Logan’s Run (1976/Warner Blu-ray)
Sound: B Extras: B- Film: B
Towards the end of the last great (and greatest) cycle of
Science Fiction films, MGM tried to recapture the glory of 2001 with other projects and though matching that masterwork proved
futile, they would re-release it while issuing other films in the genre. Westworld
(1973) was a big hit for them and Demon
Seed (1977) was another good showing, but Logan’s Run was in development for a long time, then was lucky to
be released before Star Wars (one
summer before) to become a somewhat controversial hit.
Originally, highly successful genre producer George Pal
was going to make it and he had great success with MGM including the hit 1960
version of The Time Machine, so that
seemed like a match. That sadly fell
through, but the studio was still determined to make it and Saul David (the
Derek Flint films, Fantastic Voyage)
became the producer who finally pulled it off.
After several actors would almost take the lead roles (including Lindsay
Wagner, who would become The Bionic
Woman at the same time), Michael York would be the title character, a
Sandman who was part of an elite group that killed Runners.
In 2274, everyone lives in a highly technologized set of
domed cities where they do not have to work and enjoy any pleasure they want to
anytime. The only problem is that they
must die at age 30 or “Renew” as it is called.
The Sandmen kill those who do not want to Renew, but there is something
wrong here and Logan
is about to find out what it is. This
awakening beings when he meets Jessica (Jenny Agutter of Walkabout) and when an unusual termination starts to interest his
already unusually inquisitive mind.
Soon, the computer he reports to realizes he has an object
that links him to that Runner and he is assigned to be on a secret mission to
find where over a thousand runners disappeared to and kill them all. However, he has other ideas in mind and a
best friend in fellow Sandman Francis (Richard Jordan) who believes everything
the city is all about. Logan’s new mission will change all that too.
The film faced several criticisms when it was
released. Besides studio censorship,
there was not a PG-13 rating, so to avoid an R-rating, nudity was cut back in a
Science Fiction film that still holds the record for it. With a mostly white cast, many were offended
and comedian Richard Pryor made a classic joke about it stating that the makers
did not think African Americans were going to “make it” into the 23rd
Century. The James Bond producers would
respond to this in their huge hit Moonraker
four years later. Critics also did not
like the acting, though I believe Director Michael Anderson (the original Around The World In 80 Days, Doc Savage (1975), Orca) was sincerely trying for a different acting style ala 2001 as
people in the future would not act like it was the 1970s. It did not help that critics were out to bash
the late, great Farrah Fawcett-Majors, perfectly cast as the sex symbol of the
time to sell a “perfect” world of future pleasure. The sex connection also came with its own
Science Fiction connection; the fact that she was still married in real life to
The Six Million Dollar Man himself,
Lee Majors, so the casting of her was brilliant in a cameo part as the sexy
receptionist at The New You Shop.
Roscoe Lee Browne plays Box, a robot that looks like a
cousin of Mrs. Butterworth made of mirrored metallic materials (or just
mirrors) a year before James Earl Jones voiced Darth Vader. Browne is also in the suit however, whereas
Jones voiced Vader while David Prowse wore the outfit. Michael Anderson Jr. plays the surgeon at the
New You Shop, Lara Lindsay plays a key runner and is the voice of the Sandman
computer, Gary Morgan is the head of The Cubs and Peter Ustinov (in a role Joe
Bob Briggs hilariously credits for saving the film) shows up in the second half
of it as a symbol of the truth, which will make more sense when you see the
A friend once pointed out that the sequences in the film
kept surfacing in sections like a James Bond film and with that series a year
away from a comeback, took advantage of its absence. Though many of the special effects here are
dated, this won an Academy Award for visual effects because of the first use of
holograms in a feature film and they still look great in the climax of the film. Lasers were also effectively used. York and Agutter are a good match and David
Zelag Goodman’s screenplay may not have made it onto the screen in tact as
intended, this is more interesting film ideologically than expected and is an
underrated work despite its flaws.
This is the mall look Science Fiction films helped make
possible since its earliest days linked to World’s Fair visions of a bright
clean future, which Kubrick’s 2001
reestablished and Tarkovsky’s Solaris
(1972) was a bit critical of. Ridley
Scott’s hit Alien (1979) and
at-first non-hit Blade Runner (1982,
a film whose comparisons to Logan’s Run
were ironically one of the reasons it failed at the box office) offered the new
darker vision of the future as the bright future look literally became the
shopping mall. Logan’s Run was even shot in a mall in Texas when elaborate malls were not so
common. No wonder George Romero picked a
mall to shoot Dawn Of The Dead
(1978) soon after.
Seeing the film again a few years later, its visions of a
plastic world have come true two centuries early, but with a much angrier,
vicious side and the idea of easy plastic surgery that seemed to futuristic
only 33 years ago is sadly (and often dangerously) commonplace now. It is also a pre-AIDS work and has a
surprisingly mature vision of human sexuality for a commercial film you would
not see in our mostly infantilized cinema today. And the film has remained a favorite in cult
status and beyond since. It has also
influenced dozens of films that wanted to be it from Parts – The Clonus Horror to Moonraker
to (some extent) Blade Runner to
Michael Bay’s The Island, which was
found to be a remake of the former film.
Like it or not, Logan’s Run
is a minor classic of the Science Fiction genre and though Star Wars would make it dated on a visual effects level (along with
the 1976 King Kong, a hit later that
year), it comes from a classic period of Sci-Fi and few film after have been as
The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image was shot
on film, but there has always been confusion as to what film format it
originated in. The posters said Todd AO,
but instead of being the groundbreaking 70mm format (with a 65mm negative) that
helped put widescreen filmmaking on the map, this was actually shot in the
still-great, anamorphic Todd AO 35mm format (used on some fine films at the
time) and MGM did not bother to explain the difference on purpose. That was especially bad as 70mm blow-up
prints would never look as good as an actual Todd AO 65mm shoot, but this did
not hurt the film at the box office.
Despite that, the scope composition on this film holds up
extremely well and this transfer is far superior to the DVD that has been out
for years, which was based on an older version from an older 12”
LaserDisc. An upgraded LaserDisc set was
issued with a far better print not used on the DVD and I was hoping that would
be the source for this Blu-ray. It is
not. While the detail and depth are
superior to even that edition, I noticed some color missing in some shots
versus that print and the texture on the Sandman shirts are never as sharp,
natural or clear as they should be. You
should be able to see the stitching more clearly, for instance.
Ernest Laszlo, A.S.C., was Director of Photography was a
key artist in big screen filming with films as diverse as Stalag 17, Vera Cruz, Kiss Me Deadly and The Big Knife. This was
towards the end of his amazing career that was still making hits like Airport, Fantastic Voyage and It’s A
Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World possible.
Considering all the visual effects he had to deal with here, likely the
most in his career, this looks very good and only some of the visual effects
hurt the presentation.
In cases of optical printing and some softer shots, Warner
needs to consider striking a new print from the negative after cleaning that up
and rematch the color (simpler but good-looking MetroColor at its best in this
case) in the effects with the actual natural footage. Note how good the neon in The New You Shop and
Love Shop look, as well as how the best shots do not show their age. This is a grade-A film shoot built to last
and even has some demo moments all serious home theater and film fans should
The sound was an experimental Dolby System noise reduction
film. 35mm prints got the old A-type
analog noise reduction, but the 70mm blow-ups were the first to experiment with
Dolby noise reduction on magnetic tracks.
It is the first of only two films (the other being A Star Is Born with Barbra Streisand later in 1976) that did this
with what is known as the older Todd AO sound configuration for 70mm
projection. Unlike films like Star Wars or Superman – The Movie that follow what we think of as the current
surround set-up, the Todd AO version since the 1950s had five of the six tracks
behind the screen!
This means you get traveling dialogue and sound
effects. Warner has upgraded the sound
to a surprisingly good Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that annihilates the previous
sound mixes (like the Dolby Digital versions offered here) with ease. The film still shows its age sonically, yet
there are some impressive moments of sound that will surprise many. While traveling dialogue (especially in some
scenes with York and Agutter that seem somewhat strained and compressed from
problematic fold-down from five speakers to three) does not always work, some
such scenes actually correct errors from previous upgrades. Other sound effects sound really good, but
the real sonic highlight is the great music score by the great Jerry Goldsmith.
Released a few years ago on a CD soundtrack release that
finally did justice to the music (see below); it is an impressive recording by
any standard, but especially for its age.
What the TrueHD does here that the Dolby Digital 5.1 from the DVD and
even better PCM from the recent CD cannot do is present the music in amazing
multi-channel playback that will stun soundtrack fans and audiophiles with its
amazing dynamic range and articulation that will recall the best multi-channel
DVD-Audio and SA-CD releases on the market.
It is so good that it actually exposes the limits of the other older
sound, but the many sonic demo moments are yet another reason this is a
must-own Blu-ray and there is little improvement for room here.
Extras include the original theatrical trailer, the
classic vintage featurette A Look Into The 23rd Century and an
exceptional feature length audio commentary track by York, Anderson and Costume
Designer Bill Thomas we highly recommend after seeing the film. Yes, there were a few more extras on the 12”
LaserDisc set like American Cinematographer Magazine’s coverage of the film and
another section telling us facts on censorship and lost footage from the film
(The Love Shop sequence was more explicit, a Richard Nixon joke was dropped,
another runner killed you can see in the trailer here was cut from the film, a
nude sculpture of the co-stars was dropped for being too nude, etc.) are
missing and the latter should have been included, but with a remake on the
horizon, this film should be revisited.
For now, this is one of the best back-catalog Blu-rays issued to date
with plenty of surprises for everyone.
For more on the music of Logan’s Run, you can read about the limited edition CD soundtrack
at this link:
Instead of doing sequels to the film based on the two
follow-up novels, MGM and CBS made a TV series, and though Warner has not
issued it on DVD yet, a limited edition CD soundtrack was released of the show
and you can read more about it at this link:
- Nicholas Sheffo