7 October 2016 | tomsview
Off in all directions
This movie surprised me. It started out as one type of movie and ended up as another - it was a pleasant enough surprise though.
Laurence Harvey plays charter pilot Rex Black who fakes his death allowing his wife, Stella, to claim the insurance. Although Harvey was not particularly loved by many of his peers, he made some great movies. I always liked him and his Rex Black is cocky and edgy.
Lee Remick plays Stella. Time spent watching Lee Remick on the screen is never wasted. She was an actress whose abilities were sometimes under-appreciated because she was so beautiful. She is as disarming here as she was in everything she did.
Alan Bates plays Stephen Maddux, an insurance agent who investigates Rex's death and later fancies Stella when they cross paths in Spain - he thinks she is a widow, and Rex assumes another identity. Bates plays it low key while Harvey's character becomes darker and more aggressive as he attempts further scams, and is prepared to do anything to stop his plans unravelling.
Sadly all three actors went far too early - cancer in each case.
Directed by Carol Reed, the film has an unusual energy. It starts out as a light caper film, but by the half way mark we realise that the game has become more dangerous. The ending has a similar touch to the one that made "The Third Man" so memorable.
The film was made in 1963, and although it benefits from great locations in Spain, it actually feels a little like British films of the 40's and 50's.
The score by William Allwyn has a lot to do with that. For a long while British film music had a distinctive sound with some brilliant scores. It had a different timbre to the typical Hollywood score. You could tell a film was British as soon as the main title music started, but by the late 50's, composers like John Barry and John Addison brought a fresh sound that was far more international. However the score for "The Running Man" was a throwback - it was Allwyn's last score - maybe Reed had asked for him - but it could almost be a score for a film in 1948.
Although "The Running Man" does not represent the best work of those involved it is more than watchable and has a couple of twists worthy of Hitchcock.