Welcome back to another edition of my little column where I tell you about movies I think you should have seen. If you remember, I worked at a video store and have seen thousands of flicks and feel like a lot of people skip over some hidden gems. I’m trying my best to highlight a few from my top ten, because these are the flicks I have seen a lot. But no flick have I seen more times or essentially know more about than my favorite Arnold flick.
Set in 2019 in a dystopian future, where TV is essentially anything-goes. Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is framed for the murder of more than sixty women and children in a food riot. He gets sent to a prison to serve life with hard labor. There he meets up with two imprisoned underground rebels trying to escape. Together, they break out and try to disappear through the underground network they have. After removing his tracking device, things don’t go as planned when Ben goes to find his brother at his apartment. The brother has been taken away for “re-education” and in his home is Amber, played by Maria Conchita Alonso. That does not go well, and in a plan to disappear to Hawaii, Ben gets caught.
This time, instead of being sent back to prison, he is given the opportunity to try his fate at “The Running Man” TV show where stalkers try to track him down and kill him. If he survives he essentially gets the full pardon, which seems odd for a guy that killed more than sixty women and children, but go with it; it’s the future. The host of the show is Richard Dawson, and he is by far so damn charismatic as Damon Killian, you realize why he was a master game show host. I am not going to spoil any more because the plot twists and action scenes are killer. Top of the line for an Arnold flick and still holds up to today. But here is the stuff magic is made from: the backstory and other elements.
First, the story where this is from. Based on a short story by someone named Richard Bachman; who the hell is that? Well, that was Stephen King’s pen name, and King’s way of writing more than one book a year, which was kind of the rule back in the day. So it is based on a short story. But the movie is based off an old film in ‘83 called Le Prix du Danger which in turn is based off another short story by Robert Sheckley called “The Prize of Peril.” There is also another German made-for-TV flick in the ’70s that is also based off the Sheckley short story. Long story, this whole thing has had lawsuits and is essentially plagiarized. But crazy, right?
Second, the director is kind of interesting. This is directed by Paul Michael Glaser. Yup, god damn Starsky from Starsky & Hutch. And this is only his second film he’d directed! He did a flick prior called Band of the Hand, which I should talk about in a future article, very solid ’80s campy action. Anyway, Paul essentially gets brought on after a week because Arnold wants the original director, Andrew Davis, fired. Andrew Davis leaves and goes on to make Above the Law and starts the career of Steven Seagal. But for a second-time director, Paul nails this flick.
Third, is the cast of characters in this flick. I mentioned some above but let’s go through this cast. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Richard Dawson, Yaphet Kotto are the main players. Marvin J. Mcintyre is Weiss and is a face you will recognize only if you are deep into the 80s flick-watching. But then there are the stalkers. Professor Taru Tanaka, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, NFL god Jim Brown… incredibly deep bench. And some background characters are played by Eddie Bunker, Mick Fleetwood, Dweezil Zappa and Sven Thorsen (Arnold’s BFF). Just a killer cast all around, which Arnold is always able to pull off, somehow.
Fourth, and almost last, is the music. Yeah, the music in this movie is really great. And why wouldn’t it be? The soundtrack was composed by Harold Faltermeyer. The genius behind “Axel F” from Beverly Hills Cop, the Top Gun theme, and the music for the two ’80s Fletch films. Even the end credit song is killer ’80s rock ballad that I have jammed my head way more than I would like to admit. Restless Heart … Running away with you!!! Damn, now it is stuck in my head.
Okay, the last part: the movie quotes. This is a must for a flick to make my top ten. Well, this flick has way too many, and Arnold is the king in this flick. But let me list a few:
Killian, I’ll be back. …only in a rerun.
No… last season’s losers
Drop Dead!!! …I don’t do requests.
Who loves you, and who do you love!
Honestly, I could probably list about twenty more. Essentially every Arnold line is a wise-ass quip, that I have been using in my day-to-day for way too long to mention. Like I said earlier, this is just a spectacular action flick that I think most people will love, and the sensationalism of a reality game show of people hunting other people I feel is semi-relevant to today. It appears to be a rental on Apple TV for four bucks so well worth it if you are looking for a ’80s Arnold flick you have not seen.
Okay, the very, very last thing. Christopher Reeve was originally cast in the Arnold role. Kind of insane and would have been a completely different flick. And like my previous Dragnet column, this also has a Paula Abdul connection. She choreographed all the dancing of the ladies on the game show. Just crazy.