The Loneliest Runner (TV Movie 1976) Poster

(1976 TV Movie)

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Never humiliate your kids
jimc121524 April 2001
I first saw this movie as an immature college kid and was amused by the subject matter. I saw it again a few years later, this time as the father of young children. What a different perspective. Watching the manner in which the mother humiliated this poor boy, I vowed NEVER to embarrass my children, especially in front of their friends. My heart ached for the boy in this movie. A great movie for parents to watch - I wish I could run across it again sometime on the tube.
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Brutal But Well-Made Movie
secragt19 January 2004
There's no way I would have ever come across this movie but for belonging to a film club that views movies dealing with the theme of running. Landon has admitted that this poignant bed wetting story was autobiographical; frankly I doubt the squeamish subject matter would have ever been broached (let alone made into a feature length TV movie) without the backing of someone as powerful in television as Landon was in the 70s. Obviously the pain of the experience stayed with Landon because there are strong psychological conflicts and images at work here that seem likely to have come from real life, including the stained bedsheets hanging out the window and the pained, carefully modulated performance by Brian Keith as the father who can't quite stand up to his castrating and selfish wife or his own private demons.

Is it credible and well acted? Definitely. Does Landon demonstrate startling balls and emotion in his blazingly frank depiction of the material? Unquestionably. Is this studiously observed treatise on the ultimate in childhood embarrassment and ridicule going to be uncomfortable and maybe even a bit of a bummer for you? Probably.

The mother and ostensible villain of the piece is overly caricatured and some of the attitudes of the 1940s are oversimplified but still, I have to admit I was moved by the story. The ending packs power and Landon the writer provides Landon the actor (looking very Bruce Jenner-like in his Olympics clothing) with a wonderful line when Rafer Johnson asks him how he got into running and Landon responds by saying he owes it to his parents. That line cuts in several directions at once. Good movie for fans of Landon or Keith, who both turn in excellent work and whose lives were both ironically cut short years later.
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Movie about how a winning marathon runner began his career.
Rachael-514 June 1999
Very sweet film about the humiliating beginnings of a marathon runner (adult played by Michael Landon). Young Michael, played by Lance, was a bedwetter. As he grew, his mother, a dominating woman, would humiliate him by hanging his sheets out the window to dry, so Lance would run home as fast as he could to pull them in before any of his school chums saw it. Movie expresses the hidden humiliation behind teenagers who are bedwetters, and makes an important statement on the longlasting affects of handling this problem in an unhealthy way.
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This film was very personal for me
pek1134-938-1238301 January 2011
When I saw this film I was both horrified and encouraged. I was horrified because, at the time, I was a teen bed wetter myself and sitting with the family watching this made me feel very embarrassed. No one said anything to me about it, but I was very self-conscious and uncomfortable. At the same time, I was very encouraged that, finally, I knew that I wasn't the only teen with that problem. My folks weren't as negative to me about my bed wetting as the mother depicted in the film, but they made me feel that I was an embarrassment to them as it was the "big family secret" that was always referred to as "Paul's problem." It took many years before I was able to build up a decent level of self-esteem, and this film helped me along the way. I hope parents today are more aware of how teen bed wetting can affect a kid's entire life; perhaps we need more films like this.
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70s Heartugging Winner!
AJSteele7 June 2013
stomer Reviews 4.8 out of 5 stars (4) 4.8 out of 5 stars 5 star 3 4 star 1

I saw this TV movie when it first aired back in 1976. Lance Kerwin, in some really good acting, plays early teen John Curtis who has a bed wetting problem. The movie lures you in with sympathy for the boy and it is very effective. Michael Landon plays John Curtis as an adult, an ace runner, who we see breaking through the finish line at the start of the film . While pondering the question of his track abilities during an interview, he stares into a wall clock that triggers a childhood flashback. The story unfolds as we witness young John Curtis rising early and scampering to gather his bedsheets for washing. Johns father(Brian Keith)who internally wants to help his son, lives in a household where he appears to be verbally dominated by his wife. As a father with a secret, he tries with heavy machismo to reach and cure his son. At the age of 12 or 13, John's fear of being ridiculed for bed-wetting by his parents and friends is monumental, and understandably so. He desperately tries though shear will and lack of sleep to end or hide his condition to please his parents. You really feel his pain.

This may all sound like a boring or outdated topic, but stay with it to see a family dynamic exposed and some great acting as well by Brian Keith. John obviously has a condition that can't be helped. You could almost apply any embarrassing ailment, or even an addiction to the story and get a good message from it. His mother is downright mean and determined to embarrass her son by hanging his urine stained bed sheets out the window for all his friends and neighbors to see. The film takes place in the 50s so you can somewhat understand the naivete'. To avoid ridicule John bolts home from school everyday to take the sheets in before they can be seen. Doing this daily, he develops great speed and is recognized by the school track coach as a standout. A wonderful and eventually forceful showing of compassion by dad makes it all worthwhile. As we return to the adult John Curtis at the films end, he makes a bittersweet and humbling statement (in true Landon fashion). The Loneliest Runner is a surprisingly interesting and entertaining movie. If your in the mood to stir up emotions, this well done and probably forgotten seventies TV movie will do it. Watching it as a parent by yourself could be a learning experience. The Loneliest Runner deserves a quality DVD release.
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It sticks in my head.
bettydev25 July 2006
This is one of those movies I've never forgotten. It's been stuck in my head since I saw it a long time ago. The agony of a child being embarrassed by his mother for wetting his bed, when he so desperately wanted to stop, is a heart-breaker.

How many times have we, as parents or just people, criticized another person without thinking of how our criticism can hurt? Maybe it's something the person can control and maybe it's not. But our criticism can last and hurt for years, as has my memory of this movie.

I don't remember if the mother in this film took her child to a doctor. Even if she had, she wouldn't have gotten much help. Fortunately now, medical science can relieve the problems of bed-wetting in adolescents and adults with a simple nasal spray of the hormones lacking in the person, hormones which shut down the kidneys when sleeping.
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This movie stuck with me....
smellslikefish15 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I was in my early teens when I saw this movie. It was certainly hard to watch as other comments have noted. At the time you'd think a parent could not be that cruel but you see worse on the news every night now. I wonder if Michal Landon's parents were still alive when this came out? Mom would have fit in nicely with Hitler and dad was a real wimp! it must be nice to be powerful enough in Hollywoood to make a revenge film on your parents. One scene really stuck with me when he was invited for a sleepover and he didn't want to go. With typical brutality the mother gave him no he forced himself to stay awake the whole night. When he got home the mom knew he had a clean night and was even more upset and said he was wetting his own bed to humiliate her(it's all about her)! She turned the heat up even more at this point.
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Simply Wonderful performances on a difficult topic.
Simply Wonderful performances on a difficult topic. I really liked the actors, and its a shame that Lance Kerwin stopped acting not too long after that, but I hear he is happy on the Christian Ranch he went to, so, There are many good child actors who for some reason or the other have gone on to do other things, but I'm glad for him. I know after reading this comment you might click no, that it was no helpful, and though thats bad, its your choice. However, my purpose here is to backup the comments already stated. (Should I paste it all in again when so many other people have already stated the facts.) No, I didn't think so. So, go watch it, you won't regret it.
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born between 1968 and 1971?
bethwestern13 April 2005
then there's all likelihood that you remember seeing this movie as a kid. i was seven when i saw it on TV and it burned permanent images in my head of the sheet hanging outside of the windows and the humiliation the kid endured. through my life i've referred to it only to find that a large majority of people my age were also scarred by this movie, remember the same images and respond the same way when it's brought up: with a wide-eyed sense of excitement and horror.

a true generational flick.

only recently when one peer said, "hey, 'james at 15' played the kid." was i able to track down the name of it.

yay for the internet!
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Not very good
welshNick29 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this many years ago and really thought Michael Landon was on a bit of an ego trip here. Interestingly I was watching it with a kid from school (I went to a boarding school) and this kid always was wetting the bed and then rather stupidly said he always wanted to be a fireman which inevitably let to much laughter and cruel jokes.

Back to the film, it charts a 14 year old who runs home each day to retrieve his soiled sheet which his Mother hangs out of the window as a punishment. This running ability eventually lands him a gold medal at the Olympics. All totally unbelievable. Why didn't the boy just remove the sheet himself in the morning when he got up ? Michael Landon described the film as semi autobiographical. I'd have loved to have seen him running on his 4 packs of smokes per day.

Not very good and certainly not a true story.
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Not Landon's best
cruztacean22 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
From an autobiographical point of view, I suppose Mr. Landon wanted to be true to his own experience, but if he merely wanted to base fiction on something that happened to him, then it was less than spellbinding. The entire plot consisted of purely one-note drama all centered around the boy's bed wetting and the mother's humiliation of him for it. Subplots would have been helpful.

The mother made me sick, how she mentally, verbally, and psychologically tortured that boy. Anyone with half a brain knows that no sane kindergarten child, let alone a teenager, would wet the bed on purpose and subject himself to all that crap day after day.

The father made me even sicker, how he failed to stand up for his son, and how he lied to the doctor. "No, I didn't wet the bed when I was a child." In the end it turned out he had. Why didn't he tell the doctor the truth? Because he didn't want to be embarrassed? He'd rather let his son carry the full load of embarrassment himself? Especially knowing exactly what his son was going through, Dad should have been supportive. Furthermore, I kept waiting for that wimpazoid to grow some you-know-whats and tell his abusive wife off, but I waited the length of the entire movie for nothing more than, "Alice, will you shut up?" Shut up? Is that all? How about shut up, pack your bags, hit the road, and never come near this boy again unless you want to be arrested for child abuse?

The late, great, Michael Landon went on to write and direct much better work than this. Perhaps it's just because it was an early work that it falls so far short of his standard. Even Leonardo DaVinci had to start out scribbling.
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Every Little Bit Helps...
richeysj29 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I was an 11-year-old bed wetter when this originally aired. Hearing "Uncle Bill" admitting he was a bed wetter when he was a child was therapeutic! Lance Kerwin growing to be Michael Landon? Well, you just have to suspend disbelief! The main issue with this movie isn't that the kid is a bed wetter. But that his mom is a total jerk about it! No! She's a lunatic about her son's bed wetting! Oh yeah! She has serious issues!!
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