Rex Black is dead or is he? After the funeral service newly widowed Stella Black returns to their flat for the wake. Rex had been assumed dead after a glider he was piloting crashed into the sea and his body never found. When the guests have departed Rex Black miraculously reappears larger than life and potentially very much richer. We learn that the couple have plotted to swindle their insurance company by insuring Rex’s life and then staging the accident. All seems to be going to plan until an inquisitive insurance agent, Stephan Maddux, turns up to question the ‘grieving’ widow. Black has to disappear again until the claim is finalised and the money has been paid out. Leaving Stella in the UK to sort out the final particulars he leaves the country and goes to Malaga. While he is there he stumbles on the passport of an Australian sheep farmer and assumes the identity of Jim Jerome along with a rather dreadful Australian accent. When the claim is finally cleared Stella joins ‘Jim Jerome’ in Spain. But as luck would have it Stephan Maddox turns up at the same resort that Stella and “Jim” are staying at. Is the arrival of the insurance agent just coincidence or is he still on the trail of our two fraudsters?
Based on the Shelley Smith novel The Ballad of the Running Man, and Directed and produced by Carol Reed (Climbing High 1939) it has a screenplay written by John Mortimer who is probable best known for creating barrister Horace Rumpole who in turn is a character you will remember from the TV series Rumpole of the Bailey. Shot in the Ardmore Studios in County Wicklow in Ireland and on location in a beautiful looking Spain before the advent of package tours. The Running Man (1963) stars Laurence Harvey (The Good Die Young 1954) as Rex Black, a role that really suited the actor, the attractive American actress Lee Rimick played Blacks wife Stella and Alan Bates appears as the insurance agent Stephan Maddux. A grand line up with all three helping to make the story more believable than it really deserved.
Although critics at the time of its release thought the film poorly conceived and some even went as far as saying it was muddled and indulgent, on reflection it know seems a breath of fresh air. It may seem a wee bit contrived but still gives us plenty to enjoy, in fact I found it a polished and exciting production that unfortunately is not available on DVD or Blu-ray at present.