The Running Man
The Running Man – 1963 | 103mins | Drama | Colour
Carol Reed’s The Running Man came from Shelley Smith’s crime novel The Ballad of the Running Man, the title of which was shortened. Two cherished members of Reed’s professional family were with him again, Krasker and Alwyn. John Mortimer, a respected novelist and playwright with a flair for well-made courtroom stories, was hired to write the screenplay. An established star, Laurence Harvey, and two performers whose careers were quickly ascending, Alan Bates and Lee Remick, were hired for the lead roles, and Columbia provided a large enough budget for location shooting in Spain, where most of the story is set.
The film’s plot is set in motion when Black (Harvey) crashes his plane in the ocean and dissembles his own death so as to be able to collect the insurance. After first adopting the mask of Charles Erskine, a shoe salesman, he heads quickly for Malaga; there he soon finds himself at a bar with a drunken Australian named Jim Jerome (John Meillon), who conveniently forgets his passport. Presto! Rex has a new identity. After his wife Stella (Remick) joins him, the two are agitated by the appearance of Stephen Maddox. ‘What a coincidence’, he remarks. The rest of the movie is built on the razor-edge quandary of whether he is telling the truth or is spying on the guilty couple for the insurance company.
Having thus wrenched the course of events in an improbable direction to create suspense, the film-makers use equally contrived situations to create an ironic conclusion. Fleeing the Spanish police after an unsuccessful attempt at killing Stephen, Rex happens to pass an airport, finds an idle plane with the keys in it and takes it aloft. Short of gas, he goes down over the ocean and dies muttering about life insurance policies. Since the film began with Rex’s ‘funeral’ after faking his death in the first accident, his ultimate fate has the look of a contrived framing device. Still, if one can accept the awkward scaffolding of The Running Man, there is a good deal of fine detail and workmanship to admire in the plot; an ingratiating mix of wit, suspense and pungent dialogue; and several piquant surprises.
Carol Reed: Director
John Stoll: Art Direction
Robert Krasker: Cinematography
Bert Bates: Film Editing
George Scott: Makeup Department
George Frost: Makeup Department
William Alwyn: Music
Muir Mathieson: Music Direction
Carol Reed: Producer
John Mortimer: Script
Claude Hitchcock: Sound Department
Bob Jones: Sound Department
Peter Thornton: Sound Department