The Naked Runner

The Naked Runner is a 1967 British espionage film, directed by Sidney J. Furie and starring Frank Sinatra, Peter Vaughan and Edward Fox. It was the last film Sinatra made with Warner Bros., and is largely viewed as being a disastrous end to his association with the studio.

The Naked Runner
Original film poster
Directed bySidney J. Furie
Produced byBrad Dexter
Written byStanley Mann
Francis Clifford (novel)
StarringFrank Sinatra
Peter Vaughan
Derren Nesbitt
Edward Fox
Music byHarry Sukman
CinematographyOtto Heller
Edited byBarrie Vince
Distributed byWarner Bros.-Seven Arts
Release date
  • 19 July 1967 (1967-07-19)
Running time
101 minutes
LanguageEnglish
Box office$1,400,000 (US/ Canada)[1]

Plot

Sam Laker (Sinatra) is a former World War II Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operative who is recruited by his former commanding officer to do a mission whilst he attends a business conference in Leipzig. To ensure his cooperation, his son is kidnapped.

Production

Sinatra was in need of a hit—Marriage on the Rocks and Assault on a Queen having flopped in the two previous years—so he put actor and trusted aide Brad Dexter in charge of finding a suitable vehicle. After negotiations for him to star in Harper fell through, The Naked Runner was chosen instead. Sinatra had been impressed with 1965's The IPCRESS File and recruited its director Sidney J. Furie. Among the film's co-stars were Peter Vaughan, Derren Nesbitt and Edward Fox. Sinatra was paid $1 million. In Copenhagen, Sinatra left to perform at a rally for California's Democratic governor Pat Brown (running against Republican Ronald Reagan). Word then arrived from the States that Sinatra was not going to return to Europe and wanted his outstanding scenes to be filmed at a soundstage in Los Angeles.

Dexter and Furie decided to take the maverick action of finishing the film with a stand-in (James Payne) for Sinatra's remaining scenes, editing in close-ups from earlier shots in postproduction and overdubbing the dialogue. The main problems with the film were a lifeless depiction of spy-games, listless (if at times stylised) execution, heavy-handed plotting and little real characterisation. There are, however, some interesting locations, among them a still-blitzed Leipzig and a rare view inside Centre Point.

Critical reception

Opening to mostly poor reviews on 19 July 1967, The Naked Runner was criticised for its slow pace, camera work and plotting. Variety, however, gave Frank Sinatra fair notice, commenting that "Sinatra, whose personal magnetism and acting ability are unquestioned, is shot down by script. Peter Vaughan overacts part as the British agent." However, the reviews of the film weren't enough to keep away audiences who made the film Sinatra's first hit—albeit a minor one—since the massive success of Von Ryan's Express two years earlier.

Literary sources

The film is based on the 1965 novel by Francis Clifford (a pseudonym of Arthur Leonard Bell Thompson). The title comes from a line in Arthur Symons' In the wood of Finvava—"A naked runner lost in a storm of spears"—that begins the book. Furie's film follows the novel but makes the lead character an American based in London.

References

  1. "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
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