As a child, there was no film that terrified me more than Logan’s Run. I had already seen the original adaptation of Stephen King’s It by the time I was eight years old, but I still found Logan’s Run to be more horrifying.
Logan’s Run is set in a hedonistic, dystopian futuristic society, one of debauchery and excess, with drugs, parties and a service that can instantly teleport a date to your room for a romantic evening, just like Tinder.
People in this society are programmed with a “life clock,” a crystal embedded in the palm of the hand, which notifies them when they’ve reached their “Last Day.” At that time, they take part in a ritual called “Carousel,” in which they enter an arena packed with spectators, float in the air and explode in a shower of sparks.
Neither they nor the spectators, who cheer for the festivities as if they’re at a combination monster truck rally and Pink Floyd laser show, realize that they’re actually being killed — rather, they believe that their lives are being “renewed.”
In this society, nobody lives past 30 years of age, but as far as they know, they’ll live life all over again after they renew. People who have caught on, and who would like to be 31 someday, try to escape, and are called “Runners.” They’re hunted down by people called “Sandmen,” who vaporize them.
The main character, Logan 5 (Michael York), is himself a Sandman, and through a computer mishap his life clock is sped up by four years, making him imminently eligible for Carousel, which he has learned is actually an audience-friendly way of killing people. He and a woman named Jessica 6 decide to escape, and they’re hunted by Logan’s friend and fellow Sandman Francis 7.
When I first saw it, there were a few scenes in particular that I remember were particularly unnerving. First, the scene in which a Runner is vaporized, as well as the one in which the Carousel ritual takes place and people float up into the air until they spontaneously explode. Also, who could forget about that creepy robot named Box who chases after Jessica 6 and Logan 5 while laughing maniacally and trying to freeze them?
When I watched it again as an adult, one of the first things I noticed was how cheesy some of the scenes really are. The scary robot Box, for example, looks like a stack of cardboard boxes covered in tinfoil, being pushed around by someone just out of sight. There is also a scene where Logan 5 shouts from a balcony, “You can live! Live!” with an overly dramatic voice and facial expressions.
The film is certainly dated, but not without its charms. My favorite scene has always been when Logan 5 and Jessica 6 meet the crazy old cat man (Peter Ustinov) in the now empty and overgrown hall of Congress. Shocked to see someone over 30, they touch his face and hair and ask horribly rude questions, though since they have been trapped inside a dome their whole lives, I suppose it can be allowed.
The message of the film, that one should not fear growing old, is perhaps what is most important, and it resonates more with me now than when I was 10. However, I still find the Carousel scene terrifying even as an adult, and will fast forward through it any day to see some friendly cats.