Friday, April 30, 2021

Laurence Harvey Runs Amok as ‘The Running Man’ 1963

Do blondes have more fun? Laurence Harvey & Lee Remick in 'The Running Man.'

The 1963 romantic suspense film The Running Man is rather reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. The suspense comes from a charismatic but amoral schemer who unravels as his grand plans go awry. The romance is the woman drawn to both the cad and the good guy. Laurence Harvey is the title character, con man Rex Black, with Lee Remick as his wife Stella, and Alan Bates as the enigmatic insurance man. Rex is a charming ne’er-do-well who feels cheated out of an insurance settlement after surviving a private plane crash. With the help of Stella, he fakes a glider plane crash the next year, and the “widow” collects on the insurance. Who would suspect, right? Logic isn't the strong suit of this movie, but then, neither is it in even the best Hitchcock films!

'The Running Man' stars Alan Bates, Laurence Harvey, & Lee Remick.

After the dust settles, Rex visits Stella, where they plan their future elsewhere. Then, an insurance man just happens to stop by, to tie up some loose ends. Talk about coincidences—this movie is loaded with them. Rex and Stella later reunite in Spain, where he has disguised himself and has taken another person's identity—and his passport. Guess who just happens to show up shortly after? That's right, the insurance man…again! However, all is not as it seems.

Alan Bates as the insurance man who shows up more unexpectedly than 'Columbo!'

From there on, The Running Man is more cat and mouse than a Tom and Jerry cartoon. This type of sexy suspense thriller was a trend in mid-century movies, inspired greatly by Alfred Hitchcock. The Running Man is no classic, but it's an intermittently entertaining suspense film, which becomes more of a character study, as the main characters’ personalities become clear. In the early scenes, Laurence Harvey shows the charming "Larry" Harvey that made him the life of the party off-screen. Harvey’s Rex feels like his insurance scam is his rightful payday and has big plans for himself and his wife. Stella is the dutiful wife, who would be dull if she wasn't played by lovely, warm Lee Remick. Stella reunites with the reinvented Rex in Spain, complete with another identity, bleached blonde hair and matching mustache, and worst of all, a flamboyant Australian accent that comes and goes. Simply put, Larry's scheming character is The Talented Mr. Ripley's Dickie Greenleaf and Tom Ripley combined: the entitled prince and the scheming poser.

Laurence Harvey is a brunette charmer as Rex Black, here with Lee Remick.

Stella is initially a bit shocked. But once the insurance man shows up, Rex loses his confidence and his cool. Soon, Rex acts like every other character Laurence Harvey ever played: snide, sneering, sullen, sour, etc. And did I mention that the insurance man is played by Alan Bates, at the height of his youth and good looks? Not only that, but Alan Bates has more onscreen warmth and presence in his little finger than Harvey has in his entire scrawny body. Once Bates' character, Stephen Maddox, is smitten with Stella, you wish that Harvey’s Rex would take another plane ride. Rex's boorish behavior escalates when he realizes that Bates attracted to Stella, and that she in turn is drawn to him. Perhaps that’s because her husband’s behavior makes it quite easy?

Here's Alan Bates & Lee Remick looking gorgeous as the insurance man & the widow.

And here's Laurence Harvey as Rex in his new disguise, blonde & sunburned!

Laurence Harvey, Alan Bates, & Lee Remick in 'The Running Man.'

As the movie saunters along, like a summer afternoon, Remick and Bates become more sun-kissed and golden. Larry, however, looks like a bleached blonde red lobster. Even worse is when Larry sports a Speedo for an extended scene and looks utterly emaciated. Alan Bates is such a warm, subtle, masculine film presence here that you wish Alan and Lee had appeared in a romantic film together, without Laurence Harvey hogging the scenes with his hammy performance. Lee Remick was one of a legion of actors who disliked working with Harvey, but she's empathetic as always as the loving but bewildered wife.

Ah, there's the Laurence Harvey we all know and love!

After a too-long second-act, there's a twist ending that proves the third time is NOT the charm for Harvey's charmless Rex. The Spain location filming by Robert Krasker is stunning. Director Carol Reed, famed for many films, including The Third Man, was still reeling from tangling with Marlon Brando before he got fired from Mutiny on the Bounty, and then had to deal with difficult Laurence Harvey. Also, Reed’s health was failing, though he’d go on to win an Oscar for Oliver! The script is by John Mortimer, from a well-received novel by Shelley Smith. The star trio is backed by a dependable supporting cast.

Alan Bates is a sight for sore eyes as Stephen Maddox, after watching scrawny sourpuss Laurence Harvey as Rex Black in 'The Running Man.'

The Running Man often gets run down by critics and movie fans, but the clever story, lovely locations, and Remick and Bates made for a moderately entertaining suspense movie.

Lee Remick made many suspense thrillers, but none for Alfred Hitchcock.
Remick would have made a wonderful Hitchcock blonde!

For my take on Laurence Harvey’s best performance, here’s my post on The Manchurian Candidate:

And here’s my look at the breakthrough movie for Lee Remick, Anatomy of a Murder:


FYI: I put all the movie overflow on my public FB  movie page. Check it out & join!

One more shot of lovely screen stars Lee Remick & Alan Bates in 'The Running Man.'



  1. I vaguely remember seeing this on TV many years ago. I'll have to catch it again. From the hair dye to the bad accent Harvey sounds like a hoot in this movie! Didn't know he was so difficult to work with and disliked. Remick was a beauty and wonderful actress.

  2. Harvey spoiled several otherwise enjoyable films for me. I have NEVER understood his appeal. Even a little! Alan was beautiful here and Lee is always watchable. Such amazing eyes (who can forget them in that famous shot from "The Omen?!") P.S. - I also just read your post about Elizabeth & Monty. Lee Remick worked with *him* as well. It was post-accident. But she reportedly was able to offer him support during the shoot and they got on well enough. I always thought it was a shame that she was claimed at such a young age (55) when she could have emerged as a great, mature screen presence in later movies and TV projects.

    1. Hi, I've never gotten Laurence Harvey, either. Perfectly cast as The Manchurian Candidate, I thought! Larry never carried a movie on his own, made mostly bombs, and most people hated working with him. And he always played a sourpuss in practically every movie, and was often miscast. Harvey never lived up to his buildup. As for Lee, yes, she like Monty as much as she disliked Larry. And I think Remick was much underrated and Hitch missed the boat never casting her as one of his blondes!
      Cheers, Rick