You may have imagined that one day you would look out the window of your classroom and see russian paratroopers landing all around your town. You would load up your gear, head for the mountains with your pals and become the guerrilla opposition helping to reclaim your town and hopefully save your family.
One of the reasons the movie was so effective was that it used the threat of the moment (soviets) to help give a sense of "holy shit this could actually happen" to the movie.
It was an empowering movie for an adolescent to watch. We would go in the woods and play "Red Dawn" often. We built a fort and spray painted "Wolverines" on the side of it. -those that have seen the movie will understand why.
Although it wasn't a great piece of cinema and it will never likely make any serious critics "best of" lists, it's still on mine.
That said, I'm worried that Hollywood is about to destroy the legacy that is "Red Dawn". They remade the movie but instead of the Soviets, it was now the Chinese that are invading our country. -*that's cool, they are a worthy adversary that could lend the same "holy shit this could happen" factor that the Soviets did in the previous movie".
But what I recently found out is that the films investors and distributors became chicken shit and changed the Chinese invasion to a North Korean invasion in post-production. -A big "red flag" for any validity this remake has.
If there was ever any doubt before, now it's solidified... I will not be seeing the remake.
Just curious if there are any other "Red Dawn" fans out there. If not, what were the movies you grew up reenacting in the living room, front yard or woods?
Let me also state that there are no conditions, no crew, no cast, no story possible that will allow any remake of RED DAWN to be anything more than a callow, derivative attempt to cash in on what was a perfect storm of cultural confluence.
I wrote this about three years ago:
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Dude. I haven't really seen Red Dawn since I was in maybe tenth grade. Certainly not since I was a student of film... And now it's playing on AMC. My god. What a masterpiece. From the metallc blue lifted Chevy stepside asshole truck with the chrome light bar to the allegorical discussion of the Mongol hordes from the Only Black Man in Rural Colorado to the opening cards about the Green Party winning in Germany and "NATO stands alone" to frickin' Sandinistas firing rocket launchers at school buses...
Milius is a genius.
An evil genius to be sure... I don't know of any movies that say "it's Morning in America" quite like Red Dawn. I mean, the opening is stolen from Superman; the title font is the same one they used for Flashdance. I seriously doubt Red Dawn could have been released before the 1984 election season or after Eugene Hasenfus was shot down... that's about a 27 month window that Red Dawn barely managed to slide into.
Someday, somewhere, somehow, someone is going to write a scholarly essay on Red Dawn and how it epitomizes culture and politics in the Reagan era. And I will read it and love it. The thing that amazes me is that Kevin Reynolds (one of my all-time favorite directors, Kevin Costner be damned) wrote it as an anti-war allegory... and Milius sure as hell didn't see it that way. "Avenge me, boys! AVENNNNGE ME!" I think Red Dawn remains the only movie that Delta Press ever consulted on. It's GOTTA be the only one Al Haig consulted on. Bloody marvelous.
It's kind of what The Breakfast Club would have looked like if it were directed by Leni Riefenstahl. The silly thing was actually filmed really close to my house when I grew up and I still can't believe they made it. The fact that a movie that features Lea Thompson with an AK-47 was #1 at the box office within my lifetime really gives me hope for the future. If we survived the Cold War in one piece, surely the War on Terror is nothing to fear.
That's all for now. I gotta go buy me a poster.
"All that hate's gonna burn you up, kid."
"It keeps me warm."
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Kevin Reynolds wrote the script TEN SOLDIERS while he was a grad student at USC. It was modeled after Philip K Dick's "The Man in the High Castle" and described an alternate reality in which the Soviets invaded the United States. As with most things from USC at the time it got sent up the tentpole, where John Milius (who wrote most of the grand-standing speeches you know from APOCALYPSE NOW - "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning", JAWS - Quint's speech, and the sum total of CONAN THE BARBARIAN) decided that the goddamn liberal hippies running Hollywood needed a little book learnin' about the goddamn Red Menace.
RED DAWN was produced in association with Reagan's Secretary of State, then just two years out of office:
Technical consulting was done by Delta Press:
And what we're left with is essentially a John Hughes film with machine guns and rocket launchers.
RED DAWN would never even have been considered if Ronald Reagan wasn't president. It certainly wouldn't have been considered once Iran-Contra broke. The whole demeanor of the film is Alexandr Nevsky - a big, brash, bodacious warning to Enemies of the Motherland that if you cross us, we will fuck you up. By the time Ollie North took the stand, it was abundantly clear that the Soviets were getting their asses kicked by a bunch of Mujahedeen, the Berlin Wall was dead man walking and the Hooah attitude that the Republicans had been using to sap the treasury in the name of defense was going to bankrupt us all.
The remake of RED DAWN, by comparison, was shelved halfway through production while MGM retrenched. It was written by nobody, stars nobody, and has had no involvement from anyone with any sort of an ax to grind. You're right - North Korea as an invader of the United States is simply not credible. They would have done better with Mexican narco gangs. Chris Helmsworth, for his part, is Thor. Josh Peck is irrelevant. And the new movie will never have Lea Thompson firing an M60. Ever.
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If you want to see what Kevin Reynolds actually had in mind when he wrote TEN SOLDIERS, you can see what he does with a Russian tank crew in Afghanistan. THE BEAST is one of my all-time favorite films. It's about the Taliban back when they were the Mujahideen, who also happened to be our allies:
If it's that "morning in america" feel you're going for, you can always mix in a little Clint Eastwood:
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Apropos of nothing, the original RED DAWN was filmed an hour from my house growing up. They ran ads on the radio for people to come down and be extras. My dad wouldn't let me - in reflection, probably not too surprising as RED DAWN was the first movie ever granted a PG-13. That said, it was the first event that made me realize that even a punk-ass kid from New Mexico could be in movies if he wanted to be... and may very well have paved the way for me working in Hollywood today.
What I didn't remember was Robert's suicide by helicopter. They guy was just played-out, I suppose. He had gone to the other side with the execution of Daryl, and knew that there was no going back.
I also was struck by how weak the ending was. Supposedly, Jed and Matt are creating a distraction by going A-team on the Cubans and Russians while Danny and Erica escape to Free America (FA), but given that they were in the mountains, I don't see how attacking the town would have been necessary for them to cross more mountains. I suppose they needed a climatic fight, but it seemed totally unecessary. Maybe it was suicide too.
It did awaken some memories I had as a kid, terrified of WW3, but mostly it was just over-the-top and fun. "Avenge me boys! Avenge me!" -Holy crap.
Too bad that Jennifer Gray got a nose job. It really worked for her.
From a screenwriter's standpoint, you're in a tough spot: you've got a bunch of teenagers fighting off the Russians, when the American Military can't do the same. There's no good way to resolve that. The smart move would be to say "we're breaking for the frontlines" from the get-go but then you don't get to harry the evil occupiers of Calumet.
Like I said, there were about 27 months that that movie could reasonably have existed in in the entire history of the United States. That movie doesn't get made in 1983, it doesn't get made in 1987. And that's what I love about it - it's not a brilliant work of fiction, it's a cultural anomaly that outlines the insanity of the Reagan era better than most.
Don't get me wrong, it was great to watch it. It's one of those movies that is burned into my psyche. Probably because it was placed at such a rare moment in time. -Red Dawn and War Games.
Funny, I mentioned to my buddy that it had strong notes of 'Lord of the Flies', particularly with Robert's transformation.
Another movie from 1984 that stuck with me was Cloak & Dagger. Maybe it was because the roleplaying game in the beginning, or the video game tie-in. I loved that about E.T. It also had that Home Alone meets the Cold War feeling.
Someone missed a real opportunity to have a rag-tag gang of kids fight Al Qaeda...
It entertains me that you've never heard of Tony Scott. He's probably one of the biggest directors today. Charles Mudede from The Stranger once described Ridley Scott as "look how cool this reflection is in this puddle" and Tony Scott as "Isn't it cool the way the wind rustles the curtains."
This link's for you:
RPG's were the shit.
Playing "Red Dawn" when it was cold enough to see your breath outside was a plus. The bird call that Jed uses throughout the movie was one we tried to emulate but never could. AVENGE ME BOYS! Was definitely a moment we relished.
Seeing Jennifer Gray's blue coat punctured with red-bloody-bullet holes as she holds the grenade... -Damn good stuff. (agreed that the nose job was a really bad call)
I forgot that Robert was played by C Thomas Howell: http://hubski.com/pub?id=1589
I've really enjoyed this thread guys. Thanks.
Never in all my time spent here have I been so pleasantly surprised by a comment. I thoroughly, enjoyed this, well written, on point and absolutely hilarious. Your insight in to RED DAWN is much appreciated.
"All that hate's gonna burn you up, kid."
"It keeps me warm."
Great work KB.
(Yes, I did buy a poster off eBay)
It's been 15 years!
I haven't heard about the North Korea thing; if its true, that is bullshit. In the 80s, we always the Russians as built in enemies (or South Africans in the case of Lethal Weapon!). It worked for the script because American were very skeptical and uneducated about life in Russia, and they were are military and economic rival. In that way, I guess it worked as propaganda, too, because it helped to us to dehumanize them even more. In this case, I wonder if some of the investors also are exporters or importers of some sort and decided they didn't want to upset their cash cow. Or, perhaps China is becoming a big movie market and they thought it would be banned by the sensors there. Either way, it seems like a gutless decision and completely changes the plausibility of the movie. NK doesn't have the resources to invade us, so its not scary. The original was scary because it was so possible. What a bunch of bullshit.
As for the remake, it is a "bunch of bullshit". North Korea? There is no doubt that many movies of the 80's worked in favor of a larger propaganda machine. As a 10 year old kid, I completely bought in to all of this.
Despite the North Korean thing, which is very weak, the fact that it is being shot in an urban area means that it is going to lack a big component from the original. There was a huge survival element in the first one that really grabbed me as a kid. I thought it cleaning out a general store and heading for the hills in a pickup was so badass. Maybe there's a call-of-duty generation that will really dig urban warfare, but as a kid I thought going camping without adults and fighting Russians was about as good as it gets.