A juvenile offender (Sir Tom Courtenay) at a tough reform school impresses its Governor (Sir Michael Redgrave) with his running ability and is encouraged to compete in an upcoming race, but faces ridicule from his peers.
A rebellious youth, sentenced to a boy's reformatory for robbing a bakery, rises through the ranks of the institution through his prowess as a long distance runner. During his solitary runs, reveries of his life and times before his incarceration lead him to re-evaluate his privileged status as the Governor's prize runner.
When the boys are doing gardening work, one character calls another "you mug" (meaning gullible idiot). In one subtitled version, this is transcribed as "you muppet", but the word "muppet" - meaning an idiot - was not in use when the film was made. See more »
Running was always a big thing in our family, specially running away from the police. It's hard to understand. All I know is that you've got to run, running without knowing why, through fields and woods. And the winning post's no end, even though the barmy crowds might be cheering themselves daft. That's what the loneliness of a long distance runner feels like.
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"Where the bloody hell have *you* been?" I'm sure this phrase appears in every black & white British 'kitchen sink' film of the time, usually asked by the exhausted mother or father of their wayward son. Colin Smith is a lad who is on the verge of becoming uncontrollable. Low-level crime and an aversion to authority make him every mother's nightmare. When his father dies and his mother takes up with a slimy fancy-man, Colin gets even worse and rebels. When he is convicted of burglary he is sent to Borstal and expected to bow down to the harsh routine, but his talent for running is spotted by the governor and he is encouraged to train for the inter-school Cup against the local 'posh' school. Will Colin do his duty? The film takes the unusual (for its time) structure of long flashbacks to Colin's home life while he is training. This is very effective and puts life into what could have been a rather dull film. There is one joyous scene in which Colin is first allowed out of the borstal gates to train - the sun is shining, we can almost smell the cool, fresh air and the soundtrack bursts into some glorious jazz trumpet. It's such an uplifting tune and so typical of its period that this film would be worth the price of the DVD just for this moment. Despite the depressing theme and grimy visuals, this film - made at the height of the 'gritty British drama' period of the 60's - is a delight.
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