‘It is the future. He fought the horror of robots programmed to kill...’ Eh?
Runaway (1984, Michael Crichton)
Starring: Tom Selleck, Gene Simmons, Cynthia Rhodes, Kirstie Alley, Babs Chulla, Natino Bellantoni
Tagline: A tense mangling, ‘It is the future. He fought the horror of robots programmed to kill.’
Trailers: Johnny Rehab, Return of the Dalesman, Muleskinner Maude
Cherrypick: “Is that a… mechanical bull..?”
In proving - with all the conviction of a maternally enraged concrete gorilla - the truism behind Asimov’s Fourth Law of Robotics - ‘Dusting off even the most lumpen and mundane script in your bottom draw multiplied by some robots equals immediate ERH green light’ - tin-pot Renaissance man Michael Crichton unashamedly prick-teased an ‘84 audience still semi-erect from Alien and Blade Runner with this amateur hour-and-a-half of broadly performed, ultimately unsatisfying techno reacharound. That he wasn’t hounded out of Tinseltown and back to his tawdry airport doorstops provides us with a chilling milestone to look back on and gauge the extent to which the VHS virus had infiltrated the tiny, atrophied brain of the ailing Hollywood leviathan.
|Sure, Tom. Sure.|
Either way, the upshot remains that Robot Squad Sergeant Jack Ramsay’s (Tom Selleck) beat consists of doing forward rolls through the modest suburban homes and empty-box factories of an unnamed American city (Des Moines), and shutting down (blowing up) the errant number of these motorised breadbins, ambulatory overhead projectors and various other sins against ergonomics that that have lost their electro-marbles and gone on the mecha-rampage.
|Run away! Quite quickly!|
In some nebulous way behind the sudden escalation of citywide mechanical mayhem, Luther (and much is made of the name) nails the first of many protests to the door of plot development by spending an inordinate amount of screentime amassing an army of robot spiders to no apparent story furtherance. It is this idle hobbyism that nonetheless provides the cue for what the blurb on the video box would have us believe is ‘a game of cat and mouse’ as Ramsay tries to stop this evil but rudderless toolshed genius from whatever lo-fi goal it is that he is hoping to achieve with naught but a phalanx of scuttling staplers to carry out his dark(ish) bidding.
|'Y'know, I think I DID leave the gas on...'|
|A cool rockin' daddy - in the USA|
Twenty years later, Pedro Almodovar’s refitted but equally flawed I, Robot, was to sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, stumble into the same hubristic honeytraps that so sidetracked Crichton’s already listing effort.
The future, it seems, will teach us nothing.