Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 25, 2007)
During the early 1960s, rock music went through a hard time. Many feel that in 1958-59 a series of events such as Elvis entering the Army and Buddy Holly's death really took the wind out of rock's sails, and that things wouldn't rebound until 1964 when the Beatles made their mark in the US. This viewpoint seems somewhat narrow-minded - it ignores the positive contributions of acts like the Beach Boys and the Motown groups - but in many ways it appears pretty accurate: there sure was a lot of crappy music flying around during that time period.
Of course, there's always a lot of crappy music in whatever time period - it's just that there was so little good following rock's "Golden Age" and there was so much bad. The biggest hit of 1963 - Sugar Shack by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs – epitomizes the problems of those lean years. Is this the worst song of all time? I won't make that claim, but it must be close! (Don't believe me? Find our for yourself: http://www.fireballs-original.com/wavs/sugshack.wav.) No wonder the Beatles did so well the following year.
So what does this have to do with DVD? Not much, but I wanted to draw a historical comparison to the situation in which science fiction films found themselves in the mid-1970s. Lots of dreck, pretty much nothing of worth until 1977 when Star Wars did to films what the Beatles did to music in 1964. If things are historically comparable, I guess that means that the biggest hit science fiction film of 1976 must have been a cinematic Sugar Shack, right? Definitely! (You think I would have gone this far if that wasn't the case?)
What was that science fiction hit from 1976? Logan's Run. That clunker apparently was the best the genre had to offer before George Lucas came along to liven things up - now that's a scary thought.
I never saw Logan's Run during its theatrical release, although you'd think I would have been in the target audience. After all, I was nine in 1976, and it seems like the kind of film I would have seen, but for whatever reason, I didn't. In fact, I'm not sure I ever saw it prior to watching the DVD. I recall seeing the TV show spinoff in the late 1970s, but I can't attest with any certainty that I ever viewed the film itself.
That's probably why I had a happy childhood. I didn't expect much from
Logan's Run and yet it managed to underperform all of my expectations. I won't claim that it's the worst movie of all time, but it has to be a contender.
That's kind of sad, because the story itself isn't bad. It offers an interesting idea of a possible future society, and even if the science fiction aspects of it didn't work, it could have at least made for a good "chase" film. Unfortunately, it succeeded on neither front and managed solely to be a thoroughly frightful piece of work.
Other than the possibilities that the story could have offered, I can find nothing of merit to Logan's Run. Actually, that's not completely true - there's a little bit of nudity that I rather enjoyed. Other than that, the movie has virtually nothing going for it.
The acting? Atrocious. The worst episode of Star Trek surpassed the performances found here. Leads Michael York, Jenny Agutter, and Richard Jordan? Tremendously campy and hammy, each one of them; even the scenes that could have worked became laughable because of their work. Amazingly, the actors in smaller roles did even worse, including then-newcomer Farrah Fawcett-Majors. Of course, the fact that nothing was done to make the 23rd century look at all unlike 1976 didn't help. All those ridiculous hairstyles are bad enough in a movie that takes place in that era - it's positively unbearable when the setting is about 300 years down the road.
I briefly thought that Peter Ustinov's bit as Old Man toward the end of the movie might redeem some of the acting, but I was wrong. I initially mistook his horribly artificial and faux-whimsical performance for something decent, but I soon realized that he sucked as well. He just sucked differently than anyone else.
Virtually every technical aspect of Logan's Run stinks as well. The direction and editing show no signs of life. The whole thing just plods along until they finally reach something that appears to be a conclusion - or maybe they just ran out of film). Even for the time period, the special effects seem terrible. The "laser guns" appear to be modified lighters, and when they hit the mark, silly sparks fly from the target. Again, even the worst episode of Star Trek looked better than this.
Jerry Goldsmith's score fares no better. It alternates between cheesy future schlock - lots of "bips" and "bonks" - and an extremely overwrought traditional score that makes scenes that potentially may have contained suspense even more ridiculous than they already would have been. The latter sections sound like bad outtakes from the
Psycho recording sessions. A good score could have redeemed some dignity for this mess, but Goldsmith's work makes the entire package even worse.
I don't know if I can overstate what an irredeemably terrible film this is. It starts out bad and it goes downhill from there. Not one scene of Logan's Run offered any respite from this onslaught of crap. Oh, the humanity! It's hard to believe that science fiction would enjoy such a renaissance just one year later.
In some ways, it doesn't seem quite fair for me to compare Logan's Run to its brethren of the following year. Both Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind are classics that represent the best the science fiction genre has to offer. Not many films could stand up to that kind of comparison, so of course Logan's Run looks poor in that regard.
However, I do think it's a fair comparison since all these films were big budget studio affairs. It's not like I'm attacking some indie effort because it lacks the production values of the big boys. I'm not condemning Logan's Run because it's not as good as Star Wars or CE3K. I'm condemning it because it's terrible and those films show that it didn't have to be. In other words, no one can defend Logan's Run through an argument that its flaws are endemic to the time period. One year later, Spielberg and Lucas managed to greatly outdo it in every way, so there's no excuse for the poor quality of this effort.