Michael Anderson, 1976, USA
Pulpy fun in the 23rd Century where members of a domed, colour-coded, computer-run society are destined to die once turning thirty. At thirty, they give themselves up to ‘Carousel’, a kind of snuff-disco inspired by pseudo-religious ideas of the afterlife; or else they become ‘Runners’, chased by official bounty hunters called ‘Sandmen’. Sandman Logan (York) bumps into Agutter and, having coincidentally been computer-assigned to find the outside world of ‘Sanctuary’ and destroy it, he goes on the run with her for real. All interesting comments on society give way to simplistic analogies, chase dynamics and décor. The plot is as episodic as a Saturday serial or comic, including brief brushes with delinquent ‘cubs’, an instant plastic surgery clinic, and an implausibly manic robot. That it’s ultimately shallow reveals squandered opportunity.
There is the old bad urban/Eden rural dichotomy: the dome-city has a Roman Empire hedonistic undercurrent, but this mostly means seventies drape costumes. Only Logan’s pal Francis as played by Richard Jordan displays any sense of ambiguity, desperately clinging to his Sandman beliefs against mounting evidence to the opposite; plus there is a near-homoerotic undercurrent in his relationship with Logan. York and Agutter are simply bland; her proto-feminism doesn’t wash. All this seems to be a rejection of scientific progress and a yearning for old-fashioned family structures and intangible sensations such as ‘love’ and ‘memory’. It might seem poignant to a younger audience.
Nevertheless, there is much to the pulpiness, the bold colours and sets to entertain. It certainly seems a plot made of the kind of covers that would grace Analog magazine. Still, as far as sci-fi goes, it would be hard to believe that Rabid and The Man Who Fell to Earth were released in the same year. Look there for truly developed ideas.