Run For The Sun Review
Richard Widmark, who died earlier this year, was one of the great stars of the post-war period in Hollywood, dominating the screen in a succession of powerful films for Fox where he often played a classic Noir anti-hero or, occasionally, a memorably sadistic bad guy. Towards the final years of the studio system, he found himself in a wide variety of films for various producers and Run For The Sun is typical of the kind of solid action fodder which was enlivened by his presence.
Run For The Sun is a variation on The Most Dangerous Game, with the gothic horror elements removed and glossy Technicolor and contemporary news interest added. With rumours running wild about Nazis hiding out in Central America, it seems entirely apposite to have Trevor Howard playing Browne, a Nazi-sympathiser – a kind of Lord Haw Haw figure – who lives on a island with his own private army, a storehouse of weapons and tools and a pack of very hungry hounds. When Hemingwayesque novelist Michael Latimer (Widmark) crash lands on the island with a magazine journalist (Greer) in tow, Browne tries to hide his true identity. But Latimer’s tenacity means that the façade doesn’t last long and the stage is set for a hunt to the death through Browne’s dangerous jungle.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Run For The Sun but it suffers badly in comparison with the classic and richly atmospheric 1932 version of the story and, indeed, the wildly entertaining Australian exploitation version best known as Turkey Shoot. It takes an age to get into the story, the first half hour being taken up with an embarrassingly coy courtship between Greer and Widmark in a small Mexican village. Once their plane crashes on Browne’s island, the pace picks up a bit and the film builds a head of steam that leads towards an exciting chase climax. One major advantage that the film has is the excellent Technicolor location filming in Mexico and Jane Greer looks lovely in one of her few colour movies. However, what is missing is a real sense of threat. In the 1932 film, you really felt that Leslie Banks was on the edge of sanity as Count Zaroff. Here, Trevor Howard is far too politely public-school to be particularly menacing.
This was an odd project for Roy Boulting who spent most of the 1950s making small-scale films in Britain with his brother John. He acquits himself well enough with the outdoor action but it’s hard not to wonder what a tougher director such as Raoul Walsh might have done with the material. The most distinguished aspect of the film is the performances from an agreeable cynical Widmark and Greer. They make a fine couple and were memorably reunited 27 years later in Taylor Hackford’s Against All Odds.
Optimum’s new DVDs of films by the Boulting Brothers have all suffered from some rather odd authoring decisions and Run For The Sun is no exception.
The film is presented at an aspect ratio of approximately 2.00:1. Initially, I thought this was cropped from an original Scope ratio of 2.35. However, the film was shot in a cheap widescreen process known as “Superscope 235” which, like the more recent Super 35, used normal spherical lenses to produce a 1.37:1 image which was then cropped to a 2.35:1 ratio (or, in the first few years of Superscope, 2:1). Consequently, what we have on this DVD is the full horizontal image with extra height than would have been seen in cinemas. The quality of the anamorphic image on the disc is really rather good with fairly nice, if occasionally washed out, colours and plenty of detail. It’s certainly rather grainy – a characteristic of the system – but on the whole I was quite impressed. Certainly better than I had anticipated. The soundtrack is plain old fashioned mono and absolutely crystal clear without being particularly distinguished.
There are no extras on the disc nor have Optimum provided subtitles.