The Running Man (1987) (part 3 of 4)
In a hallway, Amber chats with a friend, while Richards and his agent walk by with Sven (which is the name of the actor as well as the character, oddly enough). The agent is reading Richards’ contract, and the ladies talk a bit about Richards before Amber goes to her office.
On the show, Killian is finally introduced, and he goes through the usual game show host shtick: Getting the crowd pumped up, explaining the rules, and of course, the ever creepy “flirting with the old broad in the audience” routine. Seriously, what is it with game show hosts and octogenarians?
After a quick cutaway to Amber entering her work area, we go back to the agent giving Richards the contract to sign. He does the old “here, sign on my back” routine, which proves to be a bad idea when Ben signs the contract and then sticks the pen into the guy’s back.
We go back to the show, just as Killian introduces Ben. Well, after the obligatory stuff with the old lady, anyway. God, that’s just damn weird, I’m sorry.
Richards’ doctored up story is given, along with what appears to be footage from the beginning of the movie, and the crowd is eager for Ben’s blood to be spilt. His blue jumpsuit is stripped away to reveal his Runner’s uniform, a rather unflattering yellow, silver, and red number that must have been uncomfortable as hell for the poor actors.
Man, this is just not a good film for Arnold, from a sartorial point of view.
Amber enters the control room, while Killian continues his patter. He mentions three previous winners, who are all shown in a tropical setting wearing green versions of the Runner’s uniform. Amber gets into another room (I’m guessing Killian’s office), and then we go back to the show as Ben is shoved into a rocket powered sled. Killian then reveals that Weiss and Laughlin will be playing anyway.
Before we go further, here’s a quick primer on the game. The Runners have three hours to complete the course, but have to evade the Stalkers. It’s a nicely simple and brutal premise that makes for a good if somewhat derivative hour or so.
Back in the office, Amber is looking through some files while the game goes on. Killian is about to send Ben into the game zone when Richards gets his attention.
Killian: Only in a re-run.
Well, that’s about the only time Arnold’s signature line would be used in an organic fashion.
With that, he’s sent into the zone, and we get a nice optical effect (nice as in, sort of cheesy) as the sled blasts through some tunnels. The sleds are operated from the control room (remember this, as it will be important later), and they come to a stop at a barrier.
Back to Amber, as she continues to look through files, until she finds evidence that Ben was framed. Naturally, she’s caught very quickly. We go to the game zone briefly, as Laughlin and Weiss arrive, and then it’s back to the studio as an audience member gets to choose the first Stalker.
We’re about to see what’s maybe the best change from the novella; there, the Stalkers were just shadowy non-entities, save for the main guy, who proved to be a rather bookish yet still quite nasty fellow. Here, the popularity of pro wrestling was a clear influence, because the Stalkers are quite outlandish.
The audience member chooses Sub Zero, and we get a WWF-style intro for the guy crossed with the usual game show introduction from the announcer. Sub Zero is played by Toru Tanaka, action movie mainstay, and a man who was last seen around these parts in Revenge of the Ninja. His weapon of choice is a razor sharp hockey stick, and I would love to see a matchup between this guy and Jason Voorhees.
Richards and company run into the game zone while being pelted with trash by onlookers. We see a sign for the cola that Killian was pitching earlier, and then it’s off to the locker room as Captain Freedom, who’s apparently a backstage interviewer for the show, gives a report.
Killian interrupts Cap in the middle of a story as the runners enter the first zone, and Richards and his buddies are herded into Sub Zero’s area by guys on motorcycles. A gate slams shut, and Sub Zero attacks, knocking all three guys down. Well, given the size of the dude, it makes sense that he could do that.
Sub Zero knocks the guys around, shooting Weiss into a cage after giving him a rather nasty ride via the hockey stick. Ben goes to free Weiss, and it turns out our Stalker also has exploding hockey pucks in his arsenal.
Hmm, I wonder if this would improve hockey ratings stateside.
Sub Zero goes after Laughlin next, but then Richards jumps him. It’s not really much of a contest, sadly, as Richards quickly grabs a loose strand of barbed wire and pulls it across the path Sub Zero is skating on. He gets tangled up and bloodily garroted, to the shock of the stunned audience.
The red lighting is a rather odd choice, because it requires Tanaka to actually act in order to make it clear what happened. To be fair, he’s still better than the star of the movie.
Ben finds a camera and yells at Killian.
Killian eulogizers the fallen Stalker and goes to commercial, while Richards and Laughlin free Weiss. They run out as gas is pumped into the game area, and someone notes that Sub Zero was “a real pain in the neck”.
Killian talks with his superiors about the death, while a makeup man touches him up, much to his annoyance. A quick reference to Gilligan’s Island ends the scene, and then it’s back to the game.
In the audience, a supernaturally nerdy guy named Leon can’t decide who the next Stalker should be, so Killian chooses for him.
Killian picks the aforementioned Buzzsaw, who wields a chainsaw and rides a motorcycle, as well as Dynamo (Erland van Lidth), who has a neon, opera-singing, electricity-shooting gladiator theme going on. Well, one out of two isn’t bad.
Killian goes backstage and is told that Richards is causing the ratings to jump. He also learns that Amber was caught snooping around, and of course, she ends up being sent into the game zone with the others.
While Amber is being slandered on the show, Weiss discovers something concerning the broadcast signal. Evidently, the main signal is coming from the middle of the game zone, which explains why it hasn’t been found… sort of. You’d think that a government using a signal to control what people see would hide it somewhere that no one ever actually goes. You would also expect them to not flagrantly stage a game show in that very same area. Oh, well, they are supposed to be the bad guys, after all.