The Running Man: Blu-ray and DVD

Friday, 21 June 2019 09:11

Based on a book written pseudonymously by Stephen King, “The Running Man” stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Ben Richards, a police helicopter pilot who is framed and forced to take part in an ultra-violent gameshow after refusing to slaughter innocent protesters. Released in 1987 and set in a 2019 where the USA has become a totalitarian police state, the film depicts a nightmarish world of censorship, poverty and corruption.

Richards and two Lycra-sporting buddies are thrust into the game as ‘runners’, unarmed, on foot and with the odds stacked massively against them. Hunting them are ‘stalkers’, celebrity killers who go by monikers like Fireball, Dynamo and Buzzsaw, each armed with deadly weapons and some aided by vehicles. They are cheered on by the studio audience and impoverished gamblers huddled outside the studio, eager for carnage.

If any of the runners can make it through all four game quads then they stand to win a life of freedom in a tropical paradise, but Richard’s mates are more interested in helping an underground resistance break the state-run media’s grip over society by hacking into the network.

Co-stars include Yaphet Kotto (“Alien”, “Live and Let Die”), Maria Conchita Alonso (“Predator 2”), Jesse Ventura (“Predator”, WWF wrestler) and Marvin J. McIntyre (“Short Circuit”, “Pale Rider”). Alonso is marvellously feisty as a fellow runner and Ventura obliterates the scenery as Captain Freedom, a retired stalker turned show announcer and exercise video star.

Despite being a film of its era, I think “The Running Man” also holds up well by today’s standards. Most of the action is shot using on-set physical effects rather than dated CGI, and it depicts a future that in many ways still feels futuristic even though we have reached the year in which it is set.

Some solid world-building helps to immerse us in the story, and although many themes are exaggerated for effect, they reflect certain worrying trends in our time. Take for example the fake news, re-edited video used to frame Richards, and the so-called ‘deepfake’ footage shown to the gameshow’s audience later on that twists the outcome. The viewers lap it up mindlessly, distracted from their difficult lives and seemingly oblivious to the opulent skyscraper abodes of the rich towering above them.

Our hunger for escapism in reality TV is another theme, with shows like Fear Factor and Survivor coming closest to the concept in terms of danger and seeing contestants being put through the ringer. Personally, I think Love Island would be much better if they introduced weapons!

The pace is relentless, the action exciting and there is plenty of Arnie’s trademark tongue-in-cheek humour, bulging muscles and corny one-liners. Amusingly he even gets to utter his Terminator line ‘I’ll be back.’ The smarmy, brilliantly detestable gameshow host Killian (Richard Dawson – real-life gameshow host in Family Feud, Hogan’s Heroes) smartly comes back with ‘Only in a re-run!’.

The simple theme tune by Harold Faltermeyer (“Beverley Hills Cop”, “Top Gun”) is looped roughly a billion times in various guises, so it is just as well it is so damn catchy!

Fans of “Robocop” and “Total Recall” should really appreciate the violent action and humour of this movie. In my view it is one of Arnie’s better efforts, and it looks even better in high definition.

Special features include:

  • Audio Commentary with Producer Tim Zinnemann and Director Paul M Glaser
  • Audio Commentary with Executive Producer Rob Cohen
  • Lockdown on Mainstreet featurette (25 mins approx)
  • Game Theory featurette (20 mins approx)
  • Trailer

These standard-definition features are carried over from a previous DVD release, but the two mini-documentaries are still interesting and worth a look. ‘Lockdown on Main Street’ is about state surveillance post-9/11, particularly the impact of the 2001 USA Patriot Act. The other featurette is about the proliferation of reality TV shows, and how they might one day escalate to the level seen in the film.

"The Running Man" (1987) is released on 24 June 2019 on Blu-ray and DVD, courtesy of Fabulous Films. The main feature has a running time of 101 minutes approx, carries an '18' certificate and retails for £12.99 on DVD and £15.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com.

 

Last modified on Friday, 21 June 2019 09:18

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