Robbie (Jon Whitley) is six years old. He has run away from the home of his adopted parents having tried to burn the house down. Robbie has been severely abused and having had enough, set fire to the curtains. He ends up running into an abandoned cellar and into Chris Lloyd (Dirk Bogarde). Chris has just killed a man and is quite paranoid. Running from the cellar Chris grabs Robbie and takes him with him, not knowing how much the boy has seen of his deed. When he eventually tries to send the boy home he is met with defiance. Telling Chris what he did he states that he is not going back. Robbie knows that burning down the house will get him into serious trouble with his adopted father. Chris realizes that the boy is in just as much trouble as he is.
Needing money he decides to send Robbie into his apartment to get some money he had stashed in his dresser knowing that the cops are watching his home but will think nothing of a small boy wandering around. While Robbie is in the apartment the police come by looking for Chris. Fearing that the police will catch him and send him home, Robbie beats it out of there without the cash.
Later that night Chris sneaks into the apartment to get the money. Chris’ wife Magda (Elizabeth Sellars) is asleep. Before Chris leaves he confronts her. The man Chris killed was Magda’s boss. Chris, a sailor, was away from home often. An affair between Magda and her boss was discovered by Chris. The confrontation between Chris and Magda’s boss resulted in one man dead and one man now on the run.
Realizing that Robbie too has nowhere to go he allows the boy to go with him. Eventually the police find out that Robbie is traveling with Chris. The police aren’t sure why Chris continues to keep the boy with him unless he is using him as a hostage. When they spend the night at one boarding house the owner, Mrs. Campbell (Jane Aird), gives Robbie a bath while Chris is out. Seeing the scars and bruises on his back she believes that Chris may have inflicted them.
The next day the morning paper’s headlines are of Chris and Robbie. Chris tries to run and leave Robbie behind but the boy runs after him. Robbie puts himself in danger trying to catch up with Chris. When Chris sees the boy’s determination he fears for the child’s life. He promises not to leave him again. Throughout their journey north Chris and Robbie have developed a deep bond. A bond that is eventually put to the ultimate test.
“Hunted” AKA “The Stranger In Between” was released in 1952 and was directed by Charles Crichton. It is classified as a crime drama but it’s more of a melodrama. The movie was awesome. There are a lot of little moments during the film that reflect the pair’s fears frustration and tender moments with each other. Bogarde’s character goes from evil murderer to caring parent through the course of the film. Jon’s character also blooms from a brat to a loving child. Both are victims of circumstance that, somehow, found each other and found in each other what they were missing most in life. No wonder Bogarde thought this was one of his best roles. The film is intense. The plot of the story unfolds as the characters develop. By the time it’s done you are fully involved in their relationship and are rooting for them all the way. The movie may not be an actual mystery film but it’s damn good nonetheless.
Jon Whiteley, who played the boy Robbie, was amazing. The rapport between him and Bogarde’s character Chris Lloyd was done exceptionally well. Whiteley was cast after a friend of director Crichton heard him reciting "The Owl and the Pussycat" on the radio on a program called “The Children's Hour” and recommended him. Crichton called him in for a screen test.
Dirk Bogarde’s actual name was Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde. He wrote seven autobiographies. He was officially knighted by the Queen on February 13, 1992.