The Running Man Review
The Running Man, originally released in 1963 - and not to be confused with Schwarzenegger’s movie of the same title - finally lands on Blu-ray courtesy of Arrow Academy. Despite a slender number of extras, is this underrated classic worth revisiting over fifty-five years on from its initial release?
Directed by Carol Reed (of Odd Man Out, The Third Man, and Oliver! fame) The Running Man may be lesser known by comparison but remains a cult classic to this day. While a story about insurance fraud may not sound particularly riveting, it’s told with such panache that it’s near impossible not to be absorbed by it. In fact, it’s not hard to see why the film was nominated for a BAFTA for its cinematography.
Laurence Harvey gives the performance of a lifetime as Rex, a disgruntled pilot that fakes his own death in order to retire to Malaga, Spain with his “widow” Stella (a scene-stealing Lee Remick) and ill-gotten insurance money. On their trail is dogged and persistent insurance assessor Stephen (Alan Bates) and the trio’s relationships are a wildcard that neither party could have planned for.
As Rex's money making scheme and associated lies pile up and he spirals, beginning with a stolen identity of an Australian sheep farmer and culminating in a car chase, plane crash and tragedy. To say more would be spoiling it. For those that haven't seen The Running Man before, you're in for a treat, and those that have should know that this is the finest version to own, given Arrow Academy's typically fantastic work.
While the film didn’t grab the accolades that The Third Man did, it remains a taut thriller with highly personal stakes, wasting nary a minute with its 104 minute runtime and filling it with beautiful shots of sun, sand, albeit with a hint of sadness. Its dark and sardonic tone juxtaposes the Mediterranean setting, all of which is brought to life by an excellent Blu-ray treatment in both visuals and sound.
The entire production is now displayed in full 1080p, following Sony's 2K restoration, and as a result the movie's cinematography seemingly leaps from the screen throughout. The picture isn't quite pin sharp (owing to the film's age), but it remains infinitely clearer than any prior version of it. Perhaps more impressive is the audio reworking of the entire film, with the film sounding positively contemporary through TV speakers or a sound bar setup. Arrow Academy’s work here brings everything to a crisp, modern-feeling soundscape - both in terms of dialogue and ambient sound. There are also English subtitles for those who want or need them.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many extras to speak of - again, presumably owing to the film’s age and the lack of requirements for such things back in the sixties. There’s an excellently insightful audio recording of female lead Lee Remick speaking at the National Film Theatre, but the main meat here is a short featurette called “On The Trail Of The Running Man” - a behind the scenes discussion with Angela Allen, the movie’s script supervisor, and Kits Browning, assistant director. It offers up some excellent anecdotes, not just on this film but moviemaking in the sixties in general.
As a package, The Running Man on Blu-ray is easy to recommend. It’s a great, British thriller, which may have been under-appreciated at one time but remains an excellent way to spend an afternoon. This, combined with a short but sweet number of extras, make for the definitive release of this cult classic. Arrow Academy’s work here is excellent as always, and shows clear reverence for Reed's work.
- Audio commentary by Peter William Evans, author of British Film-Makers: Carol Reed On the Trail of the Running Man, all-new featurette with crew members such as script supervisor Angela Allen and assistant director Kits Browning Lee Remick at the National Film Theatre an audio-only recording of the actor's appearance at the NFT in 1970
- Image gallery
- Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Barry Forshaw (unavailable for review).