From Eureka Entertainment‘s Masters of Cinema range comes this two-disc release of Sergio Sollima’s third western Run, Man, Run. A sequel to his earlier The Big Gundown, a secondary character from that film, Manuel ‘Cuchillo’ Sanchez (Tomas Milian) returns to Mexico, to his hometown. Soon finding himself imprisoned, he is helped to escape by fellow prisoner Ramirez (José Torres).
With a bounty on the head of Ramirez, he is soon killed, but is able to pass information to our lead, before he passes, telling him of $3 million in gold, hidden, and asking him to find it and return it to the leader of the revolutionaries. On his tail are mercenaries working for the president, as well as Cuchillo’s fiancée, Dolores (Chelo Alonso), who is simply waiting for him to stop running so they can marry. With a light-hearted tone (relative to the genre), it is a wide-ranging game of cross and double-cross, as all parties race to find the gold.
READ MORE: January – Film Review
The film is a decent, if flawed, caper. Milian is a light presence (and lightweight), with little in common with a typical spaghetti western lead. Rather than something akin to a superpower with guns, as is more usual, his one talent is with knives. He spends much of the film at the mercy of others; it is easy to lose track of how many times he is tied up and suspended by one of his adversaries.
Despite its revolutionary setting, it is noticeably light on commentary, with it being satisfied simply to be a two-hour adventure. It overdoes the double crosses and -having watched the theatrical version first to avoid that cut seeming even more butchered, though the longer cut adds a little more nuance – it does threaten to outstay its welcome as Cuchillo is caught up with for the nth time. That said, it is a well restored film, vibrant in colour, if a little soft of image in places, and it has a perfectly serviceable stereo soundtrack. It is – mostly – fun, if inessential.
The first disc come with a choice of English or Italian – the Italian with or without English subtitles – and there is a commentary by Barry Forshaw, author of ‘Italian Cinema’, and Kim Newman, author of ‘Wild West Movies’. They have worked together before for Eureka – fairly recently on Revolver (referenced here), Sabata, and Man Without a Star, to cite some examples – and they match together very well, giving the feeling that they are very comfortable in each other’s company.
We learn more about The Big Gundown, and that Run, Man, Run film was never released theatrically in the US or UK. They note that, as a result, the film feels free to make fun of America, and its citizens. They are a great match, as Barry is relaxed, and Kim is non-stop energy. The references to other films and TV shows come thick and fast, and it feels like an education, though a fun one, all in service of explaining so much about both this property, westerns, and the sub-genre of spaghetti westerns more generally.
Newman is excellent value in his appraisal of Sollima’s career more widely, arguing it was his lack of obvious range that led to his lesser regard today, as well as the fact that his films do not look the same as Leone’s or Corbucci’s. They do note, however, how beautifully shot it is, praising composition and explaining it in places; noting that VHS pan and scan would have ruined this, and a whole generation would not have been able to appreciate the full beauty of this film. There is no feel that they are using a script or notes, they let the action and their own knowledge guide them. As always, it is an outstanding choice by Eureka to pair them.
Next up is ‘Stephen Thrower on Run, Man, Run‘. This is a little under 19 minutes. It is a talking head like many in this series, cut with images from the film, promotional materials, and short sequences. It is exactly what we see on many of these sets. Stephen is a decent talker, but once again not contextualised: if you have never heard of him, this disc will not tell you who he is. This is a shame, and he seems a fascinating character, with an interesting background.
Knowledgeable and engaging, wisely, he is not just settling for praise, acknowledging there are things about the film that simply do not work for a British audience, whilst also able to add perspective on the genre, and the market into which it was released. There are lots of references to Argento and Soderbergh. It is fine, if a little random in direction, but we never hear the questions, of course. The first disc is rounded off by an alternate set of opening credits not hugely unlike that we have in the final film, along with a trailer from the time of the film’s release.
Disc two gives us The Theatrical Cut in the Blu-ray format with additional colour grading completed exclusively for this release. There is a brand-new audio commentary with author Howard Hughes and filmmaker Richard Knew. Hughes is the lead on the track, and the more knowledgeable on locations used etc. The restoration looks very nice indeed, even in 2K (the first disc being a 4K version from the same source). They also discuss The Big Gundown, noting that this continues the trend into a lighter vein of filmmaking in the genre.
READ MORE: Babylon – Film Review
The key early point is to discuss why this cut of the film exists. As you might expect, it seems it was to cater for certain markets and was a practice common to the spaghetti western genre. They often point out where we have lost sections to get to certain plot points. Knew is good for parallels to scenes in other films of the type and where shots evoke other examples, though he often asks Hughes for further information. They note the rushed nature of character introductions, due to the truncated nature of the cut.
It is, in short, a fairly standard, very decent example of the type: two learned people, one knowing a little more than the other, but both very cine-literate, talking together over a film they enjoy (without ranking it particularly highly in the genre as a whole). It is not a standout, but it is particularly useful as a companion piece to the longer version, as although they acknowledge the cuts, they never give the impression they are the ‘B-team’ commenting on the compromised version: they take it seriously.
One small complaint is their sound level goes up and down a little through the film, at one point, around 25 minutes into the film, actually becoming uncomfortably loud before dropping away. In the case of this version of the film overall, the large amount of cutting does leave it feeling rushed, with some character work gone. There have been examples, however, of films butchered for the international markets, either recut completely, or with whole sections of plot missing, leaving the end result not always making sense. This is not such an example. In this regard, it is more akin to 1973’s The Wicker Man: largely the same film, but with some nuance lost.
The accompanying booklet runs to an attractive thirty-six pages, and it kicks-off with an essay, also from Howard Hughes. ‘Born in a Wind of Knives: Sergio Sollima’s Run, Man, Run‘ starts with the significance of this film to the genre in question, before launching into Sollima’s work in the two to three years prior. Note, this essay gives significant detail on the plot and themes of The Big Gundown, and so should be read only after seeing that film, if spoilers are to be avoided.
READ MORE: Royal Warriors (1986) – Blu-ray Review
There is also some discussion of the plot of Face to Face. In truth, this is only the first couple of pages of a piece of work that fills half of the booklet. Hughes also provides a second essay, ‘Viva Mexico: The Revolution Zapata Style’. This is more a cultural and historical look at this era of Mexican revolution in the films of this era; why this might have been of interest; how it was dealt with, along with plenty of examples from the filmmakers of this genre (including Parolini’s Adios Sabata). This is complementary to the first piece, as we have had discussion of the film, so examination of its context is welcome. It has also been well-researched, with a number of books by his contemporaries referenced at the end.
It is meant as a compliment when we say this is a pretty standard-issue Masters of Cinema release from Eureka Entertainment. They present well-restored films of varying popularity, and, in general, support this with the involvement of a number from their group of contributors, comprising well-regarded, well-read film scholars who are able to illuminate what we are seeing. It is possible to come away from this one feature with a good understanding of what to look at next in this genre, and to understand the context in which this film was made. We can ask little more from a series that does more than most to keep historic cinema alive.
Run, Man, Run is out now on Limited Edition Blu-ray from Eureka Entertainment.