The Running Man

From Academic Kids

Template:Infobox Movie The Running Man (1982) is a science fiction novel by Stephen King, written under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. In 1987, the novel was loosely adapted into a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The story is about a man who competes in a deadly game show. Some critics draw parallels between The Running Man and current 'reality-based' shows such as Survivor, Fear Factor and the like.



The protagonist, Ben Richards, needs money for medicine for his gravely ill daughter. He walks to a TV studio where he can try to qualify for any number of violent TV contests where contestants win money according to whether, or for how long, they manage to survive their appointed tasks—such as a heart-attack-prone person running on a treadmill. Richards is selected for the most elite of these games, The Running Man.

To play the game, Richards is deemed an enemy of the state and then released to the outside world. There, he must evade so-called "hunters" (essentially gladiators) for a month—earning a small amount of money for each day, and a billion dollars should he manage to survive the entire month. The 'runner' can travel anywhere in the world, if he can arrange anonymous transport. The hunters are aided by members of the public, who receive cash for providing information on the whereabouts of the runner. Additionally, every day the runner must videotape a message, which is mailed to the TV show. If the runner is caught he or she is killed live on TV.

The hero of the book ultimately ends his game by flying a plane into the headquarters of the TV network that operates the game, gaining his revenge on the corporation, but dying in the process.

The dystopian theme resembles that of another of King's books written as Bachman, The Long Walk. Both books appear in King's novel collection The Bachman Books.


The book has also been filmed as The Running Man (1987), directed by Paul Michael Glaser. The lead role of Richards is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film is significantly different from the novel. The setting is the year 2017, after an economic collapse that has transformed the United States government into an authoritarian regime. In the movie, Richards is a helicopter pilot who refuses to fire upon civilians in Bakersfield, California during a food riot. He is imprisoned but escapes his confines, and is then captured and forced onto the game The Running Man. The Running Man is a gladiatorial-style competition that takes place in an earthquake-ruined section of Los Angeles, with several "runners" attempting to survive while being chased by "stalkers". (It is implied that all the runners before Richards have failed.) The hunters in the movie resemble professional wrestlers, with fancy weapons, costumes and nicknames. Some of the hunters were played by professional wrestlers, among them Jesse Ventura; football legend Jim Brown also played a stalker. The show's host was played by Richard Dawson in a self-parody of his most famous role as the host of the game show, Family Feud.

Some of the surviving contestants ultimately discover and join a force fighting the evil network, and the movie ends much more happily than the book, with the good guys defeating and killing the bad guys. Like many adaptations of King's works, this translation to film was not considered artistically successful by many critics.

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