Running Man, The (1963 with Laurence Harvey and Lee Remick)


UK / 1963

Director: Carol Reed
Writers: Shelley Smith, John Mortimer

Cast: Laurence Harvey, Lee Remick, Alan Bates, Felix Aylmer, Eleanor Summerfield, Allan Cuthbertson, Harold Goldblatt

Carol Reed (Our Man in Havana, The Third Man, Mutiny on the Bounty) directs this entertaining crime drama adapted from Shelley Smith’s novel The Ballad of the Running Man by respected novelist and playwright John Mortimer.

Pilot Rex Black (Laurence Harvey), it appears, has been killed following a glider accident. At his memorial service his wife, Stella (Lee Remick), accepts the sympathies of her friends.

But Rex has faked his own death in order to claim the life insurance money from a company that refused an earlier claim on a technicality. Stella is doubtful about the plan but eventually goes ahead with it, agreeing to meet up with Rex again in Spain, some time after the memorial service. With the money secure, Stella joins Rex and learns that he has taken on a new identity as an Australian millionaire and, disturbingly for her, is planning yet another insurance swindle.

Their guilt and suspicion surfacing at every corner, Rex and Stella are convinced that tourist Stephen (Alan Bates) is an insurance investigator so Stella breaks into his room to find evidence. When Stephen catches her she has to pretend she is in love with him, although she doesn’t have to pretend too hard as her affections for her husband are rapidly diminishing.

The next day, now more suspicious than ever, Rex and Stella decide to flee to Gibraltar but are followed by Stephen. Desperate to escape, Rex drives Stephen’s car off the road and, as the Spanish police close in, steals a plane, leaving Stella at the customs barrier. Flying the plane out over the Mediterranean, Rex discovers that it is low on fuel…

As Variety said, Harvey had a “meaty role which he plays with confidence and evident relish,” while the usually admirable Bates is “first class.”