Saturday, May 07, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Run for the Sun (1956)

Like countless American students, I was first introduced to Richard Connell's creepy story THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME in a high school literature class. Shortly after reading the story, I got up in the middle of the night to catch the memorable 1932 Joel McCrea film. (Needless to say, this was not only before the days of cable TV, it was a couple years before I bought my first VCR!)

When I learned that favorite actors Richard Widmark and Jane Greer had starred in a remake, I had to see it, and fortunately it's available in a very nice widescreen print on Netflix Watch Instantly.

The film is a loose spin on THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, updated to post-WWII Mexico. As the story opens, journalist Katie Connors (Greer) arrives in a small town in Mexico looking for Mike Latimer (Widmark), a writer of great talent who mysteriously stopped writing. It turns out Mike has suffered writer's block since he was dumped by his wife, and he drinks far too much. Despite Mike's troubles, he and Katie hit it off, and she decides to drop the story.

When Mike offers to fly Katie to the Mexico City airport in his small plane, compass trouble results in a crash landing in the jungle, where they are rescued by a couple very strange fellows (Trevor Howard and Peter van Eyck).

Turns out the men are Nazis, and they have no intention of letting Mike and Katie leave alive, especially once it's clear Mike knows who they are. Mike and Katie's only hope is getting to the Nazis' plane. While attempting to get to the plane, Mike and Katie spend a couple of days being chased all over the jungle by the men and their vicious pack of dogs...will Mike and Katie make it out alive?

RUN FOR THE SUN isn't a classic, but it's a well-made film distinguished by the lead actors and extremely good color photography by Joseph LaShelle. (It was filmed in Technicolor and "SuperScope 235.") Widmark and Greer are on screen together for most of the film's 99-minute running time, which is reason enough to watch the movie in my book; they make a good team.

The original MOST DANGEROUS GAME storyline only comes into play during the final section of the movie, and in this telling it's not nearly as chilling. Mike and Katie aren't being hunted for hunting's sake, but for a more practical reason, to stop them from leaving.

The film also isn't as disturbing as the 1932 version; a couple years ago I watched it again when my son read the story, and I was struck by just how very "pre-Code" it was; Zaroff's trophy room could give the unsuspecting viewer nightmares! (I suspect I may have seen an edited version on KTTV Ch. 11 in the late '70s; the films were usually sliced to ribbons for commercials anyway.) In RUN FOR THE SUN Mike and Katie have a grueling experience in the last third of the film, but it's simply an exciting, suspenseful adventure film, not really especially violent or scary.

This film was directed by Roy Boulting. An interesting bit of trivia is that the film's producers included actress Jane Russell and her husband Bob Waterfield.

In addition to Netflix, RUN FOR THE SUN is available on a fairly inexpensive Region 2 DVD. It does not appear to have had a DVD or VHS release in the U.S.

RUN FOR THE SUN will be shown on Turner Classic Movies on June 25, 2011, as part of an evening of Jane Greer films. TCM has a great lineup planned which includes OUT OF THE PAST (1947), THE BIG STEAL (1949), THE COMPANY SHE KEEPS (1951), DESPERATE SEARCH (1952), and a title I'm especially excited about, STATION WEST (1948), which is a hard-to-find film costarring Dick Powell. Greer fans should save the date!

TCM has clips from the film available at the TCM website.

June 2012 Update: Thanks to MGM, this movie is now available on a Region 1 DVD-R in the United States. Glenn Erickson has reviewed it at DVD Savant.


Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I've not seen this film, but "The Most Dangerous Game", book and story, have always been favorites.

4:12 AM  
Blogger Robby Cress said...

I enjoyed "The Most Dangerous Game" when I saw it. I never knew there was a remake with Widmark and Greer! With that combo it has to be decent.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Moira Finnie said...

I must admit this movie made me root for Trevor Howard and Peter van Eyck, (and those Dobermans) since Widmark's character was more annoying than likable. I loved how Jane Greer generally looked so coolly elegant, despite the conditions she was experiencing. The splashy cinematography was very lush and showed how LaShelle mastered both black and white and vivid color.

I agree-The Most Dangerous Game is far more memorable with excellent performances from all the actors and also has some glorious cinematography from Henry Gerrard (my memories of the backlit jungle scenes are still fresh).

I'd like to see the 1945 Robert Wise version, A Game of Death (1945), even though it has mixed reviews. Thanks for your lively review.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'd love to see the Wise version, Moira! I didn't know about it until I was reading up on this film.

I can see Widmark's character being annoying, but I have to admit I'm a sucker for his blue eyes and distinctive voice, so I liked him anyway (grin).

Reading about what Jane Greer went through in real life, thanks to the bug she picked up in the Mexican swamps, was an eye-opener -- talk about suffering (if inadvertently) for one's art.

Best wishes,

8:57 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Good nail biting adventure and Widmark and Greer make a great team.

1:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just noticed this. A bit late I know, but there it is.

Enjoyed your write-up on the movie and I think your overall assessment is very close to my own. It's not the film of the 1932 version, but then I don't think it's trying to be anyway. Generally, it achieves what it sets out to do - present an exciting and suspenseful adventure with a completely different tone.


2:47 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Never too late for comments, Colin! I really appreciate you taking the time to leave one.

I agree, I think our takes were pretty similar. The movie is very different from THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, but despite or maybe because of that, I enjoyed this '50s movie quite a lot.

Best wishes,

11:13 PM  

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