Monday, November 10, 2008

Film #87: Logan's Run

Yeah, it's cornball, I know. But I was nine years old when I saw it so whaddaya expect? We all like EVERYTHING we saw when we were nine. So I still like Logan's Run.

Set in the 23rd Century, director Michael Anderson's 1976 MGM sci-fi epic (MGM submitted many titles to the genre in the wake of their 2001 success) envisions a future where major cities are confined under gigantic domes because of pollution. No one is allowed to live past the age of 30 and armed security guards, called Sandmen, are assigned to snuff out anyone who bucks this rule and tries to run from their assigned fate. (I wanna note that there are some great chase scenes involving the Sandmen, where their targets are shot and converted into disappearing matter.)

Michael York, at the very height of his fame (it was all downhill from here, even if he has appeared in the Austin Powers movies and in some episodes of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm) plays Logan 5, a Sandman who discovers the "terrible" secret behind all of this rigmarole, and is forced to run in order to survive. Jenny Agutter, the British actress who made such a deep impression as a young girl in Nicholas Roeg's wonderful Australian outback journey Walkabout, is the comely Jessica, who falls for Logan and joins him in his run. The always wild-eyed Richard Jordan is Francis, Logan's fellow Sandman who makes it his personal mission to hunt down his one-time friend. The director's son, Michael Anderson Jr., plays a crooked plastic surgeon and Farrah Fawcett-Majors, right on the cusp of her pin-up fame, plays his know-nothing assistant. In one of the most striking bits of casting, the velvet-voiced Roscoe Lee Browne plays Box, a silvery robot who lords over an icy museum filled with those who've run before (and, yes, that's Browne inside the costume, in one of the film's most memorable moments).

But the film's big scene-stealer is Peter Ustinov as Old Man, the cat-loving ancient denizen of the demolished Capitol building who quotes excessively from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats ("Macavity, Macavity," he quotes, "there's no one like Macavity / There never was a cat of such deceitfulness and suavity"--the basis for Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage moneymaker Cats). Ustinov adds a salty bit of life to a movie that, by necessity, has been devoid of it until his appearance. He overacts terrifically in the role, much to my own personal joy.
Logan's Run features other joys. The Oscar-nominated art direction, by Dale Hennesy is a treat, thanks also to a lot of location work done in Texas, where director Anderson filmed the Great Hall sequences at Dallas' Apparel Mart and the climactic sequence at architect Philip Johnson's famed Water Gardens in Ft. Worth, Texas (closed since June 2004, when four people drowned in the center pool from which Logan and Jessica emerge). The Oscar-nominated cinematography by Ernest Lazlo (Ship of Fools, Judgment at Nuremberg, Airport, D.O.A., Stalag 17, Kiss Me Deadly, Fantastic Voyage, and It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World) is quite spiffy.

Special effects masters L.B. Abbott and Glen Robinson handled the miniature work, while Matthew Yuricich contributed the prismatic matte paintings that convince us of a overgrown, uncared-for Washington D.C. (the shots of the ivy-covered Capitol Building and Lincoln Memorial are supreme examples of the lost art of matte painting--in fact, matte paintings should be re-examined as one of the premier possibilities that special effects have to offer; they're so much more convincing than fakey-looking CGI). Take a look at some beautiful frame grabs at the excellent Be Still My Blog of War by Andrew Grazebrook. Logan's Run, in fact, won a special achievement Oscar--along with that year's much much-less-impressive version of King Kong--for its effects work. And, to boot, Logan's Run features the first-ever looks at holographic imagery in the scenes where Logan is being computer-interrogated! Also, we should note Jerry Goldsmith's unusual score, which strike a perfect balance between symphonic and electronic work.

You don't havta tell me. I know Logan's Run is not a great movie. But it's a fun one, and it looms large in my heart despite all its flaws (it even inspired a TV series and a comic book). Believe me, it's gonna be remade soon--but it won't have the hard-won charm of the original, I guarantee.

1 comment:

Tony Dayoub said...

It IS a great movie. Michael Bay stole quit a bit of it for his film, The Island. And squandered every ill-gotten idea.