Monday, December 13, 2010

No, not the Schwarzenegger movie

Tomorrow morning's TCM selection is the formulaic but picturesque 1963 film The Running Man, at 7:15 AM ET.

Laurence Harvey plays pilot Rex Black. He crashed one of his planes accidentally, and wants to collect on the insurance. Unforutnately, he forgot to pay the premiums on time, and the insurance company rightly refuses to pay, as there was technically no insurance being taken out at the time. What's a disgruntled customer to do? Why, fake his death! He tells his wife Stella (Lee Remick) about his plan, and her part in it, which is to wait several months and then join him on the Spanish Riviera. As Rex's body is never found, there's an insurance investigation, led by Alan Bates.

Fast forward several months, at which time Stella is finally able to make her way from England to southern Spain. Rex is now playing the part of an Australian sheep rancher (with hair dyed a ghastly blond!) apparently in Europe to try to sell his sheep. It's all a ruse of course, but back in the 1960s, it was much easier to come up with a new identity, as they couldn't just google you. The plan seems to be going well, until, one day the couple just happens to meet Bates, who is traveling in Spain, possibly on the insurance company's business.

Something is obviously up, and of course we the viewers know just what that something is. But will the wife give it away? She's not so sure she likes having to spend the rest of her life living a lie, and besides, she's beginning to fall in love with the insurance man who, it seems, might just not suspect anything at all. Rex, of course, is suspicious, and with the insurance agent taking an interest in her (of course, the agent thinks she's a widow, since that's what the law says), Rex is only going to get more paranoid with suspicion and jealousy....

The Running Man is relatively predictable stuff, and doesn't break any ground, but it's an enjoyable enough story, and even if the story does wind up with the ending you think it's going to, exactly how the characters get there is what makes a movie like this interesting. Everybody involved in it did better stuff, but it's by no means a bad movie. The Running Man doesn't seem to have gotten a DVD release, though, so you're going to have to catch it on TCM.

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