I’m Not Into Politics. I’m Into Survival: The Running Man (1987)


It is time for our annual Stephen King film:

I’m not into politics. I’m into survival.

So I promised back in January that I would review this film as it takes place in 2019 and inspired this year’s Dystopian theme. Plus I love this movie.

I know lots of people don’t care for Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I love his films. I just can’t enough of the puns and the comebacks and of course action.

So when Rob Cohen purchased the rights to the Richard Bachman novella “The Running Man”, he had no idea that Bachman was actually a pseudonym for Stephen King. I didn’t know it was a Stephen King film either, until a few years back I was trying to pick a Stephen King film and it came up when I googled him.

Huh?

I know I was in shock too, it didn’t seem like the other stuff he made. So without further ado, it’s time to start… RUNNING!

So it is the film starts off in 2018-the economy of the world has collapsed due to a lack of resources and they are all ruled by a totalitarian government that controls everyone through TV.

The people are kept in line with anyone who steps out gets sent to prison, or worse to be on the TV show, The Running Man. “Runners”, the prisoners, have to compete in gladiator-type battles against “Stalkers” who all have a theme character and weapons-kind of like wrestlers.

Does this remind you of anything? Like:

Or maybe:

Yes, it is very similar but lots of Dystopian films/books share similar things. The nice thing is that while all of these are similar-there are enough differences that you aren’t feeling like you are watching/reading something that was regurgitated.

So our story begins with Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a captain of the militarized police force and is sent into Bakersfield to stop a revolt. When he does get there, he finds no dangerous revolutionaries, but just hungry people-women and children.

Dispatcher: Proceed with plan alpha. Eliminate anything moving.

Ben Richards: I said the crowd is unarmed. There are a lot of women and children down there. All they want is food for God’s sake!

Dispatcher: As you were, Richards. Proceed with plan alpha. All rioters must be eliminated.

Ben Richards: The hell with you. I will not fire on helpless people. Abort mission. We return back to base.

But the others open fire and kill all, and who do they blame? Ben of course-naming him “The Butcher of Bakersfield”. This scene always made me think of Fahrenheit 451 when they have to find a scapegoat.

He is dubbed “The Butcher of Bakersfield” and sent to prison where he serves 18 months.

He and few other prisoners work on a plan and manage to break out and get free from the electric collars. Ben heads to L.A. to find his brother. Instead he finds Amber Mendez (Maria Conchita Alonso), TV show jingle writer, residing in his brother’s apartment as he has been taken away for “reeducation”.

This is so 1984, they have to “reeducate” the troublemakers-really torture ad brainwash them.

Ben ties Amber up and investigates her apartment, taking money, her flight pass, and booking a flight to Hawaii. He wants Amber to come with as they will be looking for a single man, but she refuses. He won’t take no for an answer and convinces her by picking up the machine he strapped her to and threatening her.

This reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps when Richard Hannay gets framed for murder and team’s up with Pamela (Madeleine Carroll), an unwilling accomplice. She hates him and fights with him, but discovers he is telling the truth and falls in love with him.

They get caught in the airport, and Ben is sent back to prison. There he is offered to be on the show The Running Man by the owner, Damon Killian, instead of rotting in prison. He is amazed by Ben’s survival skills and knows he will be a GIANT HIT.

Unfortunately, Killian doesn’t know what we do-it’s a bad idea to go after Ben. Ben refuses until they threaten to send his compatriots from the prison escape to the show. He agrees, but then finds out that Killian lied and they are all going on the show.

Gosh, I love how cooly he delivers that.

Meanwhile, Amber is like Pamela (from The 39 Steps), and starting to wonder if maybe Ben told her the truth. She goes into the files of ICS (The Running Man station and government) to see what the original recordings were. She discovers Ben is telling the truth but is caught.

So how the game works is that they are in a abandoned area of Los Angeles and have to go through multiple levels and fight different “stalkers”. If they defeat a stalker, they progress to the next level-although many don’t ever do that. Only a few even make it to the very end and win.

The first one Ben has to fight is Sub-Zero:

I love Arnold’s quips and his delivery of them. LOL.

Now that I have sen Logan’s Run, like Ben and Amber are just a more hardcore version of Logan and Jessica.

They move to the next level and are joined by Amber, who has been found and thrown into the ring. One of Ben’s friends, the hacker, knows he can get into the system if he just gets a chance. He gives the uplink code to Amber to memorize.

Then then have to face Buzzsaw:

Ouch!

They then fight Dynamo:

But Richards doesn’t kill him. It is interesting why he chooses to spare his life and not the others? Maybe because he isn’t defending himself, but it would be “murder” in his eyes. Maybe because he realizes they are all stuck in this life, all prisoners running in the hamster wheel of life created by the government?

They then head to the final level, Fireball. There they discover that the winning Runners didn’t win after all. They were killed! Just like in Logan’s Run!

They defeat Fireball and then Ben threatens Killian-I love this:

Killian is at a loss, Ben cannot win. He is inciting people to rebellion. There is only one thing left to do-bring Captain Freedom out of retirement.

Captain Freedom doesn’t want to fight and lose and Killian needs him to win so they decide to lie. They bring in stunt doubles of Ben and Amber to fight and lose-just like on Fahrenheit 451

” They know they can hold their audience only so long. The show’s got to have a snap ending, quick!” –Fahrenheit 451

Meanwhile the resistance has made it to the games and busted Ben and Amber out. Ben’s friends have been killed in the game, but luckily the hacker shared the uplink code with Amber. They come up with a plan to hack the system, reveal the truth, and destroy Killian and the others.

I don’t do requests, LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL.

In the end Killian is killed, the truth is revealed, Ben is a hero, and all ends well.

I really enjoy this film, but I think they could have focused more on deeper themes, but the director they had was let go a week before production and new one brought in. Knowing that, I’m surprised it was good as it was.

To start Horrorfest VIII from the beginning, go to Count Dracula the Propagator of This Unspeakable Evil Has Disappeared. He Must Be Found and Destroyed!: Horror of Dracula (1958)

For more Stephen King, go to Ever Heard of the Tommyknockers?: The Tommyknockers (1993)

For more Arnold Schwarzenegger, go to Someone Has Erased His Memory: Total Recall (1990)

For more dystopian future films, go to Tonight Has Been the Birth of the Planet of the Apes: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)

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