). In his autobiography Accidentally on Purpose (Simon & Schuster, 1992), York took credit for "talent-spotting" one of the film's supporting players, Farrah Fawcett (then hyphenating her husband Lee Majors' name to her own), as she played tennis at the home of a mutual friend. York also had high praise for Peter Ustinov, cast as the last elderly man alive. Also an accomplished writer and director, Ustinov improvised much of his dialogue in this film "including snatches of T.S. Eliot's poems of cats a decade before a certain other Englishman made it world famous - in a marvelous swampy Southern accent," York said.
Director: Michael Anderson
Producer: Saul David
Screenplay: David Zelag Goodman, based on the novel by George Clayton Johnson and William F. Nolan
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
Editing: Bob Wyman
Art Direction: Dale Hennesy
Special Effects: L.B. Abbott
Original Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Michael York (Logan), Richard Jordan (Francis), Jenny Agutter (Jessica), Peter Ustinov (Ballard), Roscoe Lee Browne (Box), Farrah Fawcett-Majors (Holly)
by Rob Nixon