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The Running Man (1963 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Running Man
The Running Man (1963) poster.jpeg
Directed byCarol Reed
Screenplay byJohn Mortimer
Based onThe Ballad of the Running Man
1961 novel
by Shelley Smith
Produced byCarol Reed
StarringLaurence Harvey
Lee Remick
Alan Bates
CinematographyRobert Krasker
Edited byBert Bates
Music byWilliam Alwyn
Color processEastman Color
Peet Productions
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release dates
  • May 1963 (1963-05) (United Kingdom)
  • October 1963 (1963-10) (United States)
Running time
104 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States

The Running Man is a 1963 British-American neo noir drama film directed by Carol Reed, starring Laurence Harvey as a man who fakes his own death in a glider accident, then runs into trouble when an insurance investigator starts taking a close interest.[1] It was adapted by screenwriter John Mortimer from the 1961 novel The Ballad of the Running Man by Shelley Smith.

It was filmed in San Roque, Cádiz, La Línea de la Concepción, Cádiz , Algeciras, Cádiz, Spain, Gibraltar and Ireland. The film opened at the Odeon Leicester Square in London's West End on 1 August 1963.[2]

Lee Remick and Alan Bates co-starred with Harvey.

The film briefly came to the attention of the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy because of a viral marketing campaign that placed personal ads in the Dallas Morning News asking the "Running Man" to please call "Lee". Investigators thought that these might be coded messages placed by assassin Lee Harvey Oswald until they discovered the source of the advertisements. In Hollywood, an urban legend arose claiming that the film was a flop because it starred actors named Lee and Harvey.[3]


Stella Black (Lee Remick) attends a memorial service for her husband Rex. Apparently, he died in a gliding accident, but his body was never recovered. There's a good reason for this; Rex (Laurence Harvey) is still alive. In reality, he and Stella are perpetrating this ruse to collect £50,000 life insurance as revenge against the same company that refused to pay out on a previous claim. Even the insurance company's investigator, Stephen Maddox (Alan Bates), fails to uncover the crime, freeing the Blacks to travel to Malaga for an extended vacation.

While there, Rex steals the passport of drunken Jim Jerome (John Meillon), a touring Australian sheep rancher, and doctors it with his own photograph. This enables Rex to plan a future "trick" involving another insurance company in which, as before, he will fake his own death. Meanwhile, a British male vacationer who Stella recognizes but can't remember approaches her at an outdoor cafe. Eventually, he reminds her that he is Stephen Maddox, the agent who interrogated her after Rex's "funeral". Rex believes Maddox's arrival in Spain is too coincidental, and that he is looking for evidence to expose the Blacks' insurance fraud. In time, though, Stella believes Stephen is only a sweet, lonely man who desires company with someone he had previously met.

Subsequent events bear out Stella's guess; Stephen is guilty of nothing more than looking for companionship with fellow Englanders. But later, Stephen suspects something is amiss with the couple. In fact, Stephen speaks to Rex as if he knows what's going on with their scam without actually saying so. This alarms Rex beyond all reason. At one point, Rex's paranoia fuels his attempt to run Stephen's car off the road as he and Stella make a frenzied getaway drive to Gibraltar. But before the couple can enter British territory, they are detained by a Spanish police captain (Fernando Rey). Rex uses the confusion of a "running-of-the-bulls" event to escape, leaving his wife to the mercies of officialdom. He reaches an air strip, where he steals a private plane and escapes the Rock. The plane runs out of fuel, forcing Rex into the sea, with fatal consequences. The film's final scene, as at the story's beginning, shows Stella, seemingly, mourning the death of Rex—this time, for real, as he is taken away by boat, dead or possibly just unconscious.


Original novel

The Ballad of the Running Man was published in 1961. The Guardian called it "horrifying, gripping."[4] The New York Times called it "spellbinding".[5]


In March 1962 it was announced Carol Reed would direct a film based on the novel for Columbia Pictures, who had made Reed's Our Man in Havana. It was the first project Reed worked on since leaving the filming of Mutiny on the Bounty.[6]

Filming took place in Spain, for ten weeks, and at Ardmore Studios in Ireland.[7][8] The film's sets were designed by the art director John Stoll.


The New York Times published a negative review of the film, with critic Bosley Crowther writing: "Mr. Reed, who used to shine at flight and pursuit melodramas, just doesn't put excitement into this film. He has mostly devoted himself to getting the Malaga atmosphere, and this, in color, is rather dazzling. It's the only thing in the film that is."[9]

Writing in The Los Angeles Times, Philip K. Scheuer praised the film, writing: "Columbia's 'The Running Man' is my idea of an almost perfect motion picture — on-edge anxiety, unpredictable surprises, all astonishingly logical; and always a developing sense of characterization, so that — in contrast to the celebrated Mr. Hitchcock's chases — the final bitterly ironic twist leaves one actually moved with pity and a feeling of loss."[10]


Cinematographer Robert Krasker — one of Carol Reed's favorites — was nominated for the BAFTA colour cinematography award.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Variety film review; 7 August 1963, page 6.
  2. ^ The Times, 1 August 1963, Page 2
  3. ^ Shenon, Philip (2013). A Cruel and Shocking Act. Henry Holt and Company. p. 279. ISBN 9780805094206.
  4. ^ CRIMINAL RECORDS Iles, Francis. The Guardian 3 Nov 1961: 9.
  5. ^ Criminals at Large By ANTHONY BOUCHER. New York Times 8 Apr 1962: BR15.
  6. ^ 'Mutiny' Director Find Make Deals: Bogarde in 'Living Room'; Du Pont Scion Plans Three Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 2 Mar 1962: C13.
  7. ^ Lee Remick, Garner Named as Co-Stars Los Angeles Times 29 June 1962: C11.
  8. ^ REED'S 'RUNNING MAN' ON A SPANISH COURSE New York Times (12 Aug 1962: X7.
  9. ^ Crowther, Bosley (3 October 1963). "Screen: Laurence Harvey on the Run". The New York Times. p. 31.
  10. ^ Scheuer, Philip K. (17 October 1963). "Fascinating Thriller From Sir Carol Reed". The Los Angeles Times. p. IV-10.
  11. ^ "BAFTA Awards".

External links

This page was last edited on 1 November 2022, at 00:38
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