Red Dawn

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Red Dawn
Directed by John Milius
Produced by Sidney Beckerman
Buzz Feitshans
Written by John Milius
Kevin Reynolds
Starring Patrick Swayze
Charlie Sheen
Lea Thompson
Jennifer Grey
C. Thomas Howell
Music by Basil Poledouris
Cinematography Ric Waite
Editing by Thom Noble
Distributed by MGM/UA Entertainment Co.
Release date(s) August 10, 1984
Running time 114 minutes
Country  United States
Language English
Budget $4,200,000
Gross revenue $38,376,497

Red Dawn is a 1984 American war film directed and co-written by John Milius and also written by Kevin Reynolds and starring Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey, and Powers Boothe. Set in an alternate timeline during the mid-1980s, the film is largely a exploration of American fears during the Cold War.

The backdrop of Red Dawn is a fictional invasion of the United States by the Communist Soviet Union and their Central American allies. However the onset of World War III is merely in the background of the plot and not fully elaborated on. The story follows a group of American high school students who resist their foreign occupiers through guerrilla warfare and call themselves the Wolverines, after their local football team, some of whom are members.

Red Dawn was the first movie to be released with a Motion Picture Association of America PG-13 rating.[1] At one time, Red Dawn was considered the most violent film by the Guinness Book of Records and The National Coalition on Television Violence, with a rate of 134 acts of violence per hour, or 2.23 per minute.[2]

Red Dawn has had a lasting impact on popular culture. Operation Red Dawn, the US-led military operation in late 2003 to capture Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, was named after the film, as well as its targets, which were dubbed Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2. The Army Captain who named the mission and led the mission, Captain Geoffrey McMurray, said that "Operation Red Dawn was so fitting because it was a patriotic, pro-American movie." Director John Millius said about the operation's name: "I was deeply flattered and honored. It's nice to have a lasting legacy."[3]


[edit] Plot summary

The prologue of the film explains that Communist ideology has taken root in many nations of the world, especially in South America and Central America, due to falling economic conditions and food shortages. The Soviet Union has experienced its worst wheat harvest in 55 years, and invades the former countries of the Warsaw Pact in Eastern Europe such as Poland where mass rioting has occured. Previously West Germany was forced in disarmament when the Green Party came to power there, and as such left helpless to the Soviet onslaught (the film was made in the decade before the fall of the Berlin Wall.) These events cause global disruption and tensions and NATO and the United Nations are left political non-entities. With the onset of World War III looming, the United States is virtually left standing alone.

The film begins when a normal September morning in the small Colorado town of Calumet is unexpectedly interrupted by the suprise appearance of Cuban and Soviet paratroopers in the empty fields behind the local high school. As the paratroopers begin their attack and begin rounding up the townspeople, a small group of teenagers grab their weapons and supplies and flee to the nearby mountains where they had previously hunted with their fathers. The Arapaho National Forest becomes their base.

When they return to find news on what has happened, they are joined by two girls, Toni and Erica Mason, the granddaughters of an old couple who give the boys sanctuary for a time. Led by Jed Eckert, his brother Matt, and their friends Robert, Danny, Daryl, and Aardvark, who call themselves the Wolverines after their high school mascot,[1] they begin a resistance against the Soviet-allied occupation force.

As the result of escalating guerrilla attacks, the Soviet field commanders now view the Wolverines as a serious threat. Initially the occupiers had tried terror tactics, executing groups of civilians following every Wolverine attack, to intimidate the local population and the Wolverines into halting their attacks. However, this tactic backfired, and civilians lent increasing support to the resistance movement. Following a rise in popular support for the Wolverines, the Soviets decide to stop reprisals against civilians and begin hunting the Wolverines themselves. Spetsnaz commandos are sent into the mountains to eliminate the resistance, but the commandos are ambushed and killed by the Wolverines.

The Wolverines are weakened however, by the attacks and other events, and their morale has eroded as the war of attrition takes its toll on their numbers. Even though the civilians are increasingly resistant to Soviet rule, the occupation forces are pushing the resistance to the breaking point. The remaining Wolverines are ambushed by three Mil Mi-24 helicopter gunships, and they are reduced to four: Jed; Matt; Danny; and Erica. The survivors realize that they cannot outlast the Soviets, and if they keep fighting, they will all die. Determined to save at least some of their number, Jed and Matt stage a suicide attack on the Soviet regional headquarters in order to distract the troops while Danny and Erica escape to "Free American" territory. The ploy works: Jed and Matt are killed, but Danny and Erica are free.

The film's epilogue, narrated by Erica, suggests that the United States successfully repels the invasion some years later; a plaque is displayed with "Partisan Rock" in the background, a rock which throughout the film has been a recurring motif as each dead comrade's name has been inscribed upon it by a member of the Wolverines.

[edit] Backstory

World War III

Conjectural map of the events described in the movie
Date 1982 - 1985?
Location North America, Central America, the British Isles and China
Result Allied victory
Flag of the United States United States

Flag of Canada Canada
Flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom
Flag of the People's Republic of China China

Flag of the Soviet Union Soviet Union

Warsaw Pact nations
Flag of Cuba Cuba
Flag of Nicaragua Nicaragua
Flag of El Salvador El Salvador
Flag of Honduras Honduras
Flag of Mexico Communist Mexico

Much of the progress and politics of the war is left to the viewer's speculation in the film's first half (putting the audience in the position of the characters, who also have no idea what is going on beyond their immediate surroundings), but specific facts are later provided by a downed U.S. Air Force pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Tanner (played by Powers Boothe).

Director/screenwriter John Milius reported that he had obtained the help and input of former Secretary of State and NATO commander General Alexander Haig to create the backstory/scenario,[citation needed] which required an invasion of the U.S. by Communist countries with minimal use of nuclear weapons on both sides.

Although the movie was released in 1984, the story itself takes place in the near future.[clarification needed] The film's backstory involves several alternate history political precedents. The Green Party came to power in West Germany, forcing the removal of U.S. forces from that nation and all nuclear weapons from Europe. The resulting upheaval left NATO as a political nonentity, with only Britain remaining as a U.S. ally. At the same time, Soviet allies Cuba and Nicaragua each expanded their armies to 500,000 men, subsequently overrunning El Salvador and Honduras. A civil war in Mexico resulted in that country falling behind the Communist "Iron Curtain". During this time, the Soviet Union was suffering its worst wheat harvest in 55 years, and food riots were occurring throughout the nations of the Warsaw Pact. Apparently desperate for food to feed its people, the Soviet Union and its allies launched a full scale invasion of the United States.

The Soviets utilize a three-phase attack. In the first phase, they use strategic nuclear strikes to destroy key points of communication including several major U.S. cities (Omaha, Kansas City and Washington, D.C. are specifically cited). Strategic nuclear weapons are also used to destroy ICBM bases in Montana and the Dakotas. In addition, Tanner says that Cuban infiltrators disguised as illegal immigrants aided in confusing U.S. forces by raiding Strategic Air Command bases throughout the Midwest and Texas. Coupled with these nuclear attacks, Soviet transport aircraft containing elite Soviet VDV and Cuban paratroopers slipped through the U.S. radar disguised as commercial airliners.

The second phase has Cuban and Nicaraguan armies (with small contingents of Soviet forces) pouring across the U.S.-Mexico border into the Great Plains of the United States.

The third phase involves a Soviet invasion of Alaska across the Bering Strait from Siberia. They cross into Canada occupying the Yukon, British Columbia, and Western Alberta, and they cut the Alaskan Pipeline, but are decisively stopped at the U.S.-Canadian border by U.S. forces (thus preventing a link-up with Soviet forces occupying the Great Plains).

Elsewhere, Britain remains loyal to its American allies, but suffers heavily for it. China also declares war upon the Soviet Union, but incurs significant losses, Tanner claiming that there were only "600 million screaming Chinamen". When asked "I thought there were a billion screaming Chinamen?", he cryptically replies "There were" and throws his drink in the fire, causing it to flare and suggesting China had suffered massive Soviet nuclear strikes.

The Communist forces manage to occupy and control a large region of the central United States, extending as far west as the Rocky Mountains, north to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and across Kansas to the Mississippi River in the east. Denver is also under siege. Tanner mentions that conditions in Denver are particularly bad, with people living on "rats, sawdust bread, and, sometimes, each other". He says the remaining holdouts most likely won't survive.

Once the lines are stabilized, it quickly becomes a conventional war with both sides ceasing their use of nuclear weapons. Colonel Tanner explains that the Soviets are reluctant to use any more nuclear weapons, as they want to conquer the United States, not destroy it utterly, and the U.S. government is unwilling to use tactical nuclear weapons on or over their own soil against the invading armies. The Soviets work through American collaborators, such as Daryl's father, at the local level to help them maintain order.

[edit] Cast

This marks one of the three films Swayze and Howell did together, the other two The Outsiders with Dalton as well, and Grandview, U.S.A.. Swayze and Grey went on to appear in Dirty Dancing.

[edit] Themes

Red Dawn depicts collaboration, portraying the local mayor as someone who works with the occupational forces. Actor Lane Smith plays the role of the “Vichyste” mayor who tries to appease the occupational authorities. He watches as several of the residents of his town are executed as reprisal hostages and later gives up his own son (who is later executed by the Wolverines as a result) to the KGB.

Director John Milius portrays the private ownership of weapons as a necessary element of anti-Communism. Early in the film, a bumper sticker seen on a truck states a classic gun owner’s creed; “They can have my gun when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.” The shot moves down to a dead hand holding an M1911 Colt pistol as well as shots of the same pistol being pried from the dead person's hand by a Soviet paratrooper. As the protagonists flee the initial invasion of Calumet, they stop at a local sporting goods store owned by one of their fathers. He tells them to gather supplies and gives them several rifles and pistols along with boxes of ammunition (the father and his wife are later executed because of the guns missing from the store’s inventory). In a later scene, Colonel Bella, the Cuban officer, instructs the KGB to go to the local sporting goods store and obtain the paperwork of local citizens who own firearms. The Cuban officer specifically refers to Form 4473, which is the actual BATF form used to record the sale of a firearm by a dealer to a private citizen in the United States. Later in the film the Wolverines make almost exclusive use of captured Soviet arms from their first engagement onwards, for the greater effectiveness of the captured military weapons (such as the AKM, RPK and RPG-7).

[edit] Development

The script for Red Dawn was written by John Milius and Kevin Reynolds (director of The Beast (1988 film), Waterworld and Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves) from a story by Reynolds. The original screenplay, called Ten Soldiers, was more akin to Lord of the Flies, the classic novel (and later a film) about the aggressive nature of man, than to the action film it eventually became. Some of the changes made to Ten Soldiers included a shift in focus from the conflict within the group of teens to the conflict between the teens and their oppressors, and the acceleration of the ages of some of the characters from early teens to high school age and beyond. John Milius was inspired to a degree by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, basing the tactics of the "Wolverines" on those of the mujahideen in fighting the occupying Russian army.[citation needed]

The movie was filmed in and around the town of Las Vegas, New Mexico. Many of the buildings and structures which appeared in the film, including a historic Fred Harvey Company hotel adjacent to the train depot, the Las Vegas train yard, and a building near downtown which was repainted with the name of “Calumet, Colorado” where the movie was set, are still there today as they appeared in the film. An old Safeway grocery store was also converted to a sound stage and used for several scenes in the movie.

Before starting work on the movie, the cast underwent a realistic intensive eight-week military training course. During that time, production crews designed and built special combat vehicles in Newhall, California. Among their "fleet" were 15 Soviet armored vehicles (including a ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" mobile antiaircraft gun, several T-72 main battle tanks, and various BMP and BTR armored personnel carriers), several Yak-38 "Forger" vertical take-off and landing Soviet Naval aircraft (the Soviet Navy flag is clearly visible on the side of the air intake), and three Mi-24 "Hind-A" helicopter gunships (improvised from Aérospatiale Pumas). Soldier Of Fortune Magazine reported that the movie's Soviet T-72 tank was such a precise replica that "while it was being carted around Los Angeles, two CIA officers followed it to the studio and wanted to know where it had come from."

Five of the 36 parachutists who took part in the invasion scene early in the film were injured when high winds blew them as far as one mile off target. Parachutist Jim Fisher, wearing a Soviet paratrooper uniform including full Soviet insignia and including an AKM Assault Rifle, landed in a tree and found himself calling out to local rescuers including armed citizens and police: “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot! I am not a Russian soldier!”[4]

[edit] Cold War

The movie was released at the height of the Cold War; less than 5 years after the capture of the US Embassy in Iran in 1979, which led to the 444 day-long hostage negotiation (and failed rescue attempt Operation Eagle Claw) in 1980 and 1981; only two years after the US invasion of Grenada where US Special Forces and Delta Force members fought against Cuban military forces; and only one year after Ronald Reagan, elected to his second term as President of the United States, announced his prototypical Strategic Defense Initiative Star Wars missile defense system as a military necessity to give America an advantage against nuclear attack. The fall of the Berlin Wall was only 5 years away, and the total economic and political collapse of the Soviet Union was only 7 years away. The Soviet attack outlined in the film was a test case for the US War College with a certain element of plausibility, given the political climate at the time the movie was released.

[edit] Operation Red Dawn

The operation to capture former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was named after the movie (Operation Red Dawn), as well as its targets, which were dubbed Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2. The Army captain who named the mission said that "Operation Red Dawn was so fitting because it was a patriotic, pro-American movie." Director John Millius said about the operation's name: "I was deeply flattered and honored. It's nice to have a lasting legacy."[5]

[edit] Remake

Two top executives at MGM, Harry Sloan and Mary Parent, announced that a remake of Red Dawn is in the early stages of pre-production in May 2008 at the Festival de Cannes. This was announced along with a big-budget rebuild of RoboCop, which director Darren Aronofsky among others has recently been in to discuss. The remake of Red Dawn is slated to be directed by Dan Bradley, who has previously worked as a second unit director and stunt coordinator on films such as The Bourne Ultimatum, Spiderman 3 and the Quantum of Solace. MGM has announced that Red Dawn will be remade "keeping in mind the post-9/11 world that we're in".[1][6] In a further announcement the same month, Dan Bradley has been confirmed as the director with Carl Ellsworth, screenwriter of Red Eye and Disturbia writing the updated screenplay.[7] [1] Ellsworth will be working from a story written by Jeremy Passmore. Vincent Newman (A Man Apart) is also acting in a producer capacity.[8]

Ellsworth has said “The tone is going to be very intense, very much keeping in mind the post-9/11 world that we’re in,” says Ellsworth, who was 11 when the original was released. “As ‘Red Dawn’ scared the heck out of people in 1984, we feel that the world is kind of already filled with a lot of paranoia and unease, so why not scare the hell out of people again?”[9]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

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