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The Runaways

TV film, released 1 April 1975
Directed by Harry Harris
Script by John McGreevy from the novel by Victor Canning
Produced by Lorimar, the company mainly remembered for the TV series Dallas.


Johnny Miles Josh Albee
Angela Lakey Dorothy Maguire
Joe Ringer Van Williams
Mr. Collingwood John Randolph

The setting of the book is moved from Longleat and South Wiltshire to California. Johnny Miles, aged about fourteen though claiming to be sixteen, calling himself Johnny Thomas, runs away from a foster home in Los Angeles and hitchhikes to the town of "Oceanside" where he thinks he may find his father. What he finds is that his father has died four years earlier. (We never hear anything of a mother or any other family.)

Meanwhile a leopard, Yarra, has escaped from the "African Adventure Wildlife Park". A farmer takes a shot at Yarra and wounds her. Johnny takes shelter in a barn belonging to the absent Mr. Collingwood, into which Yarra also creeps, and they share a box of Kentucky Fried chicken. Soon Johnny has cleaned up the shotgun wound (shades of Androcles and the Lion—Canning's Smiler would never have done anything so stupid), has tamed Yarra and is leading her around on a string. Johnny gets a job at Angela Lakey's "Karefree Kennels", and makes friends with Joe Ringer, the dogs' meat man, who teaches him line fishing from the shore and takes him on to an army firing range to dig for Indian arrowheads and other relics which can be sold to tourists. Yarra escapes. The Collingwoods return and visit the kennels where their dog has been boarded. Johnny sees Yarra on the army firing range and finds that she now has two cubs. During a training exercise Yarra and one cub are blown up by a shell. Johnny runs dramatically through a hail of gunfire to rescue the other cub. In a final scene all the characters sort out Johnny's future and he tells them how glad he is to have learned self-reliance and trust.

Given the limited budget of a TV movie, it could have been a lot worse, though the relationships with animals are sentimentalised to an extent Victor Canning would never have approved of.