A Friend Of Mine Went On Carousel, Now He's Gone: Logan's Run (1976)

The very nature of the dystopian sci-fi thriller is to lull audiences with awe-inspiring imagery only to counter such beauty with jarring realities of a nightmarish and terribly Orwellian futurescape, however, very few films manage to take the concept and stretch it out over a feature length film and not completely lose steam halfway through, this certainly happens at times during The Omega Man and Soylent Green, perhaps Charlton Heston is to blame.  However, when a director and its subject matter gets it right the result can be quite astounding, as is certainly the case with THX 1138, which is both a visual feast and a narrative masterpiece.  While not quite on the level of the early Lucas work, Logan's Run does indeed manage to be an impressionist vision of the future that substantiates itself with a stellar narrative and commentary on the future.  Hell, it even proves to have come out in one of the most seminal years in filmmaking, setting along side Taxi Driver, Cria Cuervos and Nashville, all films that i have provided praise for to some degree in on this blog, although the latter was, technically, released a year earlier.  Logan's Run is particularly good, because while it certainly makes viewers aware of its showy elements, whether they be the expansive miniature sets intended to display the future, or the heavy emphasis on stop-motion special effects and hand drawn animation, all elements exist as a means to expand on the story, as opposed to distract viewers from any degree of lack, although it is admittedly hard not to become completely overwhelmed by something like the carousel scene, which works on a highly poetic level, as well as a grounded undermining of the notion of moving on to a "better place."  I would argue that very few contemporary directors within the sci-fi genre manage to comprehend the future in quite this way, except maybe The Wachowski's but even then their works clearly exist with a degree of homage to this works Platonic philosophy.  If all of this fails to sell this cinematic masterpiece, there is some glorious hair going on that even includes the likes of a young Farah Fawcett.

Logan's Run is set in the future, 2274 to be exact, wherein lifespans cut off at the age of thirty and individuals are sent onto Carousel a spiraling upward magical ride that leads those at cut-off to a sort of rebirth, meaning, of course, that no individual within this society is old, nor has ever seen an old person.  While a majority of the citizens gladly embrace their assumed rebirth a considerable amount of individuals are suspicious of the carousel as a form of population control and attempt to avoid their turn on it, becoming known as Runners in the process, precisely because they must run away from the world in order to avoid such a fate.  In comes Logan 5 (Michael York) and his friend Francis 7 (Richard Jordan) as Sandman, whose jobs within this society are to prevent runners from escaping, even if it means killing them to do so.  Logan 5, unlike Francis 7 begins to reconsider his role as a Sandman, and his eventual fate at the carousel when he takes one runners possession to a processor, and discovers their ankh necklace to be a symbol of eternal life.  The computer in rebellion pushes Logan 5's processing date ahead, forcing him to flee in fear of carousel, becoming a runner himself, acquiring the help of another runner Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter) to help escape the colony.  This escape leads them deep underground where they discover a frozen underworld in which the bodies of those runners frozen, as well as food kept from the outside world.  Box (Roscoe Lee Browne) a robot attempts to stop them from running, but Logan 5 and Jessica 6 eventually escape relatively unharmed, even managing to find the overgrown world of Washington D.C., although they are unfamiliar with it, finding a the aged statue of Abraham Lincoln quite bizarre.  During their exploration they met an old man, played supremely by Peter Ustinov, who explains to them the world outside of their colony, as well as the joys of growing old.  This revelation, in the eyes of Logan 5 and Jessica 6, must be shared with their colony, and after fighting off those who disagree, including Francis 7, they share the experiences of the old man with their colony, as they all begin to rise out of the cave of lies and false hopes of recycling.

While the main theme of this film certainly concerns issues of overpopulation, sustenance and fears of growing old, as do many science fiction works, it is hard not to consider how excellent of a consideration this is of Plato's Allegory of the Cave.  I know I refer to this quite regularly on the blog, but Logan's Run is truly a stellar adaptation of one of the great philosophers most universal teachings.  I will assume readers are quite familiar with this work and, as such, will not elaborate to heavily, however, I do want to note that it is essentially about living in metaphorical darkness, and seeing a light,  or becoming educated and attempting to share those realizations with persons still living in the darkness of ignorance.  Director Michael Anderson extends this notion to argue that the ignorance of people living in Logan 5's colony is a direct result of consumer excess, as much of the colony is quite reminiscent of a large shopping mall.  They chose to agree to young age and the comforts of conspicuous consumption, even fearing wrinkles or old age, let alone a person who even begins to question the possibility of something aside from carousel.  The film deals with seeing the light in a very literal sense, in that Logan 5 and Jessica 6 emerge from the cave into a blistering sun, although it to occurs in a educational sense, as they purposefully emerge in a dilapidated Washington D.C., a veritable locale of knowledge as guiding light.  However, it is their interaction with an individual who is equally, if not more, happy than they living outside the colony and growing old that inspires them to share their experiences, particularly those relating to learning.  It is also no accident, that the old man quotes T.S. Eliot, whose poetry would personify the idea of expanding the human consciousness to things beyond even the tangible, although as the closing moments of the film do emphasize, it is quite often the quantifiable elements that help move people from blind ignorance to enlightenment.

Key Scene:  The entire "face change" sequence is a god damn vision of cinematic dystopia, that is at once beautiful and nightmarish.

Buy this on bluray, it is a spectacle and well worth seeing in the highest quality possible.

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