I only saw The Running Man once on VHS back in the '80s, and while I can barely remember any of it, I do remember that it was well liked by friends, and it was one of Arnold Schwartzenegger's more popular pictures. It's a goofy comic-book action movie with enough brains and wit to keep me smiling.
Marcee and I are currently working through our stack of laserdiscs, and I really only threw this movie into the player because I wanted to save Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for later. I didn't expect much, probably a cheaper, lower-budget version of Total Recall, with the usual array of guns and explosions and cheesy one-liners. I was very pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed The Running Man's '80s cyberpunk vibe, which clearly rips off Blade Runner and The Road Warrior, and anticipates Akira, but thankfully loses the despair or nihilism. Richard Dawson easily stole the show as the corrupt game show host; he was a joy to watch from beginning to end, and this was probably his best role (he was essentially playing a satire of himself). I know I'm in the minority here, but I'll rank this movie above Predator in the pantheon of Arnold films (I'm a sci-fi kid at heart).
The laserdisc, a 1995 letterbox release, looks terrific, very vivid and colorful and good use of light and shadow. Have I finally calibrated my stupid Sony CRT, I hope? The picture is sharp and detailed, close enough to DVD, and retaining that magical "film-like" quality that makes LD shine. And there isn't a pixel or digital compression artifact anywhere in sight. Yay! Oh, and please don't remind me that Running Man is available on Blu-Ray...I can't hear you, la la la!
When I was writing my Top 50 Movies list, I realized how much I was missing the simple joy of a fun movie. Not everything has to be revolutionary, or inspiring, or challenging. Right now, I'd much rather watch a popcorn thriller like Last Crusade than, say, nearly anything by Bergman. I'm not about to embrace modern Hollywood schlock like, oh...The Hunger Games...ugh, that was the worst movie I've seen all year. It's absolutely useless, like staring at a Pepsi bottle or a pair of shoes for two hours. Do I really have to point out that The Hunger Games is a soulless, global conglomerate assembly-line franchise pitched to desperately insecure children who look to American Idol for inspiration? Heck, the plot is nearly identical to The Running Man, a point that Marcee pointed out a couple times. She's much rather watch Arnold in his Bruce Lee jumpsuit, too.
More screenshots are after the jump. I'm using a Panasonic LX-600 with composite cables directly fed into the Sony CRT, for those keeping score. Next up: I really have to hunt down that Criterion Collection version of Akira.