(director: Michael Anderson; screenwriters: David Zelag Goodman/based on the novel by George Clayton Johnson and William F. Nolan; cinematographer: Ernest Laszlo; editor: Bob Wyman; music: Jerry Goldsmith; cast: Michael York (Logan), Richard Jordan (Francis), Jenny Agutter (Jessica), Peter Ustinov (Ballard, old hermit), Roscoe Lee Browne (Box), Farrah Fawcett-Majors (Holly); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Saul David; United Artists; 1976)
“Cautionary tale of a futuristic society bent on destroying all but its youngest citizens.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A big-budget ($9 million) cautionary tale of a futuristic society bent on destroying all but its youngest citizens, as there’s a forced euthanasia policy in place for everyone who reaches the age of thirty. It’s set in 2274 at a time when ecological disaster (overpopulation and air pollution) has forced the survivors to live only in a hedonistic domed city (free sex and no diseases), located near Washington, D.C., which runs things by computer–even controlling the weather. Babies are born from machines. But there’s also rumored to be a mythical place called the “Sanctuary” that allows one to live out their natural spans, which appeals to the crowd who would rather not live fast and die young and who suddenly when approaching 30 find the balls to flee their cushy lives in the sealed city to search for the more uncertain life in a Sanctuary.
Logan 5 (Michael York) works as a security guard, called a Sandman (police assassin), who enforces the policies and tracks down and kills runaways called Runners. When Logan starts to question the system he serves, not believing anymore in the “carousel” (an arty ceremony of death and rebirth), he flees the city through a series of dangerous underground passages for the Sanctuary in the company of a hot young chick named Jessica (Jenny Agutter). He is relentlessly pursued by his friend and fellow Sandman Francis 7 (Richard Jordan).
It’s as corny as Hollywood ever gets about a utopian sci-fi flick, reducing all the characters to the usual cardboard types but has them traipsing around in outlandishly garish costumes and saddles us further with the schmaltzy Jerry Goldsmith score. It’s basically an old-fashioned chase film dressed up in gloss that appeals to the youth culture with its humanistic rebellion tale. But if the film doesn’t satisfy as a logical sci-fi tale nevertheless its gadgets and the special effects are cool for the time even if they look outdated when viewed today, the actors are pleasant and the silly tale has its moments which can be rewarding just for its spectacle (Ernest Laszlo was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography). This amusing escapist adventure tale is filled with delightfully banal dialogue, that’s a real laugh-er whether intentional or unintentional.
It’s helmed as an example of youthful pop culture art by Michael Anderson (“Millennium”/Sword of Gideon”/”The Martian Chronicles”) and David Zelag Goodman adapts it from the 1965 novel by George Clayton Johnson and William F. Nolan. The film was a box office smash, which brought in a new era of sci-fi pics that included the even more popular Star Wars (1977). It also spawned a TV series in 1977. Peter Ustinov steals the acting honors playing the oldest remaining survivor, living as a hermit in Washington, D.C., who is starved for companionship.
REVIEWED ON 2/20/2007 GRADE: C+