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Runaway Daughters (1994) DVD Review

Runaway Daughters (1994) Echo Bridge Home Entertainment DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Runaway Daughters
Movie & DVD Details

Original Airdate: August 12, 1994 / Running Time: 83 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Songs List

Director: Joe Dante / Writers: Charlie Haas (story & teleplay), Lou Rusoff (story)

Cast: Julie Bowen (Angie Gordon), Holly Fields (Mary Nicholson), Jenny Lewis (Laura Cahn), Paul Rudd (Jimmy Rusoff), Chris Young (Bob Randolph), Dick Miller (Roy Farrell), Dee Wallace Stone (Mrs. Gordon), Christopher Stone (Mr. Gordon), Robert Picardo (Mr. Cahn), Wendy Schaal (Mrs. Cahn), Joe Flaherty (Mr. Nicholson), Belinda Balaski (Mrs. Nicholson), Roger Corman (Mr. Randolph), Julie Corman (Mrs. Randolph), Courtney Gains (Deputy 1), Leo Rossi (Deputy 2), Dabbs Greer (Gary), Fabian (Mr. Rusoff), John Astin (Minute Man 1), Robert Fieldsteel (Minute Man 2), Rance Howard (Minute Man 3), Bobby Zameroski (Eugene), Josh Schaefer (Rudy), The Real Don Steele (voice of XRAY DJ), Archie Hahn (Cop), Mark L. Taylor (Recruiting Officer), Cathy Moriarty (Marie - uncredited)

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Aspect Ratio) / Dolby Surround (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: January 10, 2012 / Suggested Retail Price: $6.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Keepcase
Previously released on DVD by Buena Vista Home Entertainment (April 5, 2005)

Buy Runaway Daughters from Amazon.com: New Echo Bridge DVD • Out-of-Print Buena Vista DVD

In the 1980s, it seemed as though Joe Dante had arrived as a director. After helming two of B-movie king Roger Corman's more famous productions, Piranha and Rock 'n' Roll High School, Dante went his own way and was soon collaborating with Steven Spielberg. He took the segment after Spielberg on Twilight Zone: The Movie and then directed the hit Amblin Entertainment horror comedy Gremlins.
Born just three weeks apart in late 1946, the two filmmakers shared a penchant for suburban family sci-fi fantasy adventures and if Dante wasn't working under Spielberg, like directing two episodes of the mid-'80s anthology TV series "Amazing Stories", then he was channeling him in now fondly recalled but far from blockbuster diversions such as Explorers, Innerspace, and The 'Burbs.

Dante returned to his most iconic and successful universe with 1990's Gremlins 2: The New Batch, but after it underperformed, film offers seemed to dry up for him. Dante then turned to television, aptly serving as creative consultant and directing five episodes of "Eerie, Indiana." That highly-regarded show was cancelled after one season, and following another box office flop, the period ensemble comedy Matinee, Dante would spend the next several years directing TV movies.

The first of these was for Rebel Highway, a series of ten films inspired by 1950s B-movies which aired on Showtime in the summer of 1994. Chances are you neither remember nor know of this project, but it did provide some of the earliest film appearances of a number of actors who today are household names, including Salma Hayek, Renιe Zellweger, Adrien Brody, Carla Gugino, Alicia Silverstone, David Arquette, Matt LeBlanc, and Anne Heche. The director pool consisted of accomplished filmmakers (William Friedkin, John Milius, Ralph Bakshi) and promising up-and-comers (most notably, Robert Rodriguez). Each took the title of a forgotten American International Pictures release from the days of drive-ins, getting a $1.3 million budget and a 12-day shooting schedule to either remake them or invent something new befitting the title.

Three runaway teenagers (Laura Cahn, Julie Bowen, and Holly Fields) trade in their hot stolen car for a used one. Two minute men (Rance Howard and John Astin) take the girls for Soviet spies, while the latter's wife (Cathy Moriarty) is less convinced.

Dante's contribution was Runaway Daughters, a loose remake of a tremendously obscure 1956 film that featured a young Frank Gorshin in a supporting role. Dante's version is set in small-town America in 1957, in the immediate wake of the launch of Sputnik. At the height of Cold War paranoia, the Soviet Union space satellite is being discussed by parents and teenagers alike. It is a topic of discussion which gets two chaste teenagers into trouble, when it leads the way to treeside sexual experimentation that leaves the girl, Mary (Holly Fields), an unusual two weeks late for her period. Her boyfriend Bob (Chris Young) takes the news calmly, but then runs off to San Diego to enlist for a three-year tour in the Army.

Mary and her two best friends, rebellious rich girl Angie (Julie Bowen of "Modern Family") and mousy Laura (Laura Cahn), aren't about to take that blow sitting down. They hatch a plan to drive out to San Diego, so that they can prevent Bob from enlisting. Knowing that they won't be able to do that with their parents' blessing and knowledge, the three girls sneak out in the middle of the night and frame their disappearance as a kidnapping. That gets the attentions of their square parents (played by Dante alums Joe Flaherty, Robert Picardo, Belinda Balaski, Dee Wallace, and, in his penultimate film, Christopher Stone), police officers, and one savvy private investigator (Dante favorite Dick Miller in a scene-stealing role).

The girls struggle their way into crime with their awkward very first car theft. They then run into a suspicious sheriff (Courtney Gains), a pack of Communist haters (John Astin, Rance Howard, and Robert Fieldsteel, with an uncredited Cathy Moriarty as Astin's more sympathetic wife), and some hunters, all of whom put them in danger.

Paul Rudd makes one of his first movie appearances as the Brando/James Dean/Fonzie-inspired bad boy Jimmy Rusoff. The husband and wife team of Roger and Julie Corman display their approval of Joe Dante's low-budget filmmaking with this cameo appearance as the Randolphs.

The focal point of the DVD's cover art, both in the movie's 2005 home video debut from Buena Vista Home Entertainment and in next week's reissue from Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, the new distributor of lesser Miramax titles, is Paul Rudd, who plays the medium-sized but memorable role of Jimmy Rusoff, Angie's boyfriend from the other side of the tracks.
A rebel in the vein of James Dean, Marlon Brando and the Fonz, Jimmy has a talking action figure's vocabulary, saying two things again and again: "I don't know" and "Don't crowd me." It is a charismatic but clumsy turn by one of today's most trusted actors in comedy cinema, who the slow closing scroll here bills -- in the tradition of young '90s actors -- as "Paul Stephen Rudd."

Less prominently marketed but perhaps more significantly cast are Roger Corman and his wife Julie as the proud, aloof parents of the gangly runaway would-be father. I suspected Corman's cameo meant that at least he, if not his wife, produced this movie or possibly the original, but he did not. Still, Corman's imprint is all over this movie, from the common cast members like Miller and Howard to the nod to the original movie to the tone, turns, and types of eccentric characters. Dante doesn't let Corman's signature camp pervade this feature, but the whole thing is still executed, like Grease, with tongue partly in cheek.

Recognizing the confines and intentions of the Rebel Highway project are integral to softening the disdain you might otherwise hold for this silly little movie. In light of those limitations, though, Dante's modest accomplishments here are almost impressive. It looks like a low-budget '90s production, but it certainly has the feel of a '50s B-movie and not in any snarky or condescending way. So, sure, it's a little stupid and corny, but that's neither entirely unintended nor an insurmountable obstacle to your enjoyment.

Dante/Corman fixture Dick Miller gets one of his juiciest film roles in private eye Roy Farrell. Joe Flaherty and Belinda Balaski play two of the out-of-touch parents concerned by their teenage daughters' disappearance.


As usual, Echo Bridge's case says nothing regarding aspect ratio, but Runaway Daughters is presented in 1.33:1 "full screen" on this DVD, as you suspect it should be. Picture quality, unsurprisingly, isn't all that great. The video is quite soft and faded throughout, not from any obvious stylistic choice but more likely from being a nearly 20-year-old TV movie whose obscurity has stood in the way of appropriate remastering. The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack is passable, with dialogue remaining easily heard and understood but greatly lacking the crispness we nowadays take for granted.
In what is sure to disappoint foreign and hearing impaired viewers, Echo Bridge upholds its unfortunate standard practice of foregoing both closed captioning and subtitles. Adding insult to injury, the movie's original DVD had English closed captions and French and Spanish subtitles. It seems like a shame for those transcription and translation efforts to go to waste with subtitle downloading and implementation as prevalent as they are these days.


To nobody's surprise, Runaway Daughters is joined by no bonus features. Buena Vista's disc, which carried the Dimension Home Video brand foremost, probably held nothing more than auto-played trailers for other properties, if even that.

If I was authoring the disc, I'd have seen if original ads couldn't be dug up for this and the fellow Rebel Highway productions. It seems like an unbelievable missed opportunity for the studio not to convey this as part of a series of kindred productions. Echo Bridge has inherited at least three of these titles with their acquisition of Miramax's B-library. Jailbreakers, Motorcycle Gang, Reform School Girl, and Dragstrip Girl somehow went with the A-list to Lionsgate, who released them yesterday the overpriced, manufactured-on-demand DVD-R route. Robert Rodriguez's entry, Roadrunners, is apparently scheduled to make its long-awaited Region 1 DVD debut in March, to nobody's awareness or excitement. The other three are still out of print, their next distributor not yet known. Echo Bridge could clearly get more out of their investment just by knowing what they have and making sure it reaches the audience that would care. Presumably, there just isn't anything in the budget for that with these discs churned out in great number and at rock-bottom prices (typically a $6.99 SRP).

The two menu screens simply recycle the packaging artwork and are clearly squeezed from 16:9 to 4:3 to match the feature presentation. That is infinitely more preferred to the other way around.

For Bob (Chris Young) and Mary (Holly Fields), talking Sputnik under a tree produces the pregnancy scare that fuels "Runaway Daughters." With a phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other, young Paul Stephen Rudd coolly masters the use of props.


Runaway Daughters is an interesting curiosity that should be seen by fans of Joe Dante, Roger Corman, Paul Rudd, and Julie Bowen. It's obviously not a great or even good movie, but it is nonetheless fascinating as both a '50s B-movie throwback and a creatively challenging exercise in '90s TV filmmaking. I can't recommend it on entertainment value alone, but I don't regret seeing it and I'm even encouraged to discover other Rebel Highway movies.

Echo Bridge shows little regard for this production, treating it to a barebones presentation comparable to the typical TV movie VHS (which this never received in the US) and I'm sure the original Buena Vista DVD. The price is low enough and the movie obscure enough to forego complaint and just take what you get, which is much more reasonably priced than Lionsgate's DVD-Rs. Maybe Echo Bridge's belief in value bundling will one day yield a set collecting all their Rebel Highway films, probably on a single disc and with a $9.99 list price. Until then, since the prospects of Blu-rays seem remote, this will have to do for those interested.

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Related Movies -- The Rebel Highway Series:

Roadracers Confessions of Sorority Girls Motorcycle Gang Runaway Daughters Girls in Prison
1. Roadracers
Aired 7/7/94
DVD Coming Soon
Echo Bridge
2. Confessions of Sorority Girls
Aired 7/29/94
DVD Out of Print
Buena Vista
3. Motorcycle Gang
Aired 8/5/94
DVD-R Available
4. Runaway Daughters
Aired 8/12/94
DVD Available
Echo Bridge
5. Girls in Prison
Aired 8/19/94
DVD Available
Echo Bridge
Shake, Rattle & Rock! Dragstrip Girl Jailbreakers Cool and the Crazy Reform School Girl
6. Shake, Rattle & Rock!
Aired 8/26/94
DVD Out of Print
Buena Vista
7. Dragstrip Girl
Aired 9/2/94
DVD-R Available
8. Jailbreakers
Aired 9/9/94
DVD-R Available
9. Cool and the Crazy
Aired 9/16/94
DVD Out of Print
Buena Vista
10. Reform School Girl
Aired 9/23/94
DVD-R Available

Related Reviews:
Julie Bowen: Modern Family: The Complete First Season • Horrible Bosses • Jumping the Broom
Paul Rudd: Our Idiot Brother • I Love You, Man • Dinner for Schmucks • How Do You Know • Knocked Up • Over Her Dead Body
Dick Miller: The Little Shop of Horrors • The Terminator | Dee Wallace & Christopher Stone: Cujo
1950s: Happy Days: The Third Season • Kiss Me Deadly • Planet 51 • The Tree of Life | Written by Charlie Haas: Tex
New: Wide Awake • Shark Night • I Don't Know How She Does It • Moneyball • The Guard • Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Runaway Daughters Songs List: Eddie Cochran - "C'mon Everybody", Ricky Nelson - "Stood Up", Fats Domino - "Little Mary", Ricky Nelson - "Be Bop Baby", Glo and Flo - "Let the Good Times Roll", "South Sea Island Lullaby", The Robins - "Since I First Met You", Rudy West & The Keys - "Express Yourself Back Home", The Scarletts - "Stampede", Rich Ruttenberg - "Drive-In Rhapsody", The Neville Brothers - "Let the Good Times Roll"

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Reviewed January 7, 2012.

Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1994 Miramax, Dimension Films, Spelling Films International, Drive-In Classics, and 2012 Echo Bridge Home Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.