The Running Man [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (16th February 2020).
The Film

"The Running Man" (1987)

Taking place in the (alternate) year 2019, The United States has become a totalitarian state after an economic collapse. The government controls all media by censoring music and other forms of entertainment, as well as creating propaganda news with misinformation to discredit people who may go against the rules of the country. Ben Richards (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a former police officer that refused an order to fire on innocent civilians, and was placed in a correctional facility for his insubordination. A group of inmates including Richards pull off an escape, but Richards is later caught at the airport.

TV executive and host Damon Killian (played play Richard Dawson) is the head of the show "The Running Man", a reality game show which has people fight for their lives through various obstacles including "The Stalkers", a team over overly powerful men. As Killian sees Richards as fit and tough which would be good for ratings, he unwillingly becomes a contestant on the show, where people cheer for gruesome outcomes. But Richards is not willing to give up so easily, and is ready to do whatever it takes to beat the game as well as clearing his name and exposing the government's tactics.

In 1982, writer Stephen King's science fiction novel "The Running Man" was released under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Five years later, it was adapted for the screen by Steven E. de Souza and directed by Paul Michael Glaser and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger who was riding high from the success of his films "The Terminator" (1984), "Commando" (1985), and "Predator" (1987). The original novel was a dark in tone in comparison to the film version. Instead of a colorful television game show where the contestants must clear obstacles and fight cartoonish bosses, the novel was closer to "The Game" (1997) in which things happened in the open world, where the contestants wouldn't know who was a hunter trying to kill him or not. There was more paranoia and uncertainty, while in the film version it took the idea of reality television, game shows, and comic book villainy to the extreme. Frequent shots to the audience in the studio cheering and screaming, the host making announcements for excitement, a colorful stage with dancing girls, prize giveaways are all seen for fun and entertainment, while at the same time, contestants are getting assaulted with deadly people with deadly weapons. The "Stalker" characters such as Subzero (played by Professor Toru Tanaka), Buzzsaw (played by Gus Rethwisch), Fireball (played by Jim Brown), Captain Freedom (played by Jesse Ventura) are as comical as things can get with their costumes and their actions.

The film also added several characters, including Amber Mendez (played by Maria Conchita Alonso) giving a much needed female dynamic to the story, though she is more of a damsel in distress rather than a tough counterpart to Richards' character. With so much centered on action and dark humor, one must watch "The Running Man" with a level of pure enjoyment rather than something cerebral. Schwarzenegger's presence and use of one liners is an obvious key, and things may have been quite different if a different actor had been cast. Things should not be taken too seriously, and even the on screen violence is kept to a minimum even though it had an R rating. The head explosion near the opening is a bit of a shocker, but it does not fit the tone of the violence within the games later on.

As 2019 finally rolled around, there are many differences between the world in the film and the world in reality. Technology wise with computer screens and hacking certainly are different looking very primitive, as with the fashion of the people being dated. On the other hand, the rise of reality TV, the spreading difference between the rich and the poor, and "fake news" reports are certainly predicted. The original novel has the date set at 2025, so people will have to see if the elements of the book will come to life in just a few years. The film is imperfect in predictions, but it is also a flawed film, focusing quite a lot on the action and effects, but not enough on other elements. There are some interesting stories with the underground revolution as seen with cameos from musicians Mick Fleetfood and Dweezil Zappa, and the stories of the other inmates played by Yaphet Kotto and Marvin J. McIntyre are not explored either. There is a lot happening in the world around them, and the audience is only given a small glimpse and not enough to make things fully realized. Sure it's fun and silly, but it's nothing to give deep discussions about. And having yet another movie in which Schwarzenegger says "I'll be back" to someone? Why not?

Tristar Pictures released the film in American cinemas from November 13th, 1987 and was a modest hit, with a gross of $38 million compared to its $27 million budget. Considering "Predator" made nearly $100 million earlier that year, "The Running Man" was only a modest success with mixed reviews. In later years on television and home video, the film certainly reached a wider audience and is still remembered as one of Schwarzenegger's more popular films of the period.

Note this is a region ALL Blu-ray.

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. This is not a newly mastered version of the film. Colors are not the most vibrant, damage marks can sometimes be seen, and noise reduction has been somewhat applied to the image. It certainly doesn't look terrible, as detail is quite good, the damage such as speckles and dust are very minimal, and there are no major issues with stability or color fluctuation.

The film is uncut with a runtime of 100:50.

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
The film was originally released in Dolby Stereo theatrically, and later remixed for surround sound on home video releases. 5.1 and 6.1 mixes were made for previous DVD editions, and a 7.1 mix was also created for some Blu-rays. The Umbrella release has a 5.1 mix, and it actually sounds very good. From helicopters, gunshots, punches and kicks, as well as the synthesizer music score by Harold Faltermeyer are spread through the surround soundscape, while dialogue is mostly center based. The mix is quite well balanced and there are no issues of dropouts or pops and cracks in the track. It may not have the extra channels found on other release, nor is it the original sound mix, but is a very positive experience.

There are no subtitles offered for the feature.

Extras

There are no extras on the disc, and no menu. The film starts when the disc is booted and the disc stops once the film ends.

Considering that the previous Australian release from JL Entertainment had two commentaries, featurettes, and 7.1 audio, this is a significant downgrade. In addition there are other various international editions with exclusives. The US Olive release has an exclusive commentary. The German Capelight releases have exclusive interviews. The German Marketing Film release has a post-conversion 3D version. It's unfortunate Umbrella wasn't able to license any of the existing extras or create new content themselves for the release.

Packaging

The inlay is reversible, with the only difference being the Australian rating logo being removed from the opposite side. The package states "Region B" only but this is actually a region ALL disc.

Overall

"The Running Man" has its flaws in turning the original darker open world dystopian story into a comical game show, but it is still a fun Schwarzenegger romp that is filled with action and one liners. The Umbrella Entertainment release has a fair transfer, good audio, but having no extras included is very unfortunate.

The Film: B- Video: C+ Audio: B+ Extras: F- Overall: C-

 


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