The trend in movies about dystopia seems to come and go, and 70s sci-fi was full of them. From A Clockwork Orange in 1968 and on into the 80s with 1984 in 1984, it was a unique perspective to see into a world that might be far more idyllic, yet full of chaos at the same time. Even now, we are still seeing this with newer films like Divergent and The Hunger Games franchise.
So it might come to pass that a protected city was built somewhere on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay in the 23rd Century, and it was known as the City of Domes. It was designed to keep out radiation, pollution, and disease and other nasty things. Life was perfect, the people were young and healthy, ate of a pure vegan diet, and indulged in true hedonism, and no one really cared whom dated whom, and human breeding was done in reproduction laboratories. These people were given regular names like Mary or Thomas, but with a number as a surname to indicate which bloodline they were made from. Also, in this huge city of domes, there was a big production in what was called “Carousel”. This was purely a type of population control designed to keep the city the same until the designers saw fit to change things. The City of Domes had distinction in age ranges. Children and younger teens wore yellow tunics and accessories, older teens up to twenty-one wore greens, and adults wore red. Along with this colour coding, they wore a crystal in their palms that would indicate when they would change life stages. The only exception to this system were the “Sandmen”, the law enforcement units that wore black and grey. As this city really had no reason to worry about keeping law and order, since it was pretty much perfect, the Sandmen’s main job was to hunt down and terminate people called “runners”.
Runners were people that were attempting to escape the Carousel ceremonies when their hand crystals would turn from red to black. Carousel was deigned as a ceremony of renewal, but instead it was a pomp and circumstance death flight. Those that had reached their 30th year were sent in wearing red and white robes with their faces covered with something that looked like a hockey mask. People would come to cheer on their friends and they “renewed”, not knowing they would never see them again. It was during one of these ceremonies where one Sandman, Logan 5 (Micheal York) was called away to hunt down a runner. He caught up with his partner, Francis 7 (Richard Jordan) to take down the dissident, and was successful. Logan took his effects and went home.
Later that night, a frisky Logan was looking for some hedonistic fun, so he looked to the “Circuit” to find a pleasant partner. After turning down a few, he found someone new, a pretty brunette dressed a diaphanous green tunic. This was Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter), and she was uncertain of joining the Circuit, but she said that she did so to see how a Sandman lived, and that she was not really wanting sex that night. Jessica and Logan interrupted when Francis brings home two blondes in red, turns on some kind of narcotic mist. Jessica leaves, and Logan and Francis are pretty much satisfied for the night. The next day, at Sandman check-in, Logan turns out all the things in his pockets, and is called in to speak with the computer when it discovered he has a silver ankh in is possession. This is the symbol for life, and the symbol of the underground organisation that helps runners get out of town. Sadly, according to the data, there turns out to be over a thousand runner unaccounted for. The computer gives Logan an undercover assignment. It turns his hand crystal from red to black, and now he is supposedly of age to go to Carousel, but he is supposed to run instead. So now, he has to find the missing runners, and infiltrate the underground movement, plus ditch his very suspicious co-workers along the way. Jessica becomes his constant companion through all of this.
This film is full of eye candy, including the 70’s favourite pin-up, Farrah Fawcett, disturbing moments, and very sensual, libertine scenes, hence its R rating at the time. Even though I did not read the books, Cleave says the movie was very tame, and the short TV series that came out a year later was far tamer than the movie, but, at the time, I found the TV show to be far superior than the movie, even if it was riding on the wave of the Star Wars popularity from that same year.
There have been a few attempts to remake this film since the 90s, but none them have made it past the script-writing phase. It would be great to see it from a more sophisticated POV, now that many of the original viewers are far older, but maybe not much wiser. We will just have to see what happens.
I give this film a Musing review of