A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
This may be a strange thing to say about a story of passion between a priest and a nun, but Stanley Kramer's "The Runner Stumbles" is almost endearingly old-fashioned. It's been a longtime since I've seen a man and a woman at arm's length, struggling against the flames of temptation that threaten to consume them, while tempestuous music whirls on the sound track. These days, a love scene is much more likely to involve Woody Allen discussing Mariel Hemingway's homework.
But "The Runner Stumbles" involves big questions of ethics and morality, and so, of course, its romance must be larger than life, must be reflected in the seasons and the tides of man and all that, and maybe one of the movie's problems is that Important Love Stories aren't fashionable right now; while the characters struggle against the tides of passion, we struggle against the giggles.
And yet this is a movie with interesting performances in it. Dick Van Dyke stars in a rare dramatic appearance as a priest who's banished to a backward parish. When the two ancient nuns in the parish contract tuberculosis, a spritely young sister (Kathleen Quinlan) is dispatched to run the little country school. And since sharing the quarters of the other nuns would expose her to TB, Quinlan must, of course, move into the priest's rectory. This turns out to be a big mistake.
The love affair between Van Dyke and Quinlan is developed pretty obviously: They're isolated, they're thrown into each other's company, slight friendly gestures and a shared sensibility grow into affection, and then there's trouble.