Running From Honesty

The Running Man performs a dance to the tune of morality’s ever changing center. As it begins, there’s a smug insurance agent who denies a claim after payment fell two days late. “We’re not a charity,” he says, sticking up for the shareholders rather than the impacted client, Rex (Laurence Harvey). Considering this, Rex faking his own death to cash in on life insurance makes him out to be a working man’s hero. Vengeful, corrupt, but one-upping corporate selfishness.

Then Rex changes. He takes the money, tours foreign cities, and slowly transforms into a paranoid aggressive. Sympathy disintegrates. Poor Stella (Lee Remick), his wife, who becomes a femme fatale but shifts her romantic allegiance to an insurance investigator, Stephen (Alan Bates).

It’s a flawless set-up, examining male jealousy, human greed, and that want to be free from life’s agitations. Rex and Stella travel the world, soaking up beauty on beaches, in towns, in churches. Idyllic, except for Rex’s growing desperation and resulting abuse. That transformation takes time – Running Man’s opening act struggles to keep a dramatic and thematic hook – yet by its close, charges up a finale worthy of cinema’s best thrillers.

Running Man’s anxieties successfully pass down to the audience

The challenge of Running Man is not being swept up in tensions and stress; it’s a film capable of increasing heart rates as the scheme unravels in Stephen’s presence. Then comes sympathy with Stella trapped between the men as they shrewdly try to extract information – Rex to find out what Stephen knows, Stephen to unwrap the fraud. For a while, it’s cautious and even playful with Rex’s masculine arrogance a prime factor.

That the scenery is so lush adds to the battle, a public display among friendly locals celebrating their culture in a poor country as this rich westerner tries to scam his way to higher status. That’s Stella’s choice – stick with the lavish lifestyle of new cars, insured earrings, and glamorous homes with her testosterone-filled husband or settle for the sophisticated museum tourist who so happens to hold the power to put her in jail.

Running Man is classic Hollywood. It ends as expected and even artificially in an attempt to satisfy the audience’s craving for revenge. In that, the script borders on hypocritical. Yet, that’s intent, bringing in a discussion of principles. How far is too far when scamming “the man?” And, Running Man’s anxieties successfully pass down to the audience, carefully constructed like all of director Carol Reeed’s great thrillers. A small gem in hiding, waiting for wider recognition.

Video

Arrow brings Running Man to Blu-ray in a pleasing if borderline Blu-ray transfer. The scan appears older, certainly struggling with dirt running through the frame. That doesn’t stop. Luckily, no damage is apparent.

Resolution isn’t a stand out, leaving the images softened if not lost; it’s still often gorgeous. The scenery appears marvelously beautiful, resolved and clean. Chunkier grain looks blown up, if handled by Arrow’s clean encoding work to maintain a film-like aesthetic.

The real winner is color, an Eastman production with enough saturation to believe it’s Technicolor. This is splendid stuff, awash with bright and pure hues. Remick’s blue eyes dart from the screen, with ‘60s era style flushed by yellows, blues, and reds. Running Man often looks like a pastel dream, and the Blu-ray holds true to the era.

Audio

In PCM, the mono track doesn’t benefit from the lack of compression. It’s mauled at the source, immediately scratchy and straining to stray alive in the highs. Running Man’s score is lucky to still exist based on this.

Pitiful fidelity doesn’t ruin dialog, although that too fights to keep up. Intelligible, if fading with age.

Extras

Arrow tracks down surviving crew members to discuss this project, an impressive bit of work, using the interviews for the 24-minute On the Trail of The Running Man. A recording of Lee Remick from 1970 after a film screening is backed by the movie itself, if not as long. Professor Peter William Evans works a commentary track, with a music/effects track also optional. An image gallery follows.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Running Man
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  • Extras
4

Movie

A thriller of ever evolving morals, The Running Man succeeds in shifting audience allegiances and developing great characters.

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