The Running Man Featured

VHS Revival brings you all the box office and rental happenings from November 1987

6th November

The Cannon Group releases its fourth instalment of the Charles Bronson-led Death Wish series.

Titled Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, the movie would lose original trilogy director Michael Winner along with a chunk of its budget, resulting in a much more limited release. Winner would refuse to return for the sequel after clashing with Bronson during the filming of Death Wish 3. Cannon had also begun belt-tightening thanks to a series of big-budget flops such as Pirates and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

Churning out more of the same, protagonist Paul Kersey would this time seek retribution against a Los Angeles drug syndicate after the death of his girlfriend’s daughter. However, the movie would take the series in a decidedly more caricaturistic direction at the request of producers Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus, who were looking for a ‘mindless movie with non-stop action’. Maybe I’m missing something here, but hadn’t they always?

Death Wish 4

Critically, Death Wish 4 didn’t pull up any pillars, but the consensus seemed to be that it was the best of all the sequels, in spite of its dubious eye-for-an-eye formula, which only served to promote the violence it was supposed to be condemning.

The movie would gross just shy of $7,000,000 at the box office following a $5,000,000 outlay, a much needed boost in light of recent losses, but the movie would truly flourish in the VHS market after Cannon secured a $2,000,000 advance with Media Home Entertainment for what would prove to be the best selling entry in the entire series.

13th November

Having already established himself as a science fiction icon in franchise-spinning movies such as James Cameron’s The Terminator and John McTiernan’s jungle-bound, genre crossover Predator, Arnold Schwarzenegger would land the lead role in Paul Michael Glaser’s Stephen King adaptation The Running Man, starring alongside Alien’s Yaphet Kotto and Hispanic beauty Maria Conchita Alonso.

By November 1987, Arnie was well on his way to becoming the most recognisable movie star in the world, and King’s dystopian nightmare about a man forced into a deadly reality TV show in order to support his sick daughter had all the prerequisites to boost Arnie’s credibility even further. It’s something of a shame, then, that they chose to deviate so heavily from the source material. In hindsight, The Running Man has a Kitschy charm that works as a memorable time capsule for Reagan’s ’80s, but at the time it was not so well received.

The Running Man Battle

Altering the novel’s global setting, the movie would confine its protagonist to a network studio, lending the production a small-time feel, while its futuristic speculations never seemed to stretch beyond 1987. The fact that Schwarzenegger’s Ben Richards sported a larger-than-life physique also robbed the movie of credibility as the book’s protagonist was much more of an underdog, which worked better with the story’s totalitarian themes. The book was later described by King as being “as far away from the Arnold Schwarzenegger character in the movie as you can get.” I, for one, can attest to that.

Original director Andrew Davis was fired one week into filming and Arnie put the blame squarely on his replacement, citing Glaser’s subsequent hiring as a mistake and claiming that he “shot the movie like it was a television show, losing all the deeper themes”, a comment which is hard to refute. Ironically, real-life game show host Richard Dawson would steal the show as disingenuous slimeball Damon Killian, the ratings-obsessed host of The Running Man.

In spite of the movie’s critical reception, Schwarzenegger would go on to solidify his place as Science Fiction’s biggest attraction, starring in money-spinning efforts such as Total Recall and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and becoming Hollywood’s most highly paid star.

27th November

Late November saw the return of Director John Hughes following Brat Pack smashes Weird Science and The Breakfast Club. This time, Hughes would team up with Saturday Night Live’s John Candy and perennial funnyman Steve Martin to create festive road movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, which would arguably prove to be his greatest ever achievement.

Critically, the movie was very well received, and although it was dwarfed at the box office by Leonard Nimoy’s vastly inferior Three Men and a Baby, it would prove to be the second highest grossing movie of November. With ‘Planes’, Hughes would explore different themes, proving himself more than just a teenage angst filmmaker.

Planes Trains

The story of a cynical ad man and his salt-of-the-earth companion-from-hell, the movie is essentially an odd couple farce, but its refusal to make caricatures of its leading men elevates it above the standard formula, while a heartbreaking twist provides it with enough emotional depth to keep your toes warm.

The movie would become one of the best-loved comedies of the entire decade. It would also mark the beginning of the Hughes-Candy axis, the two collaborating on a series of films during the late 1980’s, including She’s Having a Baby, The Great Outdoors and Uncle Buck. Candy was scheduled to star as a voice actor in Disney’s Pocahontas in the summer of 1995, but his character was scrapped following the actor’s tragic death on March 4, 1994 from a suspected heart attack.

US Box Office Charts for November

Rank Movie Title  Studio
Total Gross / Opening
1 Three Men and a Baby Buena Vista $167,780,960 $10,384,392
2 Planes, Trains and Automobiles Paramount $49,530,280 $7,009,482
3 The Last Emperor Sony/Colombia $43,984,230 $149,460
4 The Running Man Colombia/TriStar $38,122,105 $8,117,465
5 Cinderella (1987 re-issue) Buena Vista $34,101,149 $5,165,881

Top Video Rentals

The first two weeks of November would see the rental charts topped by Leonard Nimoy’s earthbound Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. This would prove an exceptional month for the director as his movies dominated both the small and big screens, his quasi-romantic comedy Three Men and a Baby grossing a whopping $167,780,960 at the US Box Office.

The latter half of the month would see Nimoy usurped by Richard Donner’s blistering buddy cop movie Lethal Weapon, an action-packed extravaganza that would confirm Mel Gibson as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The film would go on to forge a much loved series thanks to some wonderfully endearing onscreen chemistry with co-star Danny Glover. The movie would also introduce screenwriter Shane Black, whose witty dialogue and keen eye for characterisation would help establish one of the action genre’s greatest onscreen pairings.

Lethal Weapon

Alan Parker’s infamous psychological horror Angel Heart would spend three weeks at number 2 in the rental charts. The original cut was given an X rating by the MPAA due to an explicit sex scene involving actors Mickey Rourke and Lisa Bonet, but the film was later reclassified following a majority vote and released with an R rating. Robert De Niro would also star.

Disney’s re-release of Lady and the Tramp would spend November fluctuating among the top 5 rentals, as would Michael Gottlieb’s absurd romantic comedy Mannequin, in which Kim Cattrall’s doll-turned-woman, Emmy, would fall head-0ver-heels with unemployed artist, Jonathan (Andrew McCarthy). Nicolas Cage would also make a fleeting appearance starring alongside the superb Holly Hunter in Joel and Ethan Coen’s wonderful oddball comedy Raising Arizona.

Video Rental Charts Week Ending November 7

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
1 Star Trek IV Paramount Home Video 1986 PG
2 Angel Heart IVE 1987 NR
3 Mannequin Media Home Entertainment 1987 PG
4 Blind Date RCA/Colombia 1987 PG-13
5 Lady & the Tramp Walt Disney Home Video 1955 G

Video Rental Charts Week Ending November 14

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
1 Star Trek IV Paramount Home Video 1986 PG
2 Angel Heart IVE 1987 NR
3 Lady & the Tramp Walt Disney Home Video 1955 G
4 Mannequin  Media Home Entertainment 1987 PG
5 Raising Arizona CBS-Fox 1987 PG-13

Video Rental Charts Week Ending November 21

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
1 Lethal Weapon Warner Home Video 1987 R
2 Angel Heart IVE 1987 NR
3 Star Trek IV Paramount Home Video 1986 PG
4 Lady & the Tramp Walt Disney Home Video 1955 G
5  Mannequin Media Home Entertainment 1987 PG

Video Rental Charts Week Ending November 28

Rank Movie Title  Distributor
1 Lethal Weapon Warner Home Video  1987 R
2  Star Trek IV Paramount Home Video 1986 PG
3 Angel Heart IVE 1987 NR
4 Tin Men Touchstone Home Video 1987 R
5 Lady & the Tramp Walt Disney Home Video 1955 G

Written by Cedric Smarts Editor-in-Chief

Science Fiction Writer, Horror Enthusiast, Scourge of Plutocracy, Creator of

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