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THE RUNNING MAN (1963)

The Running Man - Cover'Arrow Academy' have recently released a digitally enhanced version of the 1963 classic, ‘The Running Man’. It was directed by Carol Reed; it starred Laurence Harvey, Lee Remick, and Alan Bates; and it lasts for 103-minutes. Plus, as an extra added bonus, the Blu-ray edition comes with audio commentary provided by Peter William Evans, a short documentary, an image gallery, an isolated music and effects track, as well as a segment dedicated to Lee Remick’s appearance at the National Film Theatre in 1970 (audio recording only). Please enjoy.


The Running Man [Arrow Academy]


THE STORY: 
To the outside world, I’m nothing more than a tragic figure that lost his life in a horrendous glider accident three months ago. But to you, my sweet, sweet Stella (Lee Remick), I’d say that I’m a lot more than that, aren’t I? An awful lot more!

Well, not only am I Jim Jerome, a rich sheep farmer from the Australian outback, but in addition to this, I’m also your husband, Rex Black (Laurence Harvey), who was smart enough to secretly fake his own death in order to cash in on the insurance. 

So, what we have to do now, Stella, is to lie low for a short while, probably by going to somewhere like Malaga, for instance, and then try our best not to attract too much attention. Otherwise, what next transpires may go from bad to worse, when we’re suddenly approached by a man from the insurance company, a man named Stephen Maddox (Alan Bates). As a devious scheme slowly starts to fade - a partnership gets tender, torn, and frayed - an insurance man falls for an old maid - and at the end of the day, look out world, because life can be crass and clichéd.




THE REVIEW: 
In many ways, I'd say ‘The Running Man’ was one of those films I liked more than I disliked, but it took me quite some time to figure out why. Well, even though the story was good, the actors did their best, and the production felt very lavish for its time (the nineteen-sixties), in the same breath, there seemed to be something missing. Not physically missing, but rather, emotionally missing, and it took me quite a few viewings to figure out what that emotion was. 

The Running Man - Laurence Harvey and Lee Remick
You see, at face value, the overall narrative hinges on the relationships built up between the three main characters. The first character is called Rex (played by Laurence Harvey), and he's basically a greedy git who swindles an insurance company by faking his own death. Next, there's Stella (played by Lee Remick), who's Rex’s somewhat obedient wife that tries her best to accommodate his dastardly schemes. And finally, the third character is Stephen (played by Alan Bates), who’s an insurance man that just so happens to pop up at the exact same place these other two are staying, Malaga, not so long after they committed their crime. 

But don’t despair, dear reader, because before Stephen shows up, Rex masquerades as somebody else, somebody named Jim Jerome, while Stella, on the other hand, has to still pretend that her husband is dead and is now on holiday with a man she hardly knows. 

Admittedly, all of this does sound rather far-fetched in terms of conveying a ‘realistic narrative'. Yet in the same breath, it was rather suspenseful too. Too suspenseful, some might say, largely due to the story possessing a somewhat mysterious quality where we’re never quite sure who knows what at any given time. Eventually, everything comes to a head when Stephen falls in love with Stella, despite the fact that he may know that Rex and Jerome are one and the same person. A person, I hasten to add, that finally made me realize what was wrong with this film all along. Or as I said previously, what was emotionally missing from it! 

Well, with all due respect, one of the main things I couldn’t quite put my finger on was the emotional contrast between the two main protagonists, Rex and Stella, as played by Laurence and Lee. On the one hand, the two of them looked very nice together -- visually, at least -- while on the other, they emotionally seemed to be worlds apart. After all, Lee Remick is a very attractive lady with porcelain features, dazzling blue eyes, and a smile that’s as bright as her personality. Whereas Laurence Harvey, on the other hand, looked good but seemed bad. No. More than bad, sterile, as he was a greedy and brash person who lacked empathy to those around him. Namely, Stella, and to make matters slightly worse, the more times I watched this film, the more times I noticed that the two of them had no on-screen chemistry whatsoever, going so far as to question why she loved him in the first place. 

The Running Man - Laurence Harvey and Alan Bates
Well, let’s face it, would you be attracted to a person who breaks the law and forces you to do the same thing? Especially if they’re more than happy to do it again, and again, and again, regardless of how much it affects you! No, of course not, no matter who you are, nobody likes to be used and abused for the sake of greed, and that is why I didn’t really understand their relationship the longer the story played out. 

Come to think of it, I would also like to mention how much I disliked Laurence Harvey's silly Australian accent. Seriously, folks, it sounded like a weird hybrid that comprised the voices of Leslie Phillips and Dame Edna Everage, but far less congenial and far more nasally. In fact, it was so silly to listen to, that I was happy whenever he lapsed back into his normal British accent again, even though it did feel slightly awkward in terms of sticking to the plot. 

The Running Man - Movie Poster
Anyway, that’s enough of that for the time being, because now I think we should all sit back, relax, and check out the following filmic facts: (1) ‘Columbia Pictures’ first screened this thriller in the UK on the exact same month the 4th Pan American Games drew to a close. It was sometime in May, 1963. (2) Loosely translated, this project was entitled ‘The Price of Death’ in Spain; ‘The Man Who Disappeared’ in Finland; and ‘The Shadow of a Fraud’ in Brazil. (3) This film was based on a novel published in 1961 and written by Shelley Smith. It was called, ‘The Ballad of the Running Man’, and by all accounts, it wasn’t a very good book. (4) One of the taglines used to promote this picture, states, ‘England, France, Gibraltar, Malaga. From the Four Corners of the Earth, To the Far Corners of Suspense!’. (5) The majority of this movie was shot on location throughout three different parts of Europe. This includes the Bay of Gibraltar, Andalucía in Spain, and County Wicklow in Ireland, along with certain interior shots being taken inside Ardmore Studios, located on Herbert Road, Bray, Ireland. (6) William Alwyn decided to quit show business once he finished composing the music for this film. William is generally best known for composing scores for such classic films as ‘Odd Man Out’, ‘Desert Victory’, ‘The History of Mr. Polly’, and ‘The Fallen Idol’. (7) Automobile enthusiasts might like to know that the huge white car Rex hires in Spain is a 1962 Lincoln Continental convertible. (8) After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Warren Commission investigated this production because it had a viral marketing campaign which placed ads in the ‘Dallas Morning News’ asking for the 'Running Man to please call Lee'. At the time, investigators thought that this might be a coded message placed by the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, until they discovered the source. 


The Running Man - Lee Remick and Alan Bates


In closing my review of ‘The Running Man’, I would just like to say how much I enjoyed the visual look of this movie as well as its suspenseful tone. Well, visually, everything looked good, really good, ranging from the well-composed camerawork, the color-coordinated clothes worn by the three main actors, as well as the picturesque scenery that populated the background, which was mainly rustic, homely, or spatial by design. 

The Running Man - Film Poster
Similarly, the tone of this film also complemented its style. Not only because certain scenes were nicely framed in order to highlight the dramatic tension, but in addition to this, the pacing of the dialogue lent itself to having two meanings, especially in the case of Alan Bates’s character, Stephen, whose temperament and demeanor was one part awkward, one part naive, and one part mysterious.

Actually, while I’m on the subject of someone being naive, that reminds me, do you think that Stella was completely innocent or was she as greedy as Rex? Personally, I think she was somewhere in between, basing my decision on the way she behaved at the start of the film in contrast to the way she was at the end of it. Well, about five minutes in, she was happy that she managed to dupe her friends into thinking that Rex was dead. But by the end, she showed disdain for the way she and Rex were both behaving, therefore acknowledging that greed had corrupted them. So, in many ways, Stella grew as a character, yet we are never sure how much she grew given the way the story came to a close. And so, on that note, all I have left to say is that overall this was a pretty good movie, and I would definitely recommend it if you’re a fan of Lee Remick, Alan Bates, Spain, or thrillers like ‘Double Indemnity’ and ‘The Third Man’.

THE RATING: B

THE RUNNING MAN (1963) THE RUNNING MAN (1963) Reviewed by David Andrews on June 24, 2019 Rating: 5

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