Logan's Run Blu-ray Review
In a daft, rose-tinted misconception I had thought that the lush visuals of Logan's Run - its colour-coded fashions, gleaming citadel, art-deco imagery, scintillating ice-cave and sublime matte-festooned idyll of an overgrown and unpolluted Washington - would have looked spectacular on BD. But, realistically, this is not, and should not be the case. For want of a better description, the film looks its vintage.
However, after allowing that initially damning comment to sink in, let's take the time to analyse and re-evaluate just what Warner have managed to do with this 2.40:1 VC-1 transfer.
For a kick-off, the film was shot with TODD-AO anamorphic lenses which, from what I hear, were not the sharpest around - therefore, the slightly blurred peripheries (on occasion) and the lack of immediate object vibrancy is exactly what we should expect to see. But the transfer stands a clear and rewarding head and shoulders above any previous home video incarnation. The colours, though still not as vibrant as more modern fare, nor as completely consistent, are reproduced well enough and look a lot better saturated and certainly fresher than I've seen before on disc, with the greens, the yellows and the orange robes and gowns filling the image with a softly beautific pattern. The transfer does fine with crowd shots that exhibit lots of different primaries and the Sandman blacks always stand-out well. Reds are clean and bold, whether with the satanic glow of Carrousel, the flashing crystals in the palms, the clothes of those approaching Last Day, or the blood that trickles down a Sandman's arm after a tussle with the Cubs in Cathedral. The gleaming whites of the redressed Texas shopping mall that stands in for the City are nice and stark. The plants and foliage that punctuate the plaza and especially the verdant flora running amok in the Outside world have a keen green that, coupled with the dazzling sunshine and the earthy tones of the national park locations outside of LA, conjure up a terrifically colourful contrast to the first half of the movie. The sparkle of the ice cave and the regal shine of Box's metallic body and chrome mask come over with a solid crispness, too. Skin-tones are also far more natural-looking than earlier transfers have allowed.
The film is grainy throughout, though there are occasions, usually the FX-shots, that appear even more grainy. It is apparent that no DNR has taken place with this transfer and very little in the way of additional sharpening. Some of the matte shots of distant buildings may look as though they have had some edge enhancement applied, but I would suspect that this is more down to the actual blending of the film and the painting, rather than any digital mucking-about. Black levels are mostly satisfying and, on occasion, quite deep. Shadow-play, for instance, is well delineated and adds great contrast to the image, although the night-time scenes Outside don't fare quite so well. Contrast, elsewhere, can fluctuate, though again, some of this seems down to the integration of the visual effects as well.
Detail is noticeably a good deal greater than on prior versions. The greenish tint to the muzzle-flashes of those guns, the sparking impact they deliver to bodies, the texture on the plaza walls and in the Senate Chamber, with its rotted books, desks and paintings, and the laser holography of the battle in the New You cosmetic surgery clinic and Carrousel - these are definitely areas that benefit from this new transfer. But there is also some great new definition to be found on the rocks in the dried-up river-bed (or old road, as the Old Man calls it), the forest and, especially, in the long-shot of Logan and Jessica climbing the vine and creeper-encrusted stone steps. However, despite what Anderson says in his now archaic commentary, the wires holding up the Carrousel victims are more readily apparent, too. Texture on the gowns, especially the shimmering silver number worn by Farrah Fawcett's Holly and the flimsy green number that Jessica sports, is much improved. The Love Shop antics are a little bit clearer too ... and worth a deeper perusal. And it is nice to see the finer detail in Box's ice cavern - the striations in the sculptures and the gleaming points on the stalactites, as well as the varying shades of white and blue going off into the further reaches of the set.
A subtle sense of three-dimensionality can be enjoyed, too. The travelogue scenes benefit the most from this - Jessica and Logan wandering down the river-bed, or scaling a sun-dappled ridge, or pushing their way through the actually rather threadbare foliage (just watch York making a meal of hacking away at a couple of very flimsy vines to see what I mean). There are still some slight elements of print damage - a hair in the gate, some slight wobbling and a vague fleck here and there - but these are not at all detrimental to an image that looks very authentic, respectful and film-like.
For those of you who managed to see this film in its 70mm 6-track presentation, this disc will be a wonderful trip down memory lane. And for those of you who think that Logan's Run should never have had directional sound, or that this Dolby TrueHD mix is, in some way, dislocated and full of expanded steerage that the BD engineers have just incorporated for the sake of it, then I am afraid that you could be mistaken. This is exactly how the film is supposed to sound. In fact, I found this to be a great, and very clear transfer of an audio mix that may not quite measure up to the latest wraparound sonics out there to be savoured, but very definitely provides a solid and very interesting audio experience that adds crucially to the film and brings it to life.
The most dazzling thing that you will notice about this track is the astonishing reproduction of Jerry Goldsmith's outstanding score - and the clarity and room-enveloping quality that it has is maintained throughout the movie. This was a score that utilised a huge amount of electronic sounds and synth-derived effects and to hear them accompany the film in such depth, spread and pin-sharp clarity is an absolute joy. FSM's restored score CD (a review coming, perhaps?) sounds awesome, but this lossless track possibly comes across with even more vigour, detail and resonance. There are occasions when elements of the music ignite behind you - lots of curious little organic flutters and synth-plopped bubbles - and once the full orchestral might is brought into play, it sweeps across the soundscape with warmth and body.
Dialogue is always crystal clear and is well-steered around the set-up, although it possibly does come as a surprise to hear voices wander out to the further reaches of the frontal array in a film of this vintage. The female voice of the Sandman computer is amazingly warm, seductive and full of authentic presence. The cheering of the crowds during Carrousel sounds a little shrill though, and is one occasion when I thought the mix lost some of its clarity. The muffled moaning of the folks enjoying themselves in the Love Shop could be more involving too, but there is still some sense of immersion. The flame-out blasts of those ultra-cool guns have a nice effect, somewhat akin to the famous bamff! of the Nightcrawler's teleporting in the second X-Men movie - just don't expect much in the way of diagonal steerage during the action sequences. The surround activity is mainly used for Goldsmith's score, although it does lend some occasional acoustic support to the heft of falling masonry and ice, or the additional pick-up of rushing water.
This is an effective and entertaining track, folks. It doesn't compare to a typical lossless surround example, naturally, but I would wager that it does a fine job of reproducing the original 6-track presentation, with few unnecessary bells and whistles thrown on top of it.
Reverberant and striking, this TrueHD track is definitely a bonus for Goldsmith fans. Like me. And considering just important this score was to the film and the genre, at large, I'll give this a strong 7 out of 10.
Anyone hoping that a BD release for such a cult classic would garner some new exclusive special features is going to be disappointed. Warner, however, do maintain the material that appeared on the previous Special Edition from a few years ago.
The commentary from director Michael Anderson, star Michael York and costume designer Bill Thomas is, despite being cobbled together from separate recording sessions, a good and very informative one. The three are scene-specific for the most part and present us with a wealth of anecdote and trivia regarding the production. We hear the lamenting of the cut scenes and the subsequent loss of Goldsmith's score around them. York informs us, playfully, that he was the one who discovered Farrah Fawcett-Majors and got her into the film. They all remark about the characters and the script, although Anderson does seem to be supplying us with a lot of information that the film, itself, leaves hanging. York is honest about the special visual effects and Thomas covers the colour-coding and the aesthetic design work of the City, as well as the US coinage that the Old Man uses for buttons on his self-cobbled jacket that we, sadly, can't really see in the finished film. All discuss the ad-libbing and the sheer charisma of Peter Ustinov. Although even this commentary is now dated, this is still a rewarding exposé into how the film came together.
Regrettably, the only featurette that we are graced with is the vintage promotional piece, A Look Into The 23rd Century. Lasting for only nine minutes this takes a cursory look at the design of the movie and its evocation of the future, but really doesn't deliver much insight into the making of Anderson's film.
Aside from the film's theatrical trailer, there is nothing else to indulge in with Warner's disc.
Logan's Run is one of my favourite SF films from my childhood, but the reality of it is that Michael Anderson's opulent, though sluggish adaptation is nowhere near as classic as I would like it to be. But whilst it botches such fertile concepts in favour of overly simplistic dramatics and fitful set-pieces, it does supply a great deal of good-natured, old school fun. And that just has to be applauded. The imagery proved to be the stuff that cult fascination is made of - Box and his sculpting, the bubble-cars, Francis and Logan blasting away at a Runner, the palm-crystal and, of course, the inexorable aerial dance of death that is Carrousel - and still resonates even today with a combination of nostalgic awe and sublime invention. The theme of hedonism and Youth Culture is always intriguing and the sheer sensuality of the film is quite eye-popping.
Richard Jordan makes for a great and sympathetic villain, whilst the two leads are blankly beautiful yet still highly likeable. Ustinov, to me, still seems as though he has wandered in off the set of another movie entirely, but he has a rascally tenacity that is part and parcel of what Logan's Run is all about. There is no doubt that the film could have been better if a little more thought had gone into it, but Michael Anderson used his material with a workmanlike determination and came up with a film that certainly provides some colourful and thought-provoking escapism.
Warner do the film proud by sticking to its original multi-track audio elements and delivering a surprisingly vital TrueHD track that showcases Goldsmith's landmark score extremely well and helps to energise the drama with some fairly neat directionality. The image is no slouch either, and provides an authentic picture that is un-mired by digital tomfoolery. Sadly, only the commentary is a worthy extra and it is something of a disappointment that some fresher material couldn't have been found, or at least the addition of the extras that were on the laserdisc version.
Logan keeps on running with this Blu-ray release ... and my advice is to go after him.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.97
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