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80's French exploitation cinema, takes a crack at 'The Running Man'.
The Running Man, a book originally written by Stephen King, under a pseudonym 'Richard Bachman', has achieved some cult standing thanks to the 1987 action packed Schwarzenegger bicep flexer. Its easy to place Prize of Peril within the 'rip-off' category, as it's not uncommon to see 80's European cinema re-create their own low budget exploitation takes on Hollywoods big hitters. But to do that with Prize would be a mistake, as this was released in 1984, three years BEFORE the chainsaw wielding, ice skating fireball that is the Running Man we all know.
Although cast mainly with Italian actors, Prize was actually directed by Frenchman Yves Boisset and shot on location in France and the former Yugoslavia. Although not actually credited to be an adaptation of the original novella by Stephen King, it's difficult to believe that his work was not in some way an inspiration for the movie.
The plot, set in the future, tells of a game show where the contestants are witted out against a team of trained bounty hunters who are set out to dispose of them for the blood thirsty TV audiences that watch the show religiously. The aim for the contestants is to reach the finish line, alive! Our hero, unlike his predecessors, turns the fight on the bounty hunters! Much to the shock and dismay of the audience.
The pace of the movie is well set, action mixed with intrigue keeps you watching, and you quickly feel admiration for the struggling hero (played by Gerard Lanvin), as he blunders his way through everything that's thrown at him. A far more interesting character is portrayed by Lanvin than we witness with Arnie's character in the 1987 film 'The Running Man'. The overtones of the movie are more sinister and the comment on society stronger than the American attempt, although the budget is hardly comparable. Sadly this is illustrated most obviously, by the distinct lack of imagination for set design. Unless we are supposed to believe this is set in the near future, then the overwhelming 1980's look the movie has throughout is definitely a negative.
However the budget should not be a deterrence, to what is, in whole, a very watchable and well made film. Not as glamorised nor as violent as 'The Running Man' but overall a more educated and engrossing movie. Still has its flaws, but its worth a watch.
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