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Logan’s Run (MGM 1976 with Michael York and Jenny Agutter)



USA / MGM / 1976

Director: Michael Anderson

Cast: Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Denny Arnold, Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Anderson Jr, Peter Ustinov,

It might look like just a gaggle of good-looking people running around and enjoying the 23rd-century high life, but there’s more here than just the frolic. There’s actually a freakily-imposed limit to how many years you can frolic! In a way that only the 1970’s could, Logan’s Run combined heavy-handed “meaning of life” ideas with good old sci-fi camp.

With nasty industrial pollution lurking on the outside, Earth’s inhabitants set up shop inside a huge glass dome where hedonism reigns. Life is easy, money is no problem, there’s climate control and color-coordinated kaftans, and don’t even think about having to work. But in order to deal with the population problem, this particular Utopia has no room for cloying middle-agers.

When a domer turns 30, he’s forced to join the “Carousel” (which is really just a G-rated moniker for forced death). In this creepy ceremony, the it’s-a-not-so-happy birthday folks join hands and spiral upwards toward the top of the dome until they explode into flames. If you don’t like that idea (and why would you?), you’re deemed a “runner,” one of many over-the-hillers who try to escape the city to a place called “Sanctuary”.

Enter Logan 5, played by thespian Michael York, a “sandman” whose job it is to find Sanctuary and off all the over-ambitious fleet-footers who hide there. But as Logan gets to know the runners, he has a change of heart—maybe this awful Carousel can be avoided after all. So, accompanied by the scantily-clad Jessica 6, Logan makes a run of his own.

On the way out of the domed city, our breathless couple deals with Box, a mirror ball robot who tries to freeze them, a mad plastic surgeon (whose colleague is none other than Farrah Fawcett, in a mascara-running cameo), and Logan’s old sandman buddy Francis. They finally do make it to Sanctuary, which is an aging Washington, D.C., filled with a whole lot of cats and a lone survivor, an Old Man who quotes T.S. Eliot and regales them with stories of the old days. Apparently, the old days (and old people) may not have been so bad after all, and now that he knows, Logan has the responsibility to do something about it.

There were actually some rather erudite themes circling the camp. Both the 1976 film, and the 1967 novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson on which it was based, can be read as a warning against the excess and emptiness of the swingin’ 1960’s counter-culture. There’s an old hippie doctrine, “never trust anyone over the age of thirty,” and certainly, that type of anti-establishment thinking was poked fun at here. The flame of hedonism and instant self-gratification may be fun while it lasts, but it burns out quickly. And at the end of the day, all you’ve got are color-coded kaftans and depressing population control tactics.

In contrast, the second half of the film, the old D.C. and its old world survivor, celebrated the ideals of the past, the virtues of work and responsibility and family, and the old social order of things—one that wasn’t based on age and appearance. Life lessons from the glass dome of frolic? Who would have thought?

Logan’s Run also inspired a television series of the same name, which ran from 1977-78.



California Split (Columbia 1974, Elliott Gould, George Segal)




California Split

California Split is a movie about the adventures of two card players, and it stars two of 70s-era Hollywood’s most prolific male actors. Elliot Gould (M*A*S*H, 1970) plays Charlie Waters, a small-time card player who has the charisma and moxie of someone who’s way better at the tables than he actually is. Alongside him is George Segal (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1966) who plays Bill Denny, a magazine writer who moonlights as a casual player. Charlie and Bill meet in a California poker parlour game that turns heated over a dealt card hitting the floor, raising concerns of cheating. Despite this, the game continues, and one of them wins. This leads to the two players getting mugged by one of the game’s sore losers, giving them an experience that’s worth bonding over. The two become fast friends and this starts them off on a poker adventure that will test and reveal their true spirit.

In a 1974 review, Roger Ebert called California Split a “magnificently funny, cynical film”, which is probably the best way to describe the succeeding events following Bill and Charlie’s meet up. Regarded by many to be one of the best poker movies ever made, California Split is a quirky but ultimately realistic and darkly comedic look into the life and mind of card players. Despite this, you don’t really need to know a thing about poker beforehand in order to enjoy the movie. It’s a classic American adventure movie that has inspired countless other road trip movies and casino films.

From start to finish, California Split follows Bill and Charlie through the race tracks, seedy bars, private poker parties, Vegas’ second-rate casinos, treating bruises with hot shaving cream, waking up to massive hangovers, and even another mugging in which their instincts are put to the test. The result is less of a movie with careful exposition, and more of what feels like an inside look into the hilariously nightmarish world of America’s casino scene. The Telegraph calls the film one of Robert Altman’s best out of his extensive catalogue. It is brilliantly pieced together by his signature subtle visual prose, realistically overlapping dialogue, and the bravely understated introductions of his many quirky characters, California Split is one of the 70s’ definite must-see adventures. Such was the film’s realism that PartyPoker state that legendary player Thomas Austin Preston Jr. aka ‘Amarilo Slim’ had a small part. In his time Slim was known as one of the greatest ever poker players, winning 4 WSOP bracelets, and would have been an inspiration for the two main characters.

California Split is definitely a treat not just for card players, but for anyone who likes well-crafted movies about friendship and the makings of the American Dream.

main stars
George Segal, Elliot Gould Ann Prentis, Gwen Welsh, Edward Walsh, Joseph Walsh, Bert Remsen

crew details
Director: Robert Altman
Producer: Joseph Walsh, Robert Altman
Director of Photography: Paul Lohmann
Editor: O. Nicholas Brown, Lou Lombardo
Composer: Phyllis Shotwell
Screenwriters: Joseph Walsh
Production Designer: Leon Ericksen


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51st State, The (2001, Samuel L Jackson, Robert Carlyle)




51st State

In The 51st State after three decades of experimentation, pharmacologist Elmo McElroy (Samuel L Jackson) creates the perfect drug: POS-51. Orchestrating a bomb plot to kill his boss, The Lizard (Meatloaf), he heads to Liverpool for a date with gangster Leopold Durant (Ricky Tomlinson) and a $20 million payday, more than The Lizard was offering.

Thanks to his new bodyguard, Felix (Robert Carlyle), Elmo avoids a gunfight with an assassin sent by The Lizard – who survived the bomb – but he’s also on the radar of corrupt cop Virgil Kane (Sean Pertwee), who tortures Durant to death, forcing Elmo to find another buyer. Local gangster Iki (Rhys Ifans) looks ideal, but can he be trusted?

Cinema loves a rags-to-riches tale, and while McElroy’s journey is great entertainment it pales compared to the story of the film’s writer. Stel Pavlou worked in a London off-licence, writing in his spare time. After sending his 51st State screenplay to Tim Roth, the Reservoir Dog politely declined but forwarded it to his friend Jackson, who signed up and kick-started production.

Pavlou’s inspirations are obvious – Quentin Tarantino – and wholly relevant to his leading man, whose sense of fun, style and menace make the transatlantic journey intact. The addition of Carlyle and Tomlinson produces that other kind of chemistry and led to speculation, sadly unfulfilled, that Jackson had agreed to a cameo in The Royle Family .

Ronny Yu brings energy to the project, allowing the actors to enjoy the action and overcome the occasional liberties of plot and character. Together they judge the audience’s tolerance spot-on, having Ifans declare “I’m even getting on my own nerves,” and keep this pyrotechnic panto on the road.

UK / 2001

Director: Ronny Yu
Writer: Stel Pavlou

Cast: Samuel L Jackson, Robert Carlyle, Meatloaf, Ricky Tomlinson, Emily Mortimer, Sean Pertwee, Rhys Ifans

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Annie (1982, Albert Finney, Carol Burnett)




Annie Albert Finney

After the smash-hit Broadway musical version of Annie the powers that be obviously decided that a cute redhead would mean big bucks. Consequently Annie weighed in at $60million, and charmed the pants off Hollywood (it won nominations for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award) and children around the world with the great tagline: The Movie of Tomorrow.

So familiar and loveable are the story and eponymous star (Aileen Quinn) that one critic went so far as to describe it as “the film that made people actually want to be orphans.” Improbable as that may be, Annie is a corking story that follows the Oliver Twist mould of poor, pretty orphan makes good. Set during the depression, feisty orphan Annie dreams of a future in which the sun will shine and she can leave the orphanage, escaping the clutches of the evil Mrs Hannigan (Carol Burnett).

Annie’s dreams seem to come true when she is adopted by the wealthy Daddy Warbucks (Albert Finney) and warms his hard heart. But dark forces conspire against her. Mrs Hannigan and her brother Rooster (Tim Curry – who also starred in Oliver Twist that year playing another baddie, Bill Sykes) try to trick Annie away from her new-found affluence and take the rewards for themselves.

Quinn, Finney and Burnett all received their share of praise with the latter being consistently singled out. The acclaimed critic Pauline Kael described her as: “the soused, man-hungry Miss Hannigan… Carol Burnett is both hag and trollop… she’s gloriously macabre.”

USA / 1982

Director: John Huston
Writers: Harold Gray, Thomas Mehan

Cast: Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Grace Farrell, Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters, Aileen Quinn

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