Logan’s Run (1976)
Based on the sci-fi novel, “Logan’s Run” by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, we have a post-apocalyptic tale that takes place in the 23rd century, after the world is destroyed by overpopulation and famine. Fearing the outside world, the citizens live in a vast domed-city that is an ecologically balanced, controlled, utopian society comprised of young people whose needs and desires are provided by computers or servo-mechanisms. They believe immortality can be had through a process known as Renewal — a supposed state of rebirth — where they willingly and gladly submit to a form of mandatory death in a grand ceremony known as Carousel. This allows their laboratory-born “offspring” to take their place in society, thus maintaining the balance of this utopia. Each citizen bears a colored, life-clock crystal embedded in the palm of their left hand which denotes a specific age group. They live hedonistically until their Last Day, the mandatory age of 30 years old.
Michael York plays Logan 5, a government agent known as a Sandman who displays subtle Satanic characteristics as he questions the concept of Renewal very early in the film. Renewal is an idea that is virtually gospel to all citizens — even to Logan, despite his doubts — save for an underground group of people known as Runners. Logan’s job as a Sandman is to hunt down and “terminate” Runners, who value their lives so much that they not only question the concept of Renewal but refuse to apply for it and seek to prolong their lives by trying to escape the protective confines of the vast domed-city. “Running” is considered a crime.
After Logan terminates a Runner during Carousel, he discovers an Ankh pendant (the Egyptian symbol of Life). The government computer tells Logan that this pendant is associated with the Runner underground. He is given a mission to become a Runner, venture to the outside world, and seek out a mythical place held sacred by all Runners known as Sanctuary. To do this, the computer subtracts the four remaining years of his life, refusing to say if he’ll get them back. Horrified, Logan seeks out the aid of a pretty girl named Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter) who is part of the Runner underground. From the moment she meets him, she questions Logan why Runners must be terminated and questions Renewal because she lost a friend to this highly celebrated ceremony which she simply views as killing people.
Eventually, Logan and Jessica find themselves outside, in a world overrun by vegetation and foliage and seemingly devoid of human life. The two soon discover that their life-clocks are suddenly useless and they are free, but still they search for Sanctuary. Instead, they find an old man (Peter Ustinov) living amongst the ruins of a desolate and barren Washington, DC with a bunch of cats. Logan comes to realize that Sanctuary is really a myth and decides to take the old man back to the domed-city hoping to prove to the people that Carousel is nothing but a lie, their life-clocks are a lie, and that no one has to die at the age of 30.
There are many Satanic elements that are sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle in this film. I find the secretive nature of the Runners to be somewhat similar to that of many Satanists in the fact that they believe in assimilation as a means of self-preservation. They highly value their lives and do seek pleasure. They seek the truth through doubt by challenging the thoughts and ideas that control a brainwashed society. And, the use of a common symbol to identify each other reminds me of the use of the Baphomet pendants as a symbol of our identity. There is the concept of stratification in this society, though it is only through age and the color of one’s life-clock crystal. This amused me since the crystal is in the palm of the left hand, which is often associated with Satanism, a life-affirming religion. It is also interesting to note that the character of Francis 7 seems to fit the archetype of someone who’d rather believe in a falsehood because it is comfortable and familiar even when there is tangible evidence that it is obviously a falsehood. It is an attitude taken by all who live in this utopian society and one very reflective of our own. Jessica bears this attitude, too, as seen when Logan tells her that there is no Sanctuary. Which brings us to Logan’s indomitable will to survive despite fear, adversity, and uncertainty.
I found the story to be very intriguing with a great musical score done by the late Jerry Goldsmith. The sets, visual effects, and costumes are excellent for 1976. This film received a Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects and was the first film to use laser holography. One of the most memorable scenes to me is the ceremony of Carousel, wherein the audience is seated in an amphitheater and those being Renewed silently walk onto the carousel wearing hoods, white robes, and skull-like masks. As the carousel spins, the participants raise their left hand showing their life-clock crystals, then disrobe, revealing white, skin-tight outfits with red flames rising from their toes up to their torsos. Still wearing their hoods and masks, they ascend toward the ceiling and then explode in a fiery death as the audience excitedly and repeatedly shouts, “Renew!”
[- Michael K. Silva]