“Twins,” which hit theaters in 1988, is generally considered Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first funny movie, but his real comedic breakthrough came with 1987’s “The Running Man.” From start to finish, this over-the-top sci-fi action flick is pretty darned funny even — make that especially — when it’s not trying to be.

“Twins,” which hit theaters in 1988, is generally considered Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first funny movie, but his real comedic breakthrough came with 1987’s “The Running Man.” From start to finish, this over-the-top sci-fi action flick is pretty darned funny even — make that especially — when it’s not trying to be.

Based on a Stephen King story, “The Running Man” is a futuristic game show satire. Political prisoners, such as Arnie’s framed cop, Ben Richards (even that name is somehow funny), are forced to appear on TV’s top-rated program “The Running Man,” where they battle colorfully dressed killers and try to win their freedom. It’s a stacked deck, of course, and no one really escapes — until, that is, Arnie takes his turn.

“The Running Man” isn’t nearly as good as “The Terminator” or “Predator,” but it is packed with all sorts of ridiculous, distinctively 1980s elements: gaudy spandex costumes (that look especially silly on co-star Yaphet Kotto), unbearably cheesy music, poor predictions of future life (high-tech phones ... with cords), and some of Arnie’s most forced post-kill jokes. (My favorite? “Here is Sub Zero. Now Plain Zero.”)

But it’s all held together by the undeniably fun game show concept and the villainous performance from Richard Dawson. Obviously bitter about having to kiss strangers for years on “Family Feud,” he releases all that built-up rage here, and he’s brilliant.

Will Pfeifer writes about new DVDs on Tuesdays and older ones on Fridays. Contact him at wpfeifer@rrstar.com or 815-987-1244. Read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/movieman/. See video reviews at go.rrstar.com.