11/06/2011

Welcome to the Pleasure Dome… by Andrew Darlington Part Two

‘HAIL, FELLOW-PEEPERS…’
Inevitably there was a new tie-in edition of the novel timed to coincide with the movie, although the two formats are distinctively different. In fairness, to place such fictional conjectures on screen presents obvious problems. But ‘Logan’s Run’ still has a lot to recommend it. There was a working screenplay by Nolan himself, but in the transition through pre-production hell it was superceded by an adaptation by David Zelag Goodman. Filming commenced with locations including the clean antiseptic shopping malls of the Dallas and Fort Worth Metroplex – including the Market Center, the Water Gardens and the World Trade Mart. In keeping with such settings there’s no irony or darkness. It is bright and clean, with even the squalor and ruins deliberately contrived. As John Clute’s ‘Science Fiction: An Illustrated Encyclopedia’ (Dorling Kindersley, 1995) points out ‘a couple of years later, this sanitised future was no longer viable, cinema had learned about grit and gunge. But in 1975, clean-cut kids in fab togas could still revolt against saniseal elders and escape outdoors’. For Logan, although there are problems, they are resolved. Such up optimism does not sit well with more downbeat current critical taste. It is very much of its time. But it’s fun.


Where do ‘Runners’ run to? There are tales about ‘Sanctuary’, a Shangri-La of sorts, a ‘pre-catastrophe’ code-word for ‘a place of immunity’. Logan is assigned to become a Covert ‘Runner’, in order to infiltrate the ‘Sanctuary’– losing four years of his life in the process. He had four more years on his ‘life-clock’, now his countdown has begun. He was only Red-6, but his palm-stone is accelerated and triggered by a red glow. Does he get his four years back? There’s no reply, instead ‘You are authorised to penetrate city-seals and search outside the dome’ he’s instructed, ‘you will find ‘Sanctuary’ and destroy.’ ‘There’s nothing outside’ he protests. Yet he must now assume the role of Runner. In the book Logan obtains his first lead to ‘Sanctuary’ when he pursues a Runner called Doyle into ‘Cathedral Station’, where Doyle is killed by ‘Cubs’ high on an accelerant-drug called ‘Muscle’. The derelict ‘Cathedral Station’ is ‘a festering sore in the side of Greater Los Angeles, an area of rubble and dust and burned-out buildings, a place of shadows and pollution, of stealth and sudden death’. It’s also a reservation for Violent Delinquents who resemble William Burrough’s menacing pre-teen ‘Wild Boys’, feral children born to ‘Breeders’. In Logan’s world, breeding is an automated process, more thoroughly detailed in the novel, with children nurtured in Vast Industrial Nurseries run by an Autogoverness, resulting in a ‘Brave New World’-ian revulsion at the idea of knowing ‘the seed-mother’.
In the film, Jenny Agutter is Jessica-Six, the ‘sad’ girl dressed in a diaphanous pale-green whisp, who Logan dials up on the sex-circuit and who then declines to have sex with him. Why is she sad? She tells Logan her friend was ‘killed’ on the ‘carousel’. Not ‘renewed’. Logan begins to suspect that ‘renewal’ does not happen. That those on the ‘carousel’ simply die. Just like the Runner he’s just terminated, Jessica has an Ankh pendant. And she voices the subversive wish ‘I wish I’d known my mother’. ‘Where do you get these crazy ideas?’ laughs Logan. But he shows her his pulsing stone and tells her he intends to ‘run’. ‘It’s different now because it’s me, my life.’ Michael York makes a convincing Logan, using the round-faced boyish charm that saw him cast as swash-buckling D’Artagnan in ‘The Three Musketeers’ (1973) and its sequel, both flippant and lethally heroic, with the foppish preening self-regard he displayed so effectively as the bi-sexual Brian Roberts in ‘Cabaret’ (1972). More recently he became ‘Basil Exposition’ to Michael Myers’ ‘Austin Powers’, while Sci-Fi fans renewed their regard for him when he cameod in ‘Babylon 5: A Late Delivery From Avalon’ (Season 3 Episode 13, 1996). While Jenny Agutter – a child actor forever eternalised by her role in ‘The Railway Children’ (1970), proves an equally effective foil as Jessica-Six, showing both attractive vulnerability, balanced with an assured and single-minded determination. Richard Jordan is Francis-Seven, Logan’s Sandman companion who tells him ‘you wonder a little too much for a Sandman’ and ‘when you question, it slows you down’. The book describes him as a ‘friendless, loveless man with the mantis-thin body and the black eyes of a hunting cat’. When Francis arrives as Logan’s flat with two more compliant bimbo’s, Jessica slips away. She is cautious, Sandmen are not to be trusted, but she contacts her friends. They are also wary of assisting a Sandman. In the book it’s ‘Runner’ Doyle’s punchkey that directs Logan to Lillith-4, and hence to Doc at NewYou the Face Job plastic surgery unit which had altered the appearance of the original Runner, enabling his escape bid. There he meets Jessica who at first mistakes Logan for her re-bodymoulded brother. In the book she is Doyle-Ten’s sister. In the film, Farah Fawcett-Major is Holly, the dumb blonde receptionist at NewYou. Doc wears a silver glitter-suit, attempts to use the machine to kill Logan, but is himself killed by it. When Francis-Seven tries to intervene Logan knocks him out.
Logan’s black uniform with its grey collar and chest-bar are now slashed from the Doc’s lasers. He and Jessica escape through the pink dry-ice Love Shop, a group-grope orgy sequence of dark slow-motion grappling nudity in 1970’s ‘Swingers’-style that is frequently exorcised from TV-view versions, into tunnels beneath. Is Logan genuine? Has he really crossed over? In the book his loyalties are still conflicted, torn by his DS indoctrination, allowing the added tension of uncertainty. ‘No Sandman ever ran’ cautions Jessica, ‘you don’t run, you kill Runners.’ And yes, he activates his location-finder, alerting other Sandmen to their escape-route. But then Logan shoots at the pursuing Francis, and they scramble down a tunnel of pipes, towards the ‘last gate’. Perhaps his real intentions are still confused? Or maybe he’s using the ‘covert-Runner’ cover-story to action his own escape, maintaining the pretense as a necessary part of the guise? The Ankh around her neck is lost, he uses the one he took from the dead Runner to open the gate. They emerge in some forgotten unused area beneath the city. But the persistent Francis is a worthy and relentless opponent. He trails them, retrieves her lost key-pendant from where she dropped it in the water, and he uses it to follow them. Francis shoots at them, but his blast breaches a wall deluging water from ancient fish breeding-pens. ‘It must have been a savage world’ comments Jessica. From there they ascend into chill ice-caves. The deep grottos.
The text-escapers range across a transfigured America, menaced by terrors excluded from the film. A robot Civil War re-enactment. Glitter-Punk Pleasure-gypsies riding flying hover-choppers. And the interlude in which – charged with Everlove (a kind of Viagra), Logan achieves seven consecutive orgasms with their women. Some other elements of their text-adventures are drawn into the film, in a more concentrated form. Logan identifies certain ‘Dead Sections’ on the map-grid which he decides are stages on the ‘Sanctuary line’. To contact the next link – ‘Whale’, they visit ‘Molly’, a submarine city in the Pacific Challenger Deep, semi-derelict since a 2033 rupture. Then to Hell, the ice-world ‘escape-proof’ prison-city at the North Pole. Once there, within a cannibalistic culture cut into the ice they encounter ‘Box’ a warped insane artist in a grotto dotted with his twisted ice-sculptures, a walrus, penguins, a flight of ice-gulls. ‘A creature stood before them on chromed legs. From the midpoint of his sternum to his hips he was coils and cables. One hand was a cutting tool. His head was half-flesh, half-metal’. Box is also present in the film – ‘more than machine, more than man, more than a fusion of the two’. This ludicrous figure patrols the refrigerated lower-levels of the domed-city where earlier Runners are entombed in ice, frozen into the walls, awaiting processing into protein – a kind of ‘Soylent Green’ nutrient supplement since the original supply of fish and plankton ceased. Did any of the earlier Runners escape? Or did they all end up here? ‘Perhaps we’re the first people to get through…?’ murmurs Jessica.
Logan and Jessica step through the ruptured chamber-wall, emerging into the shattered outer world. ‘What is it?’ asks Jessica, pointing at the sun. ‘I don’t know’ responds Logan, ‘whatever it is, it’s warm!’ There’s a beautiful waterfall and trees. ‘I didn’t know any place could be like this’ she enthuses, as a lizard crawls up her dress! It’s a post-Hippie analogy of ‘getting back to nature, man’. They even find a lake and go skinny-dipping, only to find that their crystals have become clear. Their life-clocks obviously don’t function outside the dome. Earlier – on the circuit, she’d declined to have sex with Logan. The choice is still hers. This time her answer is ‘yes’. Both film and book converge on a dénouement in the ruins of a nuked Washington. Walking bewildered through the overgrown city, finding the Washington monument, with the huge seated Lincoln statue standing in for the ‘Planet Of The Apes’ iconic Statue Of Liberty. And their incomprehension at finding a graveyard. To a showdown in the mildewed Capitol Building. In the book there’s the myth of ‘Ballard’, the world’s oldest man. Francis turns out to be Ballard. In the film there’s no ‘Ballard’. Instead, a white-bearded Peter Ustinov is the jolly avuncular ‘Old Man’, grumpy and forgetful, surrounded by his cats in a library of books and ancient portraits (‘that must be the look of being old’). ‘A sweet madman’ exclaims Logan, ‘how could he come to exist?’ Jessica traces his wrinkles, ‘those cracks in your face, do they hurt?’ The old man explains the concept of family, and the meaning of the graveyard headstone inscriptions ‘beloved wife’. ‘I think I’d like that Logan – beloved husband!’ says Jessica. Is there Sanctuary? Jessica insists there must be. Ustinov quotes TS Eliot’s “Cats”, but says no, there is no such thing as Sanctuary, it is just the product of hope. Instead, the relentless Francis appears, intent on terminating these two most elusive of Runners. They fight. Francis uses a tattered US flag as a spear! Francis is killed, and buried. Logan decides they must go back and tell the city the truth. Although Jessica argues they won’t be believed, the oldster agrees to go with them, as living evidence that ‘you don’t have to die, you can live and grown old’. So they return to the domed city bringing Ustinov with them. Strolling a wide beach they explain the city’s system to Ustinov, ‘it takes all the fun out of dying’ he harrumphs. Entering the city through its tidal-energy ports Logan blows its controlling computer-mind, resulting in the destruction of the city. The population emerging through smoke, flames-spouts and blue-green energy-bursts wonderingly, to find Ustinov waiting for them. They circle him, in a kind of awe. The final shots are of Logan and Jessica, together, watching as explosions rock the sky behind them. There’s also ‘Thinker’ in the book, a vast controlling computer network set into Tashunca-Uito, a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota sculpted into a giant representation of the Native American Crazy Horse. Located in a ‘Restricted Zone’ guarded by mech-eagles with twenty-foot wingspans it is a similar concept to the ‘Skynet’ of the ‘Terminator’ cycle. A proto-internet made up when ‘computer was linked with computer in ever-widening complexity’, until it co-ordinates the planet. In the film Logan is interrogated by the computer, with his surrogate facial-image on-screen answering questions drawn directly from his mind. His continued denials and his memory-images of ‘outside’ cause it to short-circuit. In the book it is not destroyed, although it is failing. But in the book there is also a Sanctuary. It is ‘Argos’, an abandoned space-station colony orbiting Mars. They reach it in a rocketship blasting off from Cape Steinbeck, a former launch-site in the Florida Keys.
‘Logan’s Run’ soon established itself as a franchise in its own right, with a spin-off TV series (it premiered on US television 16 September 1977, followed by UK 7 January 1978). Nolan himself co-wrote the eighty-minute movie-length pilot which reiterates Logan and Jessica’s escape from the City Of Domes and takes them to Mountain City where they recruit a comical humanoid android called Rem who subsequently becomes their companion. The pilot introduces thirteen hour-long episodes including “Crypt” co-scripted by Harlan Ellison, and two co-written by ‘Star Trek’ stalwart DC Fontana, with “Carousel” in which a dart erases Logan’s memory and he’s taken back to the city by Francis, where Jessica and Rem must rescue him before his scheduled ‘renewal’ on the ‘Carousel’. In truth, the episodic structure in which the fugitives encounter a series of strange isolated communities on their way to find the elusive ‘Sanctuary’ is not dissimilar to Nolan’s original plotline.
 In other media, Marvel Comics issued a series of comic-books (1976-1977), with a lightly tactful censored retelling of the film story. While there was a twenty-part UK picture-strip series run in the weekly comic ‘Look-In’ (from 8 April to 30 September 1978), penned by the prolific Angus P Allan with art by Arthur Rawson. Headed by a photo of the three TV protagonists, in one issue they escape pursuing Sandmen using a time-machine in a ruined city, traveling forward to the Earth’s incandescent Lastday, then back to the dinosaur-prowled primeval. Although a radical departure from the original scenario, it’s by means a stretch-of-the-imagination too far, considering the technique of catch-all eclecticism used by Nolan in the book. Nolan himself took advantage of the high-visibility movie with his own sequel – ‘Logan’s World’ (1977) in which Logan, Jessica and their son Jaq return to Earth from Argos, to find that Ballard died destroying the Thinker, but Gant, a former Sandman is intent on revenge. Then ‘Logan’s Search’ (1980), with Logan thrown into an unreconstructed parallel-Earth. The three volumes were eventually collected together into ‘Logan: A Trilogy’ (1986). Much later he relaunched Logan’s travails with a novelette, ‘Logan’s Return’ (2001), downloadable in ebook form. Meanwhile, among persistent rumours of a movie re-make there’s talk of further ‘Logan’ tales from Nolan and – confusingly, from his original collaborator George Clayton Johnson too. While tales a feature-movie remake keep resurfacing. In all of these various interlocking media, Logan just keeps on running.

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