From Novel to Film pt. 25: Logan's Run

Here is the epigraph to the novel:

The seeds of the Little War were planted in a restless summer during the mid-1960s, with sit-ins and student demonstrations as youth tested its strength.
By the early 1970s over 75 per cent of the people living on Earth were under twenty-one years of age.
The population continued to climb - and with it the youth percentage.
In the 1980s the figure was 79.7 per cent.
In the 1990s, 82. 4 per cent.
In the year 2000 - critical mass.

And here is the epigraph to the film:

Most people if they know the story at all - future society where no one is allowed to live past the age of 30; as that age approaches, the life clock crystal in your palm turns color and then starts to blink - know it as the film with Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, and Peter Ustinov. Ryan Britt, in his review of the novel for Tor, wrote: "Calling Peter Ustinov’s appearance in (the film) a 'memorable performance' might be pushing it a little bit. When Logan and Jessica encounter him in the ruins of Washington D.C. the crazy old man rambles about cats for nearly five hours. My favorite part of this rant is when he claims * all cats have three names; a regular name, a fancy name, and name only the cat itself knows. While totally bonkers, this little philosophy sort of sums up how the world thinks about Logan’s Run. Everyone knows about the movie (the cat’s regular name). Some people know about the TV show and comics (the cat’s fancy name). But few seem to have read the book!" 

* Actually quoting T.S. Elliot, of course.

I like this analogy, and it's true to my experience as well. I plan to spend a little time with at least one episode of the series at some point, but today we're only going to look at the film and the book - the original book, that is, not any of its sequels.

Directed by Michael Anderson. Screenplay by David Zelag Goodman.
First published 1967.

There are significant differences between the novel and film, perhaps the biggest being the age of Last Day: in the book, it's only 21. Which lends things a more Lord of the Flies vibe than "Don't Trust Anyone over 30." As mentioned here, "You have a society run by people who are just beginning to know themselves. The powers that be have set up a society of voluntary euthanasia at age 21 since it was a youth revolt that took over the world. Growing older is what led to the corruption in the first place so no more old age. Wisdom has been forgotten. Only the vitality of youth can be trusted." 

The book opens with Logan 5 at work. He is a Sandman, whose job it is to terminate runners, i.e. those who fail to report for voluntary euthanasia. After, he indulges in a little free Lysergic Foam and free love. 

The film originally opened the same way, as well, but the sequence was cut after test audiences didn't like it, apparently. Instead, we see Logan 5 addressing a newborn as "Logan 6" through protective glass. He is chided for caring by his fellow Sandman, Francis 7.

"You know who her seed mother is?"
"Of course not. I'm curious, not sick." 

This is all we see of the Nursery in the film. It plays a much larger role in the book, and there is an extended sequence set there at the end, as well as plenty of flashbacks to life there from both Logan and Jessica. More on Jessica in a minute. 

From there, the film goes to Carrousel (sic), the ritual that takes the place of the voluntary euthanasia centers (sleepshops) of the book.

Those on their Last Day don robes and hope to "renew" (which the crowd chants wildly).
In reality, no one renews. They just float upwards into some kind of human bug zapper with really trippy music.
Logan and Francis are called away to chase a Runner ("Run, runner!"), and Logan removes an ankh from his body before it is disposed of.

The book has no ankh. Instead, the Runner that Logan terminates presses a passkey into his hand and whispers "Sanctuary" to him. Logan knows this word; all Sandmen do. It's the mythical place all Runners are trying to get to, beyond the reach of Sandmen and their life-clocks. As in the film, he is tasked by his superiors to pose as a Runner and infiltrate the underground railroad for Runners seeking Sanctuary. He does this by tracking down the sister of the Runner he killed (Doyle 10):

Jessica 7.

In the film, there's no familial connection - only the ankh that he recognizes as the same thing he took off the Runner but doesn't know its significance. 

Jessica is tasked by the Sanctuary people to lure Logan to his doom.  

In the book, being a sexual voyeur is a sport of sorts, or something people freely - and directly, not via the screen - engage in, and it is at one of these clubs where Logan meets Jessica. In the film, you need only plug into "the circuit" to see who is available for some consequence-free (consensual of course) sex and they materialize right in your home. The sexual climate of the 60s and 70s definitely informs things here. It's difficult to sort fact from fantasy for those of us who didn't live through it - and of course, this sort of sex-circuit idea could spring from any era, not just the 60s or 70s - but this is a projection of a sexually-liberated future from a pre-AIDS era. 

When Logan first turns it on, a dude appears. They share a look that could mean either "Oh sorry, my mistake" or "Not this time, thanks." Either way - there's a distinct lack of homophobic reaction.
Jessica says she felt sad as a friend of hers died at Carrousel, so she put herself on circuit. But now she's changed her mind.
"What's your name?"
"That's sad enough. You're beautiful. Come on, let's have sex."

She's still not up for it. After Logan talks with her a bit more, in comes Francis with these two ladies.

Seconds later, lysergic mist fills the apartment, and they all fall on the couch, as Jessica shows herself out.
Marvel's comic book adaptation makes one of the ladies black. And possibly a trans? I don't mean this flippantly - looks like a man's face to me. But who knows/cares.

This aspect of the future is further fleshed out, no pun intended, shortly after Logan and Jessica begin their run and escape the city via a drugged-out orgy room. 

Which apparently abuts, again no pun intended, the outskirts of the Dome.

But I've gotten slightly ahead of myself. After the scene in Logan's apartment, the film cuts to him checking in at work. It's here where he learns the meaning of the ankh and is tasked with finding Sanctuary. 

One of my favorite whispering-female computer voices in all sci-fi. And I love all the pauses and silences and curt "That question has been answered, Logan 5"s.
As in the book, this necessitates a visit to New You:
the Dome's premiere Instant Laser Surgery clinic.
If it's the 70s, Farrah Fawcett-Majors is going to show up sooner or later.
Things don't go quite as planned.

Francis gives chase. From here, book and film diverge pretty widely. Sticking with the book first, Logan and Jessica go through Cathedral and fight with some "Cubs," i.e. teenage hooligans who take "Muscle," a drug which gives the user a brief surge of super-strength but has unpredictable side effects. From there -

via the maze-cars which connect the Domes all over the world -

they search for Ballard, "the old Man of Sanctuary," rumored to be the head of the underground railroad. Their search takes them to Molly - a vast underwater complex that once farmed the oceans for food - and to Box, " an insane half-man living in a self-created world of fantasy." Said world is "Hell", an Arctic wasteland, where Box immediately tries to kill Logan and Jessica, but not, helpfully, before telling them how to escape.

These elements are combined in the film, somewhat.
Box is a robot who collects "fish! Plankton! Protein from the sea." Which means whatever runners escape the Dome. And then he tries to kill them.
A scene where Box asks Logan and Jessica to pose for him was cut as it dramatically increased the amount of on-screen nudity.

Back to the book: Logan and Jessica next go to Crazy Horse (the monument begun by Korczak Ziolkowski, still incomplete in real-world-2015) under/within which is the computer that controls all civilization. 

"They beheld the Thinker, the final realization of the computer age. A direct extension of the electronic brains at Columbia and Cal Tech in the 1960s, it was a massive breakthrough in solid-state technology. Computer was linked with computer in ever-widening complexity. 

President Curtain was the first to suggest that the Thinker be moved from Niagara to the Crazy Horse Caverns, and with the death of the Republican Party in 1988, the Crazy Horse bill was passed without opposition. Estimated final cost: twenty-five billion dollars." 

It's difficult to tell which party is being lampooned, there.

At Crazy Horse, they discover Francis is waiting for them and escape and go through some hot-rod-futurist-jalopy-racing (devilsticks) with a gang of desert teenage crazies. (Manson Family?) Who poison him and Jess with super-sex drugs. Logan has seven orgasms, we're told, as he and Jessica maneuver their bloody escape.

They then go through a Nursery and then into a robotic recreation of the Civil War, the Battle of Fredericksburg to be exact. This is the second or third Civil War reference of the novel. (Abe Lincoln log-splitter was one of Logan's apartment screensavers.) Makes sense given the 60s context. Then, into a grand Maze, then off to Washington, DC.

They go to DC in the movie, too, though it's all quite different. Having never stepped foot outside the Dome, they are momentarily taken aback by the sun.

"What is it?"
"I don't know... but, whatever it is, it's warm."
Along the way they discover their lifeclocks have gone blank.
They explore the ruins of Washington, DC.
And then meet "the Old Man" in the ruins of the Senate.

And here's where we have another major deviation from the book. As they talk with the Old Man, they slowly realize Sanctuary is a myth. Not the case in the book. Sanctuary exists - it's a previously-abandoned space colony near Mars. At the end, Logan and Jessica board a rocket (having taken a maze-car from DC to "Cape Steinbeck") and blast off for it.

This is on the heels of meeting Ballard, who turns out to be a decoy; the real Ballard is actually Francis, who is the leader of the rebels. He tells Logan the Thinker has been malfunctioning and all life is threatened; he is posing as a Sandman to shepherd as many people away as he can. He stays behind to keep fighting the good fight

Not the case with Francis in the film, who's just a Sandman.

Having Francis brandish a tattered flag as a weapon is a nice touch. Really, all of the above is nice symbolism, even if it's mainly a pastiche of Planet of the Apes and maybe "The Omega Glory." Quite a different ending than the movie, eh? In it, Logan and Jessica return to the city, bringing the Old Man with them, who wants to see young people after so many years living only with his cats. (After so many years in the wilderness, he can be forgiven for his absurd delusion that a horde of millennials would, in any combination or state of dress, be preferable to the company of cats.) 

Logan tells them the whole systems's a sham: they can live, live!

Do they listen? Do the kids ever listen? No. They only listen when things start blowing up.

Which begins to happen shortly after Logan is debriefed by the computer that gave him his assignment. In classic sci-fi tradition, the computer cannot handle the information that Logan gives it ("There... Is... Noooooo... Sanct-u-ary...") and the entire house of cards come crumbling down. (Also thanks to some errant disruptor blasts.) 

Logan and Jessica lead everyone outside the Dome, where the youth surround the Old Man and pet his beard.
The End.

I've always loved the movie and still do, but this time around, the ending made me chuckle. What the hell are these people going to do? How will they live? A sequel exploring that might have been very interesting. A sequel to the film, I mean. As aforementioned, there were a few sequels to the book, none of which I've read. The book ends so differently, though, that any continuation of the story would proceed from an equally different place.

Logan's Run was filmed almost entirely in Texas, most notably at the Dallas Market Center
and Forth Worth Water Gardens

All malls are similar, I guess, but it reminded me a little of Providence Place Mall back in RI.
Typical afternoon at the food court outside the IMAX.

The sets are all pretty striking. Full list of locations here.

Logan's swanky pad.
The scenes at Sandman HQ are pretty cool, too.

The Book: (again from comicsgrinder, afore-linked) "Nolan and Johnson don’t concern themselves so much with fleshing out these characters and that is purposefully done. You know only what you need to know. They speak in a rather clipped fashion but not in an amateurish stilted manner. And they are thrown into numerous situations but they’re not an awkward jumble. It’s more like a grand opera or monumental painting. It’s good to keep in mind that Nolan and Johnson have been around the block a few times. These men are part of science fiction legend dating back to the Southern California Writer’s Group. They go back to a tradition of working together on projects, projects that included, among other things, scripts for The Twilight Zone." 

The Film: Definitely quite a bit different than the book, but undoubtedly a classic of multiple genres. Dated, sure, but its datedness (much like another 70s vision of the future, Rollerball) works for it not against it. As John Kenneth Muir put it: "Instead of aging the film and rendering it irrelevant, the disco-era visualization and tenor of Logan's Run - the aura of hedonism and 'anything goes' - continue to ably support the didactic narrative. The glittering, sexy-but-shallow production design - abundantly rich in neon and mini-skirts - originally helped to define the City of Domes culture in terms of Me Generation-style self-centeredness. However, in the 21st century and the vanity-driven Age of Facebook, that 'Me Generation' looks rather quaint by comparison. Therefore in 2009 viewers can still easily and immediately recognize the City of Dome-ers as a surrogate for 'us.; In fact, we are much closer to the callow youth culture of Logan's Run today than we were in 1976." 

Indeed. Truer, even, for 2015 than it was for 2009. Especially this week. Let's just hope we don't start to resemble "Wild in the Streets."

Gaa - I forgot where I nicked this from. I downloaded it months and months ago in anticipation of this post but neglected to write down where I got it. My apologies.


  1. That pic is by Vincent Di Fate, if you want to track down where it's from originally.

    I have a copy of the book, but haven't read it. I've seen the movie, most recently as a '70s scifi movie binge-watch. Oddly enough, until reading your post here, I never noticed how much like an episode of Star Trek (the originals serie) this movie is. Now it's glaringly obvious to me. It's like it cries out for Kirk to be snapping "it is YOU who are in ERROR!" at the computer.

    I'm also struck by how Logan's Run reminds me of Colossus: the Forbin Project, in a way. '70s scifi seemed paranoid concerning computers running - and ruining - everything (though, as always, it's the human programming that's the real problem) - witness Alien's "Mother" as yet another example, though on a small scale, and not followed-up on later.

    1. Thanks for the artist's name, much appreciated.

      Definitely TOS-esque, and I agree on the paranoia-themes of many 70s sci-fi. It comes round every so often, it seems. I think it was Bryant B. who commented (I think it was for the Mike Hammer www.murder post) that someone needs to compile a list of all the 90s tv/movies where the protagonists are menaced by the internet.

      You know, that's true, they never DO come back to "Mother," do they? I watched Alien not too long ago. Took me a couple of nights, but always worth taking the time. Actually, I think I wrote you immediately after, ha, so you know this already. Anyway - a masterpiece.

  2. "Logan has seven orgasms, we're told, as he and Jessica maneuver their bloody escape." -- What a marvelous sentence! Kudos.

    I've never read the book, but I've seen the movie: once, years ago. I didn't dislike it, but it didn't land with me. Reading this writeup, though, makes it evident that it was a much richer movie than I took notice of, and I wonder now if I wasn't a little too young to appreciate it. That'd be kind of ironic (either literally or in the Alanis Morissette sense, not sure which).

    One thing worth mentioning: the Jerry Goldsmith score. It's a classic, like many of his scores from this era. If not for the overpowering notoriety of John Williams, Goldsmith would probably be considered to be THE best of his time (and, in some circles -- not mine, but some -- is anyways).

    Couldn't agree more with the this-seems-a-lot-like-original-Trek sentiment. Remember the days when that's what sci-fi was? Them days is over; maybe they'll come back, seems like about time for it.

    I'll weigh on the cat-naming issue: most of mine have had at least two, and sometimes more. Names, nicknames, nicknames that I call them when I want to insult them, and whatever they think of themselves as. Which I know good and well is nothing, the morons.

    1. Excellent score, indeed. It's way too expensive out there on Amazon but one of the first things I did was look for it after this re-watch.

      I loved the movie when I saw it as a kid, then was lukewarm on it when I saw it as a snarky teenager and know-it-all 21 year old in film school, then all of that fell to one side and I love it again. It's an old-school sci-fi vibe that instantly feels like home.

  3. I have all three of the books in the Logan's Run series and look forward to reading them.

    I saw the movie when it was released and have loved it ever since. I enjoyed the television series a great deal and wish it had time to develop. Like many television series, it was canceled too soon.

    Great review.

    1. Glad you enjoyed - I agree on the show. I'll be doing one of those episodes sooner or later, actually, hopefully sooner than later.

  4. I think in some ways "Logan's Run" is more pertinent now for even more pressing, closer to home reasons:


    And no, by the way, that kid looking uncannily like a young Michael York wasn;t intentional (I ran across the article days before reading this post) it's just surreal serendipity (or "Ka" if you prefer).

    In any case, I think the core message of the film is starting to gain more ground as the Millennial generation begins to assert it's power. What bugs me (like a lot of old farts) is just how ill prepared they are for real life.

    I could see them remaking this film today, the only difference is the future society of young people would (a) be constantly monitoring and scrutinizing the least expression another makes for fear of "Trigger Warning" and (b) sexual mores might take on a form that might almost be borderline puritanical due to a lack of proper sex education and experience among the newest generation (and no, I don't know how that happens or really care to find out).


    1. Could not agree more. South Park is actually nailing this theme brilliantly this season. Strange days, my friend, strange days.