Run for The Sun

Dir: Roy Boulting, 1956. Starring: Richard Widmark, Jane Greer, Trevor Howard, Peter Van Eyck. Classics.
Run for The Sun

Richard Widmark got his only Oscar nomination playing one of the great psycho creeps in film history, Tommy Udo in Kiss of Death. It was his first film and it made him an instant star, most famous for that scene where he pushes a woman in a wheelchair down a flight of stairs while giggling hysterically. Though he was ruggedly handsome with sweepy blond hair, he was never fully able to drop that creepy Klaus Kinski quality, even as he gradually moved into heroic leading man roles, but it helped make even the most generic film a little more interesting. Widmark was part of that impressive group of leading men who emerged after WWII, mostly in Film Noir. Though he starred in a number of significant films including Panic in the Streets, Night and the City, and Pickup on South Street, he is not remembered today with the same iconic status as his contemporaries, such as Lancaster, Mitchum or Kirk Douglas, who all had more important roles on their resume. But with MGM releasing a little known gem, Run for the Sun, on their Limited Edition DVD Collection, perhaps it will help Widmark’s career get more reevaluation.

Though British director Roy Boulting did over 20 movies, he might be best known for making Disney child actress Hayley Mills his fourth wife (he directed her in the oddball horror flick Twisted Nerve). Run for the Sun may prove to be his lost almost-masterpiece (okay, I’m exaggerating. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s very watchable). The script is credited to Boulting and Dudley Nichols (Stagecoach) but the credits say it was based on a story by Richard Connell, making it another kinda-sorta version of his famous short story, "The Most Dangerous Game." Connell's story had been adapted before as a classic with Fay Wray in 1932 and then less memorably in a Robert Wise directed flick retitled A Game of Death in 1945 (and much later and more loosely in the John Woo/Jean-Claude Van Damme collaboration, Hard Target, and the Ice-T trash epic, Surviving The Game). In the end Run for the Sun is about as close to "The Most Dangerous Game" as The Hunger Games is; that is to say, there are some plot crossovers, but not much more.

Widmark plays a reclusive famous writer, Mike Latimer, in the Ernest Hemingway mold (meaning he’s a big game fisherman, likes tequila and wears his shirt unbuttoned). He’s gone missing to the world, but inquisitive reporter Katy Connors (Jane Greer, the beautiful femme fatale of maybe the greatest Noir flick ever, Out of the Past) tracks him down to a little fishing village in Mexico. She poses as a tourist and since they are the only two Americans within miles - they fall for each other. Later she worries that she’s cramping his writing so he offers to fly her to Acapulco in his sporty two-seater, but unfortunately her magnetic notebook messes with the plane and they crash in the jungles of Mexico. Luckily they are rescued by a charming chap named Browne (British actor Trevor Howard, most famous for his work with director Carol Reed, The Third Man and Mutiny on the Bounty - the Brando version) and a sneaky Euro type, Anders (Peter van Eyck of The Wages of Fear) who live in a groovy mountain side hacienda. with a pack of adorable killer dobermans. Somehow Mike figures out these are a kind of Nazi fugitives hiding out in Mexico and then, with his big mouth, he tells them everything he suspects about them. And Browne easily fesses up. When the lovebirds try to escape in a secret stashed plane they are shot at and have to escape into the jungle, while the Nazis try to hunt them down. Finally the film becomes a battle of boy scout survival wits.

Of course Connell’s legendary "The Most Dangerous Game" was about an evil big game hunter hunting humans for fun. Here Browne & Anders are hunting Mike & Katy, not for sport but for their own survival and they prove mostly inept despite being better equipped and having their relentless dogs (in a shocking moment a dog violently attacks Mike, forcing him to respond with equal ferocity). The fun is knowing that Mike actually has his own hunting skills and eventually outwits them; the highlight of the film is how Mike shoots Browne - without a gun! It’s always interesting to see a studio era film made on location (as opposed to the phony Hollywood backlot jungles) and here the Mexican wilderness shot in vibrant bright colors is really exciting to see. The interesting cast and the suspense that never lets up also help to make Run for the Sun more than just a period curio, but a real worthwhile pleasure to hunt down. Think of it as... what if Cornel Wilde’s brilliant The Naked Prey had been about Ernest Hemingway and his cute reporter girlfriend, and now bring your expectations down a couple notches.

Posted by:
Sean Sweeney
Jul 16, 2013 5:19pm
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