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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Running Man (1987)
(2019 Reissue)


Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, María Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto and Richard Dawson
Distributor: Fabulous Films Ltd / Fremantle Media Enterprises
RRP: £15.99


Certificate: 18
Release Date: 24 June 2019

Flying his police helicopter over a food riot, Ben Richards refuses to fire on unarmed civilians. When he breaks out of jail, he is placed into a government run reality show, The Running Man

The Running Man (1987. 1 hr, 40 min, 48 sec) is a dystopian science fiction film, directed by Paul Michael Glaser. The film was based on a short story by Richard Bachman (Stephen King). The script was written by Steven E. de Souza. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, María Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto and Richard Dawson.

I was all ready to go medieval on this film. I remember watching it when it first came out and pondering, what was the director thinking. Glaser had previously been better known as Starsky in the popular television show, Starsky and Hutch (1975 – 1979), he had directed a few the show’s episodes, so this should have been a big break for him.

What I didn’t know, before I listened to the director’s commentary was the massive restrictions which Glaser found himself under. For a start, it wasn’t originally his project and some of the footage shot by the original director remains in the film. He also had little if no input into the screenplay. Add to that the financial restrictions placed on the project, then it would be fairer to say that the film is not great, but maybe it’s the best that could be produced under such circumstances.

So, what we ended up with is a film which spends nearly half the movie getting to The Running Man game, only to underwhelm with its execution. The extras would like you to think that the film is deeper than it ends up being. Lockdown on Main Street (24 min, 37 sec) looks at the growth of surveillance culture in the USA and the slow erosion of civil liberties. Game Theory (20 min, 15 sec) looks at the growth of the game show genre, something which has become so ubiquitous as to become a staple of most people’s viewing habits.

The only other extra on the Blu-ray is the Original Theatrical Trailer (1 min, 26 sec). While the two main extras only have a tangential connection with the show, they remain interesting in and of themselves.

The game which Richards finds himself in is a contest of survival. He and his friends are pitted against a series of high-tech opponents. Subzero kills with a hockey stick in a frozen arena, Buzzsaw and Dynamo are not afforded a specialist arena, just taking on the runners in an obviously decommissioned factory. It is during these sequences where the lack of budget really shines through.

The script is an uneven combination of drama and humour, especially with Arnold Schwarzenegger (Richards) repeating his, ‘I’ll be back’ phrase which has become old hat now, but in 1987 it had only been three years since he had appeared in The Terminator (1984) and the self-referential quote would have seemed fresher than it does today.

Measure up against the other science fiction films, which came out that year (1987), The Running Man holds up quite well, but it was a particularly bad year for the genre.


Charles Packer

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