Friday, June 21, 2019

Arrow Video's Blu-ray debut for Carol Reed's 1963 almost thriller, THE RUNNING MAN

OK: Carol Reed, shown below, may have been working at less-than-full-throttle during his filming of the 1963 movie, THE RUNNING MAN. (This idea is borne out -- by one of the people who assisted Reed -- on the Bonus Features section of Arrow Video's new Blu-ray edition.) Still, second-rate Reed is as good if not better than the first-rate work of many other lesser directors. Further, although a number of people associated with the film seem to have found the novel on which the film was based not so hot, filming went ahead as planned.

Fortunately, the movie has three very attractive and talented stars in the leading roles -- Laurence Harvey (below, left), Lee Remick (below, right) and Alan Bates (below, center) -- and so performance-wise, the movie holds up nicely, as well. The good screenplay by John Mortimer, from the novel by Shelley Smith, tells the tale of a clever enough insurance scam -- one that could hardly be managed today, thanks to the ever-presence of those blasted security cameras and the inability to keep one's face even remotely secret -- in which a fellow (Harvey) and his recently wed wife (Remick) seem to be pursued throughout Europe (mostly Spain) by a wily insurance investigator (Bates).

The suspense here, such as it is, stems from the seeming ability of our not-very-heroic hero to keep his identity a secret, and yet, fortunately, things are not always as they seem -- which is all for the best here, since the bare-bones story does not have a whole lot of surprise in store. Harvey was always best at playing a rotter (which according to a couple of the folk interviewed here, he was in real life, too), and he's just fine in that role once again. Remick was probably as fine an actress as mid-20th-Century film gave us -- every bit as classy, talented and beautiful as Grace Kelly, but without any of that accompanying stiffness (except when needed) -- as natural and graceful a performer as you could want. Bates, who was barely at the beginning of his long and prosperous acting career, makes a fine foil for Harvey and an even better near-romantic lead.

The wonderful location photography makes one want to visit Spain, even if many of the brunette supporting actresses here seems to be trying their best to look like Liz Taylor (this was the year of Cleopatra, remember). All in all, you could do a lot worse than watch The Running Man for its starry cast and yummy scenery alone.  From Arrow Academy (distributed in the USA via MVD Visual) and running 103 minutes, the movie, in its Blu-ray debut, hit the street this week -- for purchase and (I would hope) rental. As usual with Arrow, the Bonus features are well worth viewing/hearing, too -- especially if you want to learn more about the habits of the late Mr. Harvey.

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