Running Time is one of Bruce Campbell’s lesser-known films, a fact even The Chin himself expresses in the newly-shot interview included on the Synapse Films Blu-ray. It was written, produced, and directed by Josh Becker (he and Campbell have worked on several projects together. I’ve seen Alien Apocalypse, which wasn’t terrible). The movie took ten days to shoot on a shoestring budget of $125,000. In homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, the story plays out in realtime with hidden cuts to make it seem like one long continuous shot. Is there a reason the film is not well known, or should you plunk down your money on Synapse Films’ Blu-ray? Read on to find out.
The story for Running Time is simple enough. Bruce Campbell plays Carl, a recently released convict who, upon walking out the front gates, immediately starts planning his heist… a heist that will net him and three other guys $250,000, which to me seems like a low sum. Taking into account inflation, that would equal about $410K in today’s dollars. Split that between four guys and you are netting $102K. Is $100K worth another stint in jail? I leave that up to you to decide.
Carl’s plan starts falling apart thanks to a friend who bungles up the entire operation by first outsourcing the stakeout of the business they are hitting and then hiring a junkie to drive a van he stole. Carl would have been wise to just get a normal job, a comment he makes during a scene that was shot at the request of Bruce Campbell to give a better reason for why his character would stay and do the heist given how terrible everything is going. As the heist deteriorates in front of Carl’s eyes, he seeks out a friend for help, who turns out to be a high school sweetheart played by the delectably delightful Anita Barone.
As you can see, the story for Running Time is basic and to the point, but what elevates it above other similar films is, of course, the realtime technique Josh Becker uses. In what would be an otherwise cliche and humdrum film, the use of a “one-take” format ups the ante and creates some wonderful tension. It has been pointed out by other reviewers (that hack Ryne over at Cultsploitation) that the heist is rather bland, which is true in a way. The setup and execution aren’t anything spectacular and even though the heist goes south, it seems they can get away quite easily. Certain characters just seem to vanish from the movie altogether. But its story isn’t meant to be about the heist, but about the redemption of a character, one who has his faults, but has you rooting for a happy ending. In that, both Campbell and Becker succeed.
Synapse Films has done a great job at bringing Running Time to Blu-ray with a new 2K scan of the original 16mm camera negative (no blown up 35mm print here). The film is presented in a 1.37:1 (4:3) ratio, shot entirely in Black and White using an Arriflex SR camera. 16mm film grain can be quite chunky at times, but the grain present in Running Time is even and never distracting. There is no damage to speak of with the print. Overall, a great job.
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo that sounds great with no issues. The film used a mic strapped to the front of the camera for straight-on shots but used ADR to do the scenes that required a lot of movement. Besides a few moments here and there where the ADR stood out, I would be hard-pressed to find any issues with this track. English subtitles are included.
Special Features include a new interview with Bruce Campbell, which runs roughly 20 minutes. You can tell Bruce Campbell loved working on this film and has a lot of fond memories. Next, we have some older footage from a 1997 Q&A session at the Freaky Film Festival, where both Josh Becker and Bruce Campbell answer questions from students. The audio isn’t the best, and the questions are all over the place, but it’s a lighthearted session that was fun to check out. Also included is a commentary with director Josh Becker and Bruce Campbell, which is quite enjoyable. It’s a lively track with a load of information on the making. I recommend giving it a listen. Rounding out the features is a trailer.
NEW 2K scan and restoration of the original 16mm camera negative
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
NEW Presented for the first time on video with the original theatrical stereo mix
Audio commentary with writer/director Josh Becker and star Bruce Campbell
NEW Run and Gun with Bruce Campbell – interview/featurette (HD; 20:27)
Q&A footage from the Freaky Film Festival Premiere at the University of Illinois (unrestored HD; 19:32)
Original trailer (HD; 2:18)
Reversible cover art from artists Wes Benscoter and Gerry Kissell
If you were to take the story of Running Time and shoot it like any other conventional movie, we probably wouldn’t be talking about it right now. But thanks to some creative shooting that provides loads of tension, we have a film that ranks high up on the list of Bruce Campbell movies you should check out. I recommend picking up Running Time on Blu-ray from Synapse Films.