Logan’s Run: What Lies Beneath the Dome

Logan's Run poster

In today’s guest post, Rick29 looks at the 1970s sci-fi favorite Logan’s Run:

In the distant future, civilization’s survivors live inside a huge dome controlled by a computer. When the city’s inhabitants reach the age of 30, they are “renewed” by participating in a ritual called the Carousel. Dressed in white robes and masks, they are literally lifted off the ground and disappear in a flash of bright light as the younger residents cheer their approval.

As you may have guessed, “renewal” is actually death and the implication is that the computer has implemented this process to avoid overpopulation. Most of the residents live in blissful ignorance, but there are those that seek to escape to a place known only as Sanctuary. These “runners” are tracked down and eliminated by a police force known as the Sandmen.

The computer directs a Sandman called Logan 5 to locate and destroy Sanctuary by becoming a runner. Logan (Michael York), a naturally curious young man, enlists the aid of Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter). The two share a mutual attraction, though Jessica can’t fathom how Logan can kill his fellow humans. Still, she helps him escape from the dome into the outside world. Unknown to them, Francis 7–a fellow Sand Man and Logan’s best friend–is in hot pursuit.

The first half of Logan’s Run is an absorbing portrait of a futuristic society. We learn that the young people have a “life clock” embedded in their hands that changes color as they approach the age of renewal. Except for the Sandmen, the dome’s inhabitants don’t appear to work. They party at night, whether at a risque nightclub or by tapping into a virtual database to see who is interested in casual sex. Most of them wear red and green pastel uniforms (again, except for the Sandmen who wear black and gray). And, of course the highlight of their existence is the Carousel.

The film takes a hard turn when it leaves all that behind to focus on Logan and Jessica’s odyssey outside the dome. There are some interesting Ozian overtones, such as the realization of what “home” is. However, there are simply too many scenes of Logan and Jessica wandering through the forests or among the ruins of the past. Peter Ustinov pops up unexpectedly along the journey to lend some meaning to the proceedings and Francis (Richard Jordan) finally catches up with his quarries. However, by then, Logan’s Run has lost all momentum and can’t recapture it with an overly optimistic ending.

Logan’s Run earned Academy Award nominations for its cinematography, art direction, and special effects. It only won in the latter category, but that was notable in that it was the fourth Oscar for L.B. Abbott, 20th Century-Fox’s long-time resident special effects wizard. In addition to working his magic for films such as The Poseidon Adventure and Fantastic Voyage, he also supervised the special effects on television classics like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space. His work on Logan’s Run is a mixed bag, though, with some of the miniature sets looking like…well, miniature sets.

Logan’s Run performed well at the box office and inspired a short-lived 1977-78 TV series with Gregory Harrison as Logan and Heather Menzies-Urich as Jessica. The film’s success also resulted in renewed interest in the 1967 novel. Co-author William F. Nolan even wrote a 1977 sequel called Logan’s World.

By the way, Logan’s Run is also notable for featuring a brief fight between the stars of Call the Midwife and Charlie’s Angels. Yes, that’d be Jenny Agutter and Farrah Fawcett. Apparently, their fight scene got intense enough for director Michael Anderson to shorten it to prevent unwarranted hair pulling.

Rick29 is a film reference book author and a regular contributor at the Classic Film & TV Café , on Facebook and Twitter. He’s a big fan of MovieFanFare, too, of course!