Of Orson Welles, 'Logan's|
Run' and turning 30
November 8, 2001
By Franklin Harris
Orson Welles could have retired at 30 and still have been remembered for both his greatest achievement and his most infamous. Before his 30th birthday, Welles had made the most stunning piece of cinema ever committed to film, "Citizen Kane," and he had driven thousands of radio listeners to hysteria, fooling them into thinking Martians were overrunning the planet.
In fact, at 30 Welles was almost a has-been. He might've had some great films still in him, but Hollywood was finished with him, unless you count the wine ads and appearances on "The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast."
I'm telling no secret when I say that 30 is the end of the road for youth, idle and otherwise. But in 1976, MGM released a film about a futuristic society in which 30 was the end, period.
"Logan's Run" starred Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Peter Ustinov, and a then unknown actress by the name of Farrah Fawcett-Majors. (A few months later, shortly after "Charlie's Angels" debuted on ABC, Farrah would be a superstar. You may have seen her poster.)
In 2274, utopia exists. People live in a glittering world where pleasure is their only occupation. But, as always, utopia comes with a price.
A central computer keeps the population level under strict control. When you turn 30, a crystal in the palm of your hand glows a pulsing red, and you are to take part in the fiery ceremony called Carousel — a form of ritualized suicide. Your only hope is that your soul will be "renewed," reborn in a new body.
Some, however, suspect that renewal is just a fantasy. They attempt to escape Carousel and become "runners." That leaves it up to the police, called the Sandmen, to hunt them down.
For the runners, there is no sanctuary.
The "Logan's Run" scenario is a running gag — if you'll excuse the pun — in the 1998 movie "Free Enterprise," starring Eric McCormack ("Will & Grace") and Rafer Weigel.
Two twentysomething friends, Robert and Mark, try to get their lives back on track with the help of their childhood idol, William Shatner, played brilliantly by Shatner himself.
For Robert (Weigel), it's a matter of winning the girl of his dreams (Audie England), who is as much of a sci-fi geek as he is. For Mark (McCormack), it's coming to terms with hitting the big 3-0.
One sequence has Mark dreaming that he is a runner and that Robert, dressed suspiciously like Michael York, is chasing him.
The point of all this is that youth is something our society prizes highly, usually to a fault, and "Logan's Run" satirized our fixation.
Before it was a movie, "Logan's Run" was a novel by William F. Nolan. The buzz in Hollywood is that a "Logan's Run" remake is in the works. But this time, the producers plan to stay truer to the novel, at least in one respect.
In the novel, the day of Carousel comes when you reach 20.
That should suit the Hollywood bean counters just fine, especially given their predilection for green lighting movies filled with "Dawson's Creek" rejects.
And if you are wondering why I'm writing about all this, there is a reason.
The crystal in the palm of my hand started blinking last weekend, while I was at the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention in Nashville, surrounded by lots of other arrested adolescents. The Sandman is after me.
In short: This time, it's personal.
And I was reminded of something else depressing this past week.
In the old days, before computers, newspaper reporters put -30- at the bottom of their stories so that their editors would know where the story was supposed to stop, just in case anything was lost in transmission. Why 30? Why not any other number? Who knows?
But when you got to 30, you had reached the end.