Runaway! begins with a train starting a slow descent down a snowy mountain. On board the train are collection of skiers, gigolos, conductors, and engineers. One couple discusses their upcoming divorce. An athletic father tries to bond with his less-athletic son. A slick con artist tries to convince a depressed young woman not to throw herself from the train. A group of skiers put on an impromptu concert, banging on their suitcases like bongo drums. They get so loud that the conductor doesn’t even hear the engineer desperately trying to contact him. What none of the passengers realize is that the train’s brake engines have frozen and the train is about to start hurtling down the mountain. Unless the chief engineer can figure out a way to stop the train, everyone’s going to die!
Made for television in the year between the release of The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, Runaway! is a low-key but entertaining disaster movie. With a running time of only 70 minutes, Runaway! doesn’t waste any time getting down to business and, even if it is a low-budget movie, there’s no way that an out-of-control train racing down a mountain can’t be exciting.
Compared to the other disaster movies of the era, Runaway! does not exactly have an all-star cast though there are some familiar faces. Vera Miles and Ed Nelson are the divorcing couple while Martin Milner is the father who puts too much pressure on his son. Ben Murphy is the gigolo who refuses to pay for a ticket on general principle while Darleen Carr is the woman who wants to jump to her death. Most of them are just there as placeholders. It’s obvious from the start that the real stars of the film are going to be the train and the mountain. However, the famously gruff character actor Ben Johnson manages to make an impression just by being Ben Johnson. Johnson plays the chief engineer and, as long as he’s manning the engine, you know that the train’s passengers are in good hands.
Runaway! has never been released on DVD or even VHS but it is currently available on YouTube.