Michael Crichton’s ‘Runaway’ Pits Tom Selleck Against Acid-Spewing Robots [Watch]


Welcome to The Overlooked Motel, a place where under-seen and unappreciated films are given their moment in the spotlight. I hope you enjoy your stay here and find the accommodations to be suitable. Now, please take a seat and make yourself comfortable. I have some misbehaving guests to ‘correct.’  

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Thomas Magnum was one of my earliest celebrity crushes. The dashing private investigator was forever losing his shirt and sporting a smart mustache while helping to fight crime. Based on that early adolescent fixation, I have something of a soft spot for vintage Tom Selleck films. I previously showcased Daughters of Satan here on The Overlooked Motel and am quite pleased to be championing another one of Selleck’s early career efforts today. I’m speaking of Michael Crichton’s campy sci-fi thriller, Runaway. This 1984 feature is a suspenseful offering that features surprisingly prescient depictions of future technology, a villainous turn from Kiss co-vocalist Gene Simmons, and acid-spewing spider robots!

Runaway is set in the future and follows Officer Ramsay (Tom Selleck) and his new partner, Officer Thompson (Cynthia Rhodes). The duo is assigned to a segment of the force exclusively dedicated to the capture and containment of wayward robots. When a large number of androids begin going haywire, Thompson and Ramsay begin to suspect Dr. Charles Luther (Gene Simmons) is behind the robotic uprising. What follows is an unmissable epic showdown.

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Before I tell you everything I love about the film, allow me to admit that it’s a bit silly and often over-the-top. So, keep in mind that you’ll need to suspend disbelief and look past the sometimes cheesy nature of the proceedings. Despite being a bit campy at times, the film manages to be plenty entertaining. The action sequences are impressive and the pacing is intense from the get-go. In short, the flick is cheesy, fun, and sure to entertain. 

Runaway steadily builds a mounting level of intensity early on, with each sequence outdoing the previous. That trend continues until an unforgettable denouement. While it’s accurate to say that Tom Selleck battles Gene Simmons and his army of acid-spewing spider robots, I’m not convinced that does the epic finale justice. So, rather than give you the play-by-play, I’ll simply leave it there and let you experience the unforgettable third act for yourself. 

Aside from an epic conclusion, the film is also noteworthy for featuring a solid core cast. Ramsay is an effective leading man with a compelling character arc. He’s been rocked by tragedy. His late wife was killed in a car accident, which left him with cold feet. It’s not the most original setup but it works. Watching him open his heart after a tragic loss paints him in an endearing light. He also has a debilitating fear of heights that comes into play. Again, not terribly original. But it serves to give Ramsay an extra measure of depth and works to build tension as he’s given no choice but to face his phobia or die trying. 

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Cynthia Rhodes is also well cast as Thompson. She’s an enjoyable screen presence with a quirky personality. She references a massive number of careers she tried before eventually getting into police work and that makes for a couple of comical exchanges. Moreover, she’s tough but empathetic, making her a dynamic costar. 

Additionally, Gene Simmons is great as Dr. Luther. He’s cold, calculated, and dare I say, robotic. Which, I guess is fitting, since he’s the sinister overlord of the malevolent robots. I don’t think Simmons has the most dynamic range as an actor. But this role fits well within his comfort zone and he seems to be having a great time with it. 

Like a lot of Michael Crichton’s output, the film proves to be surprisingly prescient. In fact, Runaway foretells of drone cameras, virtual assistants, and self-driving cars. Most of the futuristic predictions look a little different than they do in 2024. But the very idea that Crichton foresaw all of that is nonetheless impressive. 

If you’re in the mood for a campy good time with rip-roaring action sequences, look no further than Runaway. The core cast is solid, the proceedings are always intense, and there are spider robots that shoot acid. So, what are you waiting for? If you’re chomping at the bit to check out this under-seen science fiction thriller, fear not. As of the publication of this post, Runaway is streaming for free (with ads) on Tubi! 

That’s all for this installment of The Overlooked Motel. If you’d like to chat more about under-seen and underrated films, feel free to hit me up with your thoughts on TwitterThreads, or Instagram



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