Run Stranger Run (1973)

January 3, 2010 - 4:06pm | EC
  Tags: 70's, Bobby Darin, Cloris Leachman, Darren McGavin, drama, Patricia Neal, Ron Howard, Run Stranger Run, slasher, Tessa Dahl

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Darren McGavin
Ron Howard, Patricia Neal, Cloris Leachman, Bobby Darin, Tessa Dahl

I'm not sure if DC Comics presented an Identity Crisis as large as "Run Stranger Run". This 1973 drifter-slasher-drama is one strange brew, consistently swaying the viewer into a patchwork of genre spins amid its quick pacing. Andy Griffith's very own Opie Taylor (now famed director Ron Howard) stars as Johnny, a drifter of sorts who comes to a sleepy coastal town in search of his origin. "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" star Darren McGaven stepped behind the camera pre-Kolchak to deliver this crafty albeit confusing tale that has surely been collecting VHS dust for years.

Howard's Johnny wakes up the locals and viewers in search of his biological mother and father, of which mom is played by 70s, 80s and 90s journey woman Cloris Leachman ("Love Boat", "Facts Of Life", hundreds of "movies of the week" and countless failed sitcoms). With a trench coat that would put him on the set of "Twilight", $2.00 in change and a stack of letters, Johnny sets out to find mom and the reason for her absence in his life. Along the way he meets/gropes his cousin (show stealer Tessa Dahl) and attracts the vengeance of mom's boyfriend Eddie (played by 50s crooner Bobby Darin). Why is this film featured on Upcoming Horror Movies? It does in fact have a body count.

The film FINALLY hits paydirt about the one hour mark, showcasing a slasher on the loose knocking off the sea-side locals. Is Johnny bringing down the axe? Has Mom or Eddie gone "Natural Born Killers"? That is the premise at hand here and really delivers the goods the last half hour. The climax comes at a dark Victorian house where Johnny plays cat-and-mouse with the killer (or victim?).

"Run Stranger Run" ("Happy Mother's Day, Love George" in some markets) is written by veteran Robert Clouse, who went on to write one of my favorite films "The Pack" four years later (Joe Don Baker VS Wild Dogs). While the movie certainly is a failed experiment from minute one, it still holds some spark for the last half hour. The local knock-offs, the mystery behind Johnny's appearance and the wacky and creepy Celia give the viewer some reason to watch. Worth a download or an Ebay purchase...only to collect storage dust from that point on.

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