9

Just watched Logan’s Run (1976) again and when the scene rolls around where Logan 5 and Jessica 6 head to “Cathedral”, I wondered… Why the heck was the “Cathedral District”—or “Cathedral Plaza” as it reads on the wall during that scene—in such a crappy state?

In the film nobody ever talks positively about “Cathedral” and the place is filled with “Cubs” (aka: tons of street kids) so it seems like some kind of futuristic slum. But why is that? Was it simply a district that fell apart after time? Or did something else happen? Is the name “Cathedral” the allusion to some religious control area that eventually fell apart in the hedonistic youth world of the Dome world?

An explanation from the 1967 novel (by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson) or back-story from the film development would be good.

A screenshot of the “Cathedral” scene in Logan’s Run.

3
  • 2
    I always assumed that it was a commentary about the godlessness of the post-apocalyptic culture. The cathedral is unused, hence it has fallen into disrepair.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 8:39
  • 3
    I'm not sure you can take the Washington Monument as being a religious ikon. Certainly there are other allusions to religion though, especially the main characters rediscovering marriage.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 12:21
  • I'd say it's because young people don't go to church, but Cathedral turns out to have more kids in it than you'd like... Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 16:19

3 Answers 3

11

In the 1967 novel, it’s apparent that Cathedral is occupied by violent, feral children—referred to as “Cubscouts”—who are a deadly menace, likely because they weren’t “machine-reared” like everyone else in industrial nurseries:

Cathedral: a festering sore in the side of Greater Los Angeles, an area of rubble and dust and burned out buildings, a place of shadow and pollution, of stealth and sudden death. Cubscout territory. If Doyle cleared the bridge the cubs would take him. The kill would be theirs—and that was bad for the record. Logan was well aware of Cathedral's blood history. Of the runners who never came out. Of the muggings. Of the unchecked violence. Even the police avoided Cathedral. With good reason. They'd sent in a cleanup squad the previous summer to tame the cubs. Logan had known some of the men in that squad: Sanson and Bradley and Wilson 9, all good officers. They'd walked into the jaws of the crocodile and the jaws had closed. None of the squad survived.

Why was Cathedral “an area of rubble and dust and burned out buildings” in the first place? Possibly because it was devastated during the “Little War,” the rebellion by people younger than 21 and less—note that in the movie, the age limit was raised to 30 and less—that overthrew the established order and mandated euthanasia at age 21. Possibly because civilization is beginning to collapse because there is no longer anyone old enough to knows how to build or maintain anything, as Logan concludes when he finally reaches Sanctuary:

There was so much to say to Francis. That the world was coming apart, that it was dying, this system, this culture. That the Thinker was no longer able to hold it together. A new world would be formed. Living is better than dying, Francis. Dying young is a waste and a shame and a perversion. The young don’t build. They use. The wonders of Man were achieved by the mature, the wise, who lived in this world before we did.

Narratively, this suggests that novel authors William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson chose "Cathedral" as the name of the infested region to symbolize how the youth-obsessed culture of Logan's world had abandoned the belief systems of the past, including religious values for life and a belief in an afterlife, and the self-reflection that comes with a level of maturity people no longer reach.

Nolan elaborates on this point in a 2000 interview with Annalee Newitz:

“I wrote Logan’s Run during the Watts riots, when youth were rioting. The book was an implicit criticism of a lifestyle that destroys you and society, a lifestyle where maturity is rejected. You can’t live a hedonistic lifestyle and survive--you either die young or it catches up with you…

“I think the original movie missed the book's subtext, which is the breakdown of society when youth rules.”

Cathedral is occupied by children no older than 13, which becomes apparent when Logan is surrounded by a gang and confronts its leader, whose palm crystal is blue:

“No cubs at fourteen, Billy. Ever heard of a cub with a red flower? You’ll leave Cathedral then, Billy, when you’re on red, because they won’t let an adult stay here. The young ones. They’ll gut-rip you if you stay, so you’ll cross the river. And then, almost before you know it, Billy, you’re twenty-one and your hand is blinking. And you’ll die like a sheep.”

Why is Cathedral filled with violent children? The novels and the movie differ on this.

In Logan’s World (1977), the second novel, Logan and Jessica encounter grown-up Mary-Mary 2—the girl who gave them the key in Cathedral—who says she had been there because she was 5 years old and had “escaped from Nursery,” meaning she wouldn't have been raised in by machines. But in the 1976 movie script, Jessica suggests just the opposite, that the lack of natural mothering turned the cubs violent:

INT - MAZE-CAR - LOGAN AND JESSICA - MOVING SHOT

LOGAN Have you ever been through Cathedral?

Jessica shakes her head.

LOGAN They’re like beasts. Wild.

JESSICA Maybe they’re angry because they're grown in meccano-breeders.

LOGAN (interrupting, grimacing) Instead of what? Nine months inside a woman: (ugh) We're all raised the same but most of us don't become cubs in Cathedral.

JESSICA Some people say children need human mothering.

LOGAN Insane. Nurseries are better than any mother could be.

JESSICA I’m only telling you what I’ve heard…

4
  • 1
    Note that there is a real place called Cathedral Plaza in LA: discoverlosangeles.com/what-to-do/center-cathedral-plaza-0 Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 14:14
  • @OrganicMarble Would that location have existed by that name in the 1960s when Nolan and Johnson lived in Los Angeles? Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 16:17
  • 1
    @JakeGould I've added a paragraph on that point that's somewhat speculative, but supported a bit by a quote from an interview with Nolan in 2000. Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 16:18
  • The original cathedral there was built in 1876... Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 17:47
0

In the book, Cathedral became a ruin because it was an area that lost its connection to The Thinker, the giant computer that manages the entire world. The Thinker predated the Little War, when youth of the world, growing to become 95% of the populace due to the population explosion, rebelled against adult control and mandated the "Death at 21" decree.

The Thinker hasn't been repaired since before the Little War, as no one lives long enough to learn to repair it, or even understand it is malfunctioning. When Logan and Jessica go through The Thinker computer system, they see dead spots where the circuitry has failed. As a result these dead areas have lost power, services and communications.

The gangs of cubs, children under 7, use the banned drug Muscle to exert their control over the area. Muscle increases their speed and reflexes to lighting speed, allowing the gangs to overpower older and stronger people coming into their areas. People older than 7 can't use the drug because it kills them. All the people in Logan's society are brutal and cruel to each other, without parents to teach them love and empathy. The Cubs use Cathedral as a place to get away from older and more powerful children.

Though the film keeps the concept of Cathedral, here it seems to be a building that the Cubs have kept in a state of ruin, so the Sandmen have blockaded it and turned it into a prison where rebellious and violent children between 7 and 14 are condemned. (In the film, as in the book, children 7 and under are apparently kept separate from the general population of the domes.)

The film Cubs, too, use muscle, though it's shock value is lessened because they are more matched in size and strength to the Sandmen and Runners who are their usual victims. Plus it appears that the Muscle hyperspeed visual effects were removed to decrease violence and drug references in the film, in order to go from an R to a PG rating. I'm not even sure if the Muscle visual effects were even executed. I have only seen 3 black and white images that purport to be the effect, but since there's no movement in stills.

1
  • 2
    Hi, welcome to the site. You could improve this answer by editing it to include any relevant quotes from the book. Also, breaking the text up into a few paragraphs would make it more reader-friendly. Commented Oct 29, 2023 at 8:03
-1

"Cathedral: a festering sore in the side of Greater Los Angeles..."

They are talking about Cathedral City, out by Palm Springs. The description from the book is pretty accurate today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_City,_California

1
  • seems unlikely that the town inspired the fictional cathedral -- the book was written long ago. but the city currently has a very high poverty rate and climate sounds hot to put it mildly.
    – releseabe
    Commented Apr 12, 2023 at 0:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.