19 November 2008 | kevinolzak
Title song by The Knickerbockers
1967's "They Ran for Their Lives" was the last feature film for actor John Payne (and the only one he directed). Also bowing out was former Disney child actress Luana Patten ("Song of the South"), while the quartet of villains- John Carradine, Scott Brady, Jim Davis, and Anthony Eisley- would continue to see a good deal of each other since they shared the same agent and often worked with the poverty row likes of Al Adamson. This was a low budget affair, hence the small cast, set on location in southern Nevada, where Patten's father suffers a fatal heart attack during a scuffle with Davis and Eisley, who are searching for some oil documents forged by Carradine, who was the old man's partner. The daughter eludes the empty-handed thieves and runs into the desert, where she comes upon the campsite of geologist John Payne, with his faithful German shepherd Bravo. The remainder of the film is an extended chase along the Colorado River as the bad guys, joined by Brady, pursue their quarry while Carradine awaits their return at a local watering hole. Perhaps it was the opportunity to direct that led Payne to do this last movie (his previous film was in 1957), but he does a serviceable job here, especially with the pacing; and the brief romantic overtures from the pretty young Patten to the older (but still virile, as he always was) Payne will warm the hearts of older male viewers. Ever since his starring turn in the Western series THE RESTLESS GUN, the remainder of Payne's acting career focused on the small screen, and his very last performance was in a 1975 COLUMBO, "Forgotten Lady," as an actor in love with longtime leading lady Janet Leigh (understandably, I should think). I taped "They Ran for Their Lives" on Cinemax in 1991; apparently it has never received any kind of home video release. One further note of trivia: the title song that plays over the opening credits and twice more thereafter is performed by the great garage band sound of The Knickerbockers, whose lone top-forty hit was "Lies" in 1966.