Runaway – tape 571

This tape opens with the end of the news, including David Icke on sport. Then weather with Ian McCaskill.

There’s a trailer for Sunday programmes. This is like the Desktop Publishing era of television graphics, with big fonts and random sizing all over the place. Horrible.

Then, Tom Selleck stars in Runaway, It’s a film written and directed by Michael Crichton, who has a patchy career as director. Let’s just say that Runaway isn’t Westworld despite it also being about malfunctioning technology.

Selleck plays a policeman whose job it is to recover robotic devices that have gone rogue. “I took some courses in robotics, APL” he tells his new partner Cynthia Rhodes, after they’ve just recovered the most innocuous agricultural robot you can imagine.

His next case is harder – the robot has killed two people with a knife, and it’s picked up a gun. Crichton predicted drone cameras.

Drone camera

Selleck has to rescue a baby from a marauding robot which is carrying a gun. This is rather less frightening than you might think from this description.

Armed robot

The plot revolves around evil Gene Simmons who wants some super secret computer chips which can take control of any machinery. He’s also got a cool gun that shoots heat seeking bullets, and there’s some neat shots from the bullet’s point of view.

Gene Simmons

Also involved in his nefarious plans is Kirstie Alley. Selleck meets her when she gets trapped in an office by an office sentry robot. His first reaction to seeing her, which he feels comfortable expressing to partner Cynthia Rhodes, is “She’s an attractive woman.”

Kirstie Alley in Runaway

In fact, he’s a bit of an arse when it comes to women. His household robot is clearly a mother figure for him, since he’s no longer married, but looking after his son. And at the end of the movie, when he and Rhodes finally realise that they can’t resist the laws of movies, and have to end up together, he asks Rhodes “can you cook?”

This really is a mess of a movie. It’s never really clear who Gene Simmons is – we know what he wants, and that he’s a robotic expert, but we never really get a sense of who he is, or whether he works for anyone else. Plus, they invent a thing like a heat-seeking bullet gun that’s supposed to be able to fire around corners, and then, throughout the movie, he misses almost everyone he shoots at, especially when he’s shooting at the good guys.

Tom Selleck has a problem with heights – it’s his ‘thing’ – and it’s mentioned ad nauseam at the start of the movie, so you absolutely know that the climax of the movie will take place somewhere high up. And because he’s a single father, you also know his son will be placed in jeopardy before the movie ends.

Runaway climax

There are some cool robotic spiders which attack people with acid needles.

Robotic Spider

In terms of Michael Crichton’s directing career, I’m afraid this one is closer to Looker than to Westworld.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 3rd September 1988 – 21:20

After the movie, there’s a trailer for the Olympics.

Then, there’s cricket, Middlesex vs Worcestershire from Lords. BBC One – 3rd September 1988 – 23:00

And the tape finally ends after about half an hour of another movie, Frank Sinatra starring in Lady in Cement. I don’t even want to know what that’s about.



  1. Both “Runaway” and “Looker” are streets ahead of “Twister,” however. Not to mention another movie with Gene Simmons as an evil bastard, “Never Too Young To Die” – once you see him as a hermaphrodite terrorist, you can’t unsee it.

    1. Now I have to take issue with that. Twister is an awesome movie, although I do like it mostly for Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Alan Ruck. Did you know that Joss Whedon did an uncredited rewrite on it? Some of the dialogue definitely has his prints on it.

      By the way, I just remembered that one of the gimmicks of Looker was a gun that made people lose their memories. Crichton liked his magic guns, didn’t he?

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