|Dirk Bogarde & Jon Whiteley|
This is a rather simple, but surprisingly touching story of a young boy Robbie (John Whiteley) who runs away from home, fearing his adoptive parents, and goes on the run with an escaping killer, Chris Lloyd (played by Dirk Bogarde). The film follows their hopeless attempts to get away. As time passes, the bond between the two runaways develops. At first we view Chris as having kidnapped Robbie, then – as we learn more about the boy’s life – we understand why he stays with Chris, who shows him more genuine affection than his parents. This tenderness takes ‘Hunted’ beyond the realms of a simple crime thriller, into the territory of a genuinely provocative and thoughtful film. As the film progresses the audience begins to see the runaways as two outsiders, thrown together by circumstances, with the whole world against them: if apprehended Chris faces prison (and maybe the gallows?) whilst Robbie faces a return to a violent home.
It’s a morally complex story: should the viewer hate Chris for kidnapping the child or should we hate Robbie’s violent father? Is Chris actually a murderer, or was his crime an accidental crime of passion?
That these questions go unanswered, gives the film a depth that is often missing from British crime dramas of the period. Indeed, the ambiguities in the relationships (between Chris and Robbie; between Robbie and his adoptive parents; and between Chris and his unfaithful wife), combined with the bleakness of the scenes of Scottish wilderness in the film’s latter stages, and the uncertainty over the circumstances of the murder, the film brings to mind modern Scandinavian dramas.
And that is something worth celebrating.
John Whiteley, who was not yet seven years old when the film was made, had a high profile as a child star.
His appearance in the 1953 film The Little Kidnappers won him the Academy Juvenile Award, a short-lived award known as the Juvenile Oscar, an award given out between 1935 and 1961. Other winners included Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Sal Mineo and Hayley Mills. After retiring from the screen in 1957, Whiteley returned to full time schooling and became an art historian. He is currently (2014) a curator at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
Also appearing are:
|Geoffrey Keen (left) & Sam Kydd (right)|