Man, the 70s must have been kind of a bummer. According to the three post apocalyptic flicks I watched the other day, we’d either be living great lives until we turned 30 and were killed, mostly wiped out by a plague or sleeping on every available staircase and eating processed people. Oh, also, chances were pretty good that Charlton Heston would still be around. He’s just awesome like that. I’m a big fan of these kinds of movies and Heston, so this was a good mini marathon for me. Let’s hop right in shall we?
LOGAN’S RUN (1976)
After a global holocaust, society has been rebuilt in domed cities where life is pretty good except for the fact that, when you turn 30, he get killed. It’s just how society works now. But some people aren’t too keen on the idea of entering the Carousel (a weird, anti gravity chamber that whisks the victims up into what seems to be a giant lazer zapper) so they try to run (and are thus called Runners). It’s up to the Sandmen to find them and either kill them or…well, we only see them kill Runners. Our hero is Logan, a Sandman (played by Michael Basil a.k.a. Basil from the Austin Powers movies), who gets tasked with a top secret mission to find a place called Sanctuary that supposedly hides Runners. Well, as you can imagine, things don’t go quite according to plan.
Logan hooks up with this girl who supposedly has connections to Santuary so the both of them go on this crazy adventure that includes operations to change face (with a sexy Farrah Fawcett), a run down ghetto filled with society’s crazies, a frozen wasteland lorded over by a crazy robot and even the outside world.
I really liked how far the creators went with the story. It wasn’t just about Sandmen vs. Runners or Logan getting to the outside world. He acts like a true hero and wants to tell the people in the domed city the truth about the outside world (to his own near peril). Plus, this is just a fun world to get a glimpse of with their age coordinated to the color of the clothing they wear to the jewels in their hand that change color with age. The whole concept is very cool and even the 70s cheesiness of some of the scenes (the robot for instance or the model of the futuristic dome city) add more than they detract from the overall enjoyment of the movie.
THE OMEGA MAN (1971)
After watching one interpretation of the future, I figured I’d check out another. This is one of many movies based on the book I Am Legend. From what I’ve read (I haven’t read the book) this is a pretty drastic departure from the book as it starts Heston as a scientist who was immune to a plague that hit mankind and either killed everyone or turned them into super-pale zombie weirdo cultists. The cult members want to kill Heston because they believe he represents the old ways and the old ways lead to the end of the world.
As it turns out though (of course), he’s not really the last man on Earth as he comes to find out when he runs into some fellow survivors (including a woman!). Things get really great for a while after Heston develops an antidote for the plague from his own blood, but it doesn’t last. Without spoiling anything, the ending is pretty harsh, much worse than I thought it would be.
The scenes of Heston cruising around an abandoned LA are super cool. I’m always a fan of something like this because it’s really the kind of special effect you’ll never see in real life, a city of that magnitude completely empty (I also love the scenes in 28 Days Later with Jim walking around an empty London). Heston also does a great job of carrying the movie pretty much by himself for the first 20-30 minutes of the movie (not counting the mutants or the bust he talks to). Frankly, I’d watch Heston do just about anything and with the unusual turn of events at the end, this ranks up there are a great flick in my book.
SOYLENT GREEN (1973)
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying really really close attention to Soylent Green. I can’t remember what else I was doing though I think it might have been writing a feature for the next issue of ToyFare (available in stores in February!). Anyway, I liked what I saw as Heston (yeah!) investigates a bunch of murders in a crappy feature where people sleep in run down apartments (or the stairs if they’re really poor). There’s also apartment complexes where the rich live with what can only be described as complimentary prostitutes. It’s one of these rich guys that bites it early on, spurring the story on.
There’s a lot of plot, most of which leads up to the completely spoiled ending that Soylent Green (a foodstuff sold to the poor) is actually people. I think it was first ruined for me in an SNL skit starring Phil Hartman. Oh well, no grudges held.
There’s also a subplot with Heston’s older friend and classic actor Edward G. Robinson in what would be his last role. There’s all kinds of subtext as the older man spends time with Heston, the only other person who know that Robinson was dying of cancer. In the end it’s a pretty dark and grimy film and even though we all know what Soylent Green really is, it’s not what the whole movie’s about. There’s a lot of emotion between Heston and Robinson that becomes all the more palpable when you know the real life history behind the shooting.
I also really like the dingy future. It’s definitely not the clean and crisp one of Logan’s Run, seeming moor like Escape from New York than anything else, but without all the weird gangs or kind of like Land of the Dead with the merchants and poor people surrounding the palatial high rise. Whereas the streets in Omega Man are completely empty, the ones in Soylent are packed with the dregs of society. It’s an interesting difference. Oh, also, the first murder victim’s in-house prostitute gets really excited when her john buys her a brand new arcade game (according to the IMDb, it was made by the same guy who would go on to make Pong). It was pretty funny. It’s fun to see what people 30 years ago thought the future would be like and how wrong they were. Fun stuff.