Yet another (credited) variation on Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game (famously filmed in 1932), Run for the Sun (1956) is a very worthy, intelligent remake with a witty and clever script by Dudley Nichols and director Roy Boulting. The picture, originally a United Artists release, is a curious mix of American and British talent, while the whole show was filmed on locations and sound stages in Mexico, and in SuperScope 235, no less.
MGM's "Limited Edition Collection" manufactured-on-demand release serves the film fairly well. Originally printed by Technicolor, the video transfer is in the standard 2:1 SuperScope ratio rather than the 2.35:1 ratio the process's name (billed prominently in the credits) implies. Regardless, it's at least widescreen with 16:9 enhancement and has strong color.
Richard Widmark stars as a reclusive novelist hiding out in Mexico. Mike Latimer seems based on infamously mysterious B. Traven (whose whereabouts were the subject of much speculation in the 1950s) and Ernest Hemingway. Katy Connors (Jane Greer, unjustly shortchanged billing-wise on the DVD cover art), a reporter for Sight magazine, tracks him down, she pretending to be a tourist waiting for friends.
They become attracted to one another but she suddenly decides to leave Mike in peace after learning that his writer's block stems from an ex-wife's unfaithfulness. He insists on flying her to Acapulco to avoid the dangerous jungles, but Katy's magnified notebook affects the plane's compass, and they crash land in an especially remote part of the Mexican jungle.
Men claiming to be English and Dutch archeologists rescue them: Browne (Trevor Howard, in a role apparently intended for someone else) and Van Anders (Peter van Eyck, The Wages of Fear). They're ensconced in the ruins of a 16th century hacienda maintained by local Indians that Browne keeps in line with his pack of Dobermans, animals he lets run loose at night. Mike becomes increasingly suspicious about his hosts. Browne claims to speak no German but later is overheard speaking it fluently to the supposedly Dutch Van Anders. Mike also recognizes but can't quite place Browne's voice.
From here, the story resembles The Most Dangerous Game. As with the real abandoned hacienda in Atlacomulco (later restored and transformed into a hotel), the filmmakers use the jungle locations very well, with most of it shot about 50 miles from Acapulco.
The Nichols/Boulting script is for the most part quite clever, often witty and inventive. With one glaring exception it realistically generates suspense by having its four main characters respond to situations logically. When the Most Dangerous Game aspects kick in, the film is genuinely suspenseful partly because it so convincingly appears Mike and Katy can't possibly escape the better-equipped and experienced Browne and Van Anders. Near the end the screenplay impresses with an ingeniously simple bit of inspiration on Mike's part that's extremely logical and effective.
That glaring exception is a big one, however. The entire Most Dangerous Game second half is set into motion because Mike does something extraordinarily stupid. At last he recognizes Browne, even though Browne doesn't realize this, and still clearly hoping to fool Mike and Katy into thinking he's a harmless scientist. Nevertheless and without any clear provocation, Mike decides to spill the beans in a rambling monologue in which he not only provides Browne with all his salient biographical details, but also insults him to boot, calling him "the lowest of low men!" Why on earth would he do this? "I shoulda kept my big mouth shut," says Mike, more than a little belatedly.
An interesting side note: Run for the Sun was produced by an uncredited Jane Russell and her then-husband, Robert Waterfield. Much of the film, from the casting of Greer and Widmark to the SuperScope process has the feel of Russell's old studio, RKO, and may have been intended for them at some point.
Video & Audio
As noted above, Run for the Sun gets a decent transfer that's also 16:9 enhanced. The technical services folks may have erred in using the SuperScope aspect ratio of 2:1 when perhaps a 2.35:1 one would have been correct, but the image still looks pretty darn good anyway. The region 1 encoded disc also offers decent Dolby Digital mono audio, English only with no alternate language or subtitle options. No Extra Features.
Despite this, Run for the Sun is a handsome and intelligent production, and it still holds up well today. Highly Recommended.
Stuart Galbraith IV is a Kyoto-based film historian whose work includes film history books, DVD and Blu-ray audio commentaries and special features. Visit Stuart's Cine Blogarama here.