The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) 1080p

Movie Poster
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) 1080p bluray - Movie Poster
Drama | Sport
Frame Rate:
23.976 fps
English 2.0  
Run Time:
104 min
IMDB Rating:
7.6 / 10 
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Directors: Tony Richardson [Director] ,

Movie Description:
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.


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  • The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) 1080p bluray - Movie Scene 1

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Probably Richardson's finest film.

A difficult one for me this. Back in the day when I saw it in the cinema, I was the same sort of age as the lads depicted and recognised the angst, anger and frustration depicted. in comparison to what is depicted I was privileged but even my grammar school had practices to be compared to those of a borstal and the bullying was rife. The other thing was I was also into cross country running. i didn't like doing it but it got me out of the school, I was good at it and the teacher enjoyed my successes. So a bit of a personal one but nothing can take away from the performance Courtney gives and it is clear that there is a seething revolutionary waiting to get out. The scenes on their trip to Skegness when we actually see the wondrous sand dunes and beach of Camber Sands are great and the young love well presented. Probably Richardson's finest film.

Runner finishes ahead of most.

Coping poorly with the death of his father and the disruptive mood it creates around the house when his mother takes up with her lover before the old man has even reached room temperature Colin Smith chooses to rebel rather than take up the offer of the same job that hastened dad's early demise. Along with a mate he robs a bakery after hours but the two prove to be inept crooks and he is quickly brought to justice and sent off to Ruxton Towers, a reformatory. The warden or Governor (Michael Redgrave) as he's called lives by the credo of "You play ball with us and we'll play ball with you" and when he sees that Colin has natural athletic abilities as a runner he begins to give him privileges. On the day of Ruxton's big race against a private school all hopes are pinned on Smith. The question is what will he do with the ball now that he has as he puts it "the whip hand".

Runner should be viewed in two phases. Once before turning twenty -one and the other after forty. As a teen I admired and applauded Colin's defiance, as an adult faced with responsibilities I wanted to whack him on the back of the head and say "wise up". Either way the film remains one of the best examples of the British kitchen sink form from the angry young man era with Tom Courtnay as Colin giving a standout performance. Bereft of movie star looks Courtnay's snare and curt responses speaks volumes to the hypocrisy that's heaped on him as he refuses to give an inch to a system that he sees as wanting to chew him up.

Tony Richardson's direction is well paced and audacious as he throws in a little slapstick to liven up the glum setting of row house existence as well as deliver some devastating flashback imagery that haunts Colin's jaunts of bucolic freedom. Redgrave's Governor is a perfect symbol of well bred authority that motivates Colin and gives rational to his actions.

As we age we better understand that if you are going to get along you've got to go along. As our mountain of idealized principle in our youth erodes to a grassy knoll through life's experience and realities we see Colin as a victim of his age as well as his environment. Frustrated as I may be at this age with this "failure to communicate" , a grudging respect remains however for Colin's attempt to be true to himself which Richardson powerfully sums up in the films climax.

Angry young man refuses to sell out

Tom Courtenay is brilliant in this film. In this role, he is smart and more than a match for the police and his mother's insolent boyfriend. And he is not lacking in social skills. The music is brooding and jazzy, depending on the mood. The black/white film captures the prevailing mood particularly the rain, mud and fog. At another time, we see Colin and his girlfriend walking on the beach. A touching scene, we get the feeling that this was his real moment of happiness.

In this movie, directed by Tony Richardson, Tom Courtenay plays Colin Smith, the angry young man role – a staple of British cinema in the 1960's. Tom Courtenay went on to make a number of first-rate films and receive a number of awards, not least of which was a knighthood from the Queen.

The film deals with a young man from the wrong side of the tracks who clearly feels the pain and resentment that his life brings. The father dies leaving behind a young family, probably as a result of working conditions, harassment, burnout, and the other ailments of the industrial economy that sapped the lifeblood of working class males. Colin, the eldest son of the family is in a reform school by day where the boys are treated with about as much respect (lack of respect) as their fathers received in society.

Upon her husband's death, his mother collects 500 pounds from the firm where he was employed and her face shows the hurt and bitterness; it took his death to give them some material reward. She proceeds to spend the money on television, clothing, and a new bed (to be shared with the new boyfriend). Material possessions and pleasures are the carrots that are dangled in front of working class people. The eldest son Colin, Tom Courtenay, shows his contempt by burning the pound note his mother gives to him. He is so filled with anger and despair that nothing motivates him anymore. In one touching moment in the film, the young man knowing his father is about to die, goes into his room and places the blankets over him. It is almost as if he understands what his life was like and was now about to be set free. Just my take on this short scene.

As for the boy, the preferential treatment he starts to receive at school is offered in exchange for his expected victory in an athletic competition, long-distance running. A lean, fit youth, he excels in track and other sports. This catches the attention of the headmaster Ruxton Towers, performed by Michael Redgrave, who desires nothing more than to impress the Board of Governors with the school's prowess, particularly against a rival school in an upcoming event. Michael Redgrave is superb in a less than attractive role as the arrogant headmaster who feels his main responsibility is to keep the boys in check through humiliation and authoritarian rule, except when it is in his interest to use them for his own purposes.

The atmosphere is bleak and it is an irony to watch the boys sing the hymn Jerusalem at the tops of their voices with images of dark Satanic mills as Christians take up the fight to build a new Jerusalem in England. This song of social democracy gives some indication of the political stripes of the directors who made these angry young man movies. One thinks that their view of the working class, while sincere, had more than a little dislike for their lifestyle. Perhaps they pitied them.

The black and white photography is as stark as the movie itself. Avis Bunnage is Mrs. Smith and William Ash Hammond, the terminally ill father. James Bolam, who has a filmography that goes back to the early 60's is Colin's best friend. James Fox is the runner for the other school in the final challenge that pits him against our anti-hero Colin. Alec McCowen plays the role of a colleague of Ruxton Towers. A young John Thaw had a role in this movie as one of the reform school lads. He later went on to be Inspector Morse in the Morse television series. Julia Foster is the girlfriend, who later acted in Alfie.

A great cast for a film from the archives of Britain's best.
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