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  An Olympic Fable: Run For Life
1983 | Harmony Gold Ltd.
An Olympic Fable: Run For Life Children's Video Library

"A spectacular animated drama of young athletes in the olympic tradition!"

Or, a plodding, excitement-free melodrama about a shepherd who runs for one night to save a sculptor. No medals won in this video.

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Animated by Toei Hashire Melos! (Run Melos!) was broadcast on Fuji TV on Feb 7th 1981. The 68 minute TV special was based on a well loved short story, considered a classic of Japanese literature. Character designs from the man behind Captain Future, Toshio Mori and directed by Toei regular Tomoharu Katsumata whose diverse works include various TV shows like Mazinger Z and Gaiking as well as theatrical features including The Little Mermaid, Ringo Goes West and Future War 198X.

The story was written by troubled author Osamu Dazai in 1940. The tale of friendship and loyalty in Syracuse ancient Greece was inspired by Die Bürgschaft (The Hostage) a ballad dating back to 1798.

Melos is a simple shepherd living a peaceful life in the hills. His only wish in life is to see his sister marry her true love. A loyal former soldier Melos is outraged to hear that the King he fought alongside has become paranoid and trecherous, murdering anyone he suspects of trechary, even his own family. Driven by his feelings of anger and betrayal he decides to put an end to to the kings rein at attempts an assassination. He is caught and sentanced to death.

However the King agrees to allow Melos a final 3 days of freedom to attend his sisters wedding but only on the condition that someone be executed in his place if he fails to return. Adamantus, the childhood friend of Melos volunteers.

After the ceremony is over Melos struggles through many misadventures to return within the deadline to save the life of his friend. The pair's act of selflessness inspires the misguided King to change his ways.

The tale had been adapted previously during the 1950s as a TV drama but this would be the first animated outing. Toei returned to the story for a more expansive cinema remake in 1992.

Harmony Gold were behind Hashire Melos' English language adaptation retitled Run for Life. The usual vocal cast of Dan Woren, Melanie MacQueen, Tony Oliver and several other familiar voices fill the roles of Melos (renamed Philios - still refered to by his original name on the sleeve), Eleanor, Adamantus etc with a new musical score and pop theme by a band known as Sound Connection.

Released in 1983 to TV stations around America it was picked up for video distribution by Vestron's children's entertainment arm; Childrens Video Library a year later. With 1984 being an Olympic year (hosted in the USA, no less) and the ancient Greek connection of the story, the name was extended to An Olympic Fable: Run for Life for the sleeve only .

Ironically, the story from which Run for Life was initially adapted didn't receive its own English translation until 1988, some five years after the video release.

While Run for Life was not made available in English outside of the USA various countries around the world saw local dubs of the movie. Shown in Italy as La Grande Maratona.



Hashire Melos Book Hashire Melos! Single Hashire Melos! 1992
The novel
A vinyl single of the theme song
Movie poster for the remake

"In ancient times, the tribes of people who lived near the mediteranian sea formed themselves into neighboring kingdoms. Syracuse was one such place. Each Kingdom had it's own ruler, it's own laws and often it's own language"

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

With an opening like that you know this is gonna be no fun and, I'll level with you, this one is really dull. Even clocking in at barely over an hour, watching this is a thankless task. I'd be really interested to hear of anyone who encounter this video as a child especially if you managed to stick with it to the end. I doubt it ever happened.

Simple mountain shepherd Philios ("... a young man whose very name meant... f r i e n d." Lisa Hayes narrating retells with patronising emphasis) longs for the day his sister Eleanor and his friend Sarantus will be married. Refering to newly picked grapes he remarks "They're beautiful and ripe just as your love will be at the wedding." Even the animated couple look uneasy at this corny dialog.

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

The following scene opens with a snail-like slow zoom of the distant town, which takes up a full one minute of running time, bringing this hardly breakneck pace to a sleep inducing crawl. With such tedium this early on, it's gonna seem like a long slog to the credits some 63 minutes away. Maybe that was the creators intention, so the audience could feel a part of Philios' arduous trial because, if it was, it worked!

Philios spends a long time wandering around town. Passing a begging fortune teller he is told of a terrible event that shall befall him this week, but the shepherd brushes it off. On his way to the statue in the town square he encounters an old man and a child playing music in the street. He tosses a few coins to their anachronistic Dalmatian puppy unaware of the trouble he'll soon be facing thanks to this very mutt.

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

When he does reach the statue of the Godess of Love, Philios finds it on the ground, smashed into pieces. The statue was crafted by his old friend Adamantus and a young student of his reveals that the creator has become depressed due to this state approved vandalism. Philios resolves to visit his old war buddy later that day to cheer him up. No good ever comes of visiting an old war buddy, but maybe this story will turn out different to Death Wish 3, First Blood, most 80's action films and any number of of fine productions from the Cannon stable.

After a brief shopping trip Philios has what will turn out to be a fateful brush with the musical duo from the square. After a stilted opening which clunked along as follows:

Philios: "Oh. Hello."
Old Man: "Yes. Hello."
Philios: "Hi... er..."
Old Man: "Are you from the town?"
Philios: "No, I, I'm from the village."

... it is soon apparent that he has started a conversion with an angry war vet. The cranky old timer getting into an angry rant railing against their once great King and how he has recently turned to unquestioning loyal-subject-murder. The wonderful ruler that the two of them once battled alongside has become paranoid and extremely dangerous. Oh, and look, here he comes now.

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

The King is passing in a royal parade only to be interupted by the little girl's yapping puppy. Seems like the only rational thing to do in face of such a minor irritation is to beat the frail old grandad and sentance an innocent man to death.

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

Facing the ancient Town PD, head sergeant played by Dessler from Space Battleship Yamato, Philios is fitted up for the attempted assassination of the King based on items found in his bag which he had bought at the market that day. Philios names his sculptor buddy Adamantus as a character reference and the PD send a horse-drawn black-and-white over to his hillside apartment to bring him in.

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

Philios and Adamantus are brought up in front of the King (here played by Eric Bana in an early role). This turns out to be one of the longest and dullest scenes in the entire movie. To sum up: the King has lost his mind, Philios is sentanced to death but is allowed 3 days leave to go attend his sister's wedding on the condition that Adamantus stay behind and be executed in his place if the man is a no-show. There, you really don't need 8 tedious minutes of heavy, histrionic dialog for that.

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

To wake up the audience we are treated to a good, old fashioned Rocky-style pop-rock interlude. Philios runs home powered only by an inspired rock ballad from a Survivor-light session band. #"You gotta run tonight! You gotta make it home! You gotta run for life! Before it's too la-a-a-ate!!"

Finishing his morning run, Philios encourages his happy sister into a quickee wedding. It goes ahead that evening (which is fast even by Vegas standards) and everyone has a great time. We are even treated to several mystifying boobie closeups. Eventually morning comes and it is time for Philios to make the return run to the King's palace or his old friend will end up taking his fall.

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

His first trial comes early on, and it's a little like an animated remake of Frogger. The bridge has been washed out so how will Philios reach the other side? Jumping on logs while avoiding alligators is out of the question since the water is flowing far too quickly. The only way across is to swim for it. Philios pauses to pray to the Mighty Apollo (I'm not sure what good a fictional boxer can do) and then he dives in relying on the power of his love for Adamantus to keep him from drowning. Nature Vs. unrequited homo-erotic-devotion... man-love wins! Success!

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

Trial two. Under the burning hot sun Philios runs into a bandit ambush. Looks like we might finally get some action and if we do, maybe they'll even throw in some sort of Olympic content as well. The brutish gang leap on and grapple with our hero but he manages to beat off some burly men with his wood (a large stick he discovered on the ground - what else were you thinking). Inevitably, Philios is tossed off over the edge of the steep rocky cliff. He tumbles to the hard granite floor a hundred feet below where he lays, exhausted and battered from his surprise wrestle while the unrelenting sun burns down from the sky.

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

Following his encounter with these big, strong men "... his body is so sore he could barely move." The blue tunic-ed sprinter is reduced to hobbling through the barren, parched landscape using a makeshift crutch to help him stand. But will these terrible events defeat his spirit? Will this unmarried friend of the sheep give up on his life companion? Will he simply take the easy route and let some guy he hadn't seen in many years be executed in his place? After all, they don't yet have Facebook or Twitter so who would ever find out?

The struggle becomes too much for Philios' body to take and, with the Gods snubbing him, he collapses and spends the next few minutes wallowing in pity, whining on like an angsty teenager. "I'll just lie here 'till I die! I'll just lie here 'till I die! I'm no better than the dirt beneath my feet! I'll lie here to die in the sun!" Just write it in a terrible poem and move on.

Meanwhile, in a jail cell, King Eric is gloating in Adamantus' face assuring the sculptor that his friend is not coming, he's partying it up with his friends and his cattle. Adamantus won't believe a word of it, his pal is coming for him.

Finally, with the sun dipping in the west and a swig of stream water inside him, Philios is ready to try again. Unfortunately his little rest/sulk has cost him a lot of time. The former athlete takes up the race once more, fueled by funky 70's orchestration and a irritatingly melodramatic internal monologue.

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

The King paces around a giant sun dial that a pre-history Flava Flav would be extremely envious of. Growing impatient for some cloe up death he orders Adamantus be sent to Raven Hill for execution.

After yet more running and torturous thoughts Philios reaches Raven Hill and pushes his way through the crowd to cry at the feet of his soon to be crucified chum.

King Eric sees his dedication and allows the false prisoner to be set free. The two friends, filled with shame and other pent up emotions, take it in turns to hit each other before falling into each other's arms in floods of tears. Jeez, get a room, there's a whole crowd of people watching.

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

This display of unrestrained emotion and unabashed man-love gives even the stone hearted King a certain twitching, and he wants to join too. It's not long before an emotional, tearstained BFF three-way is formed.

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

The crowd cheer, just like the subway commuters at the end of Crocodile Dundee, they love a true romance. Even Nosey, the puppy that caused all this personal turmoil and near execution of innocents gets in on the action. They all laugh as the dumb animal that nearly cost them their lives, and almost certainly has caused Philios some near permanent sandal blisters, leaps around yapping and generally being a nuisance.

The dog runs back to his owner and - would you guess what? - the old man is there too, alive and well! What a happy ending! The whole crowd laugh at the animal's crazy antics, after all no actually died! The run probably did him good.

Hashire Melos! Run For Life An Olympic Fable: Run For Life

The narrator reads out some last sappy drivel about "the gift of love" and we are finally free of this terrible video!

Missing videos Missing videos

You've got to run for life!!!
You've got to make it home!!! Rocky-style pop crap montage.

The Explosive Finale!
Two men punch each other and cry. The King likes it, and offers to join in.

Barely more than an hour
  Funky montage theme
Yak, yak, yak, blah, blah - nonstop
  Over-the-top script
  Dull, dull, dull, so very dull
  Naff animation
  Uneven quality

Slow, plodding, dull and horribly animated. This overly talking and melodramatic tale is completely devoid of any action or excitement, instead we are treated to two poorly animated characters spouting their inner turmoil through endless monologues and heavy handed dialog.

Still the Harmony Gold regulars attack their crappy lines as if they were gunning for a Best Actor Oscar, gushing lines of unbeliveable garbage with ernest delivery. Imagine a daytime soap opera set in ancient Greece and you've got an accurate image of this dross without the pain of having to watch it.

Which market were they hoping to corner when they licensed this? Avoid!