Tuesday, July 6, 2010

70s SciFi Blues

Previously released on DVD by MGM and Warner Brothers at least three times, the 1976 science fiction favorite Logan's Run made its high-definition debut on Blu-Ray disc last winter, but I only just got my hands on the disc over the past weekend. I've always enjoyed the movie and I was eager to replace my old 1998 MGM disc.

Sometime in the distant future, after a great global catastrophe, humanity lives in sealed, domed cities where their every need is met, and life is devoted to sybaritic pleasures. There's one catch, though - at age 30, each citizen must undergo the rite of Carousel where they are killed, supposedly to be renewed - presumably reincarnated - into a newborn life.

Some people don't have much faith in the whole "renewal" concept, and instead decide to try and avoid their fate by running away to someplace outside the domes that they call "Sanctuary." These "runners" are hunted and terminated by a special, armed force known as Sandmen. One of these Sandmen, Logan 5 (Michael York, The island of Doctor Moreau) is ordered by the computer intelligence that runs the city to infiltrate the runners, find "Sanctuary," and destroy it. Using a young woman named Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter, An American Werewolf in London) to win the trust of the runners, he begins his search - only to find himself questioning the system, falling in love, and being hunted by his best friend.

Directed by Michael Anderson (The Martian Chronicles, Millennium), Logan's Run is very much a product of its era, and while much of it may seem dated today, it was clearly an expensive, seriously-intended science fiction effort on the part of the studio and filmmakers.

Somewhat loosely based on a novel by George Clayton Johnson and William F. Nolan, the film is an entertaining futuristic adventure with good performances by York and the lovely Agutter, and a particularly delightful thespic turn by Peter Ustinov. It further benefits from charming, old-school, hand-crafted special effects (the movie was produced just one year before the effects revolution inaugurated by Star Wars), and some imaginative production design. Jerry Goldsmith's musical score is also innovative, with a fascinating melding of electronic tonalities with symphonic themes.

Logan's Run isn't without its flaws, but it's a fun movie. The film was popular enough in its day to spawn a Marvel Comics series, a single-season television show, and a couple of sequel novels by Nolan, and it's fondly remembered by more than a few old fanboys like myself.

Warners' Blu-Ray disc is a significant improvement over the 1998 MGM DVD I own, with a razor-sharp, color-balanced transfer that is utterly devoid of specks or other imperfections. Presented in 1080p 2.40:1 widescreen, the disc apparently uses the same source material as the 2007 Warners DVD, and it looks absolutely stunning in high-def. Ported over from the '07 DVD is an audio commentary track by director Anderson, star York and costume designer Bill Thomas. There's also a vintage promotional featurette and the original theatrical trailer.

Logan's Run is a minor classic of 1970's science fiction cinema, and the Blu-Ray is the best home video presentation of the film to date. Considering that it retails for around ten bucks, every self-respecting vintage SF fan should consider adding it to their HD library.

I also picked up the new Flash Gordon (1980) Blu-Ray over the holiday. This new HD edition is, to all intents and purposes, identical to Universal's 2007 "Saviour of the Universe Edition" DVD in every way but technically. You can read my review of that DVD edition here.

Where this edition differs from that previous DVD release is in format, obviously. The new Universal Blu-Ray disc sports a stunning, high-definition, 1080p 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, apparently from the same, remastered 2007 source, and as gorgeous as that looked, it benefits further from the bump up to HD. The colors are vibrant, detail is astounding, and the presentation looks superior to any previous home video releases, and light-years better than it did in theaters in 1980. Audio options are a robust 5.1 DTS Master Audio and 2.0 Dolby Digital. Bonus features are identical to the "Saviour of the Universe" DVD - interviews with screenwriter Lorenzo Semple, Jr. and comic book artist/FLASH-fan Alex Ross, the original theatrical trailer and the complete first chapter of the 1936 Flash Gordon movie serial with Buster Crabbe and Charles Middleton. Well, it doesn't include the "teaser" for the abominable short-lived SyFy Flash Gordon television series that was on the '07 DVD, nor the Alex Ross art cards that were included in the DVD, but otherwise, the supplements are the same.

As Flash Gordon is one of my all-time personal favorites (and I don't need to justify myself to you, mister), upgrading to Blu-Ray was pretty much inevitable. If you're a fan of the film and are HD-equipped, you'll probably want to pick it up, too - especially if you don't already own the "Saviour" DVD from three years ago. It's the best home video version of the movie to date.


  1. Back in the 1980's, "Logan's Run" was one of those hard-to-find movies that all the grognards at the SF conventions I went to used to reference.

    I'll have to get a copy from NetFlix and finally see what the fuss was about.


  2. Christopher, if I remember correctly the 07 Flash Gordon came with some promo materials (An Alex Ross postcard, etc.) does the Blu Ray version include them?

  3. No, Jay, the Blu-Ray doesn't include the promo cards. I should have mentioned that. I'll revise my review.

  4. Logan's Run is awesome. That is all.

  5. I just got the bluray and agree it looks even better than the DVD, but, is it just me, or do both the blu ray and DVD have the same sort of phasing distortion on parts of the soundtrack ( mostly the music and sound fx tracks )? I had forgotten about it on the DVD until I compared them, but I really noticed it this time playing it through my surround sound stereo. It's really odd because I don't remember it sounding that way on my VHS or in the movie theatre. Still, the blu-ray is definitely worth owning, especially since the peculiar distortion I'm talking about is present on both the DVD and the blu-ray editions.