Original theatrical poster
|Directed by||John Milius|
|Produced by||Sidney Beckerman
|Screenplay by||John Milius
|Story by||Kevin Reynolds|
C. Thomas Howell
Harry Dean Stanton
|Music by||Basil Poledouris|
|Editing by||Thom Noble|
|Distributed by||MGM/UA Entertainment Co.|
|Running time||114 minutes|
The film is set in an alternate 1980s in which the United States is invaded by the Soviet Union and its Cuban and Nicaraguan allies. However, the onset of World War III is in the background and not fully elaborated. The story follows a group of American high school students who resist the occupation with guerrilla warfare, calling themselves Wolverines, after their high school mascot.
An introductory text explains how the United States has gradually become strategically isolated after several European nations withdraw from NATO. At the same time, the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact partners aggressively expand their sphere of influence. In addition, the Ukrainian wheat harvest fails while a communist coup d'etat occurs in Mexico.
On a September morning, in the small town of Calumet, Colorado, a local high school teacher pauses when he sees Russian paratroopers landing in a nearby field. The paratroopers open fire when the teacher confronts them. Pandemonium follows as students flee amid heavy gunfire. In downtown Calumet, Cuban and Soviet troops are trying to impose order after a hasty occupation. Cuban Colonel Bella instructs the KGB to go to a local sporting goods store and obtain the records of the store's gun sales on the ATF's Form 4473, which lists citizens who have purchased firearms.
Brothers Jed and Matt Eckert, along with their friends Robert, Danny, Daryl, and Aardvark, flee into the wilderness after hastily equipping themselves at a sporting goods store owned by Robert's father. While on the way to the mountains, they run into a Russian roadblock, but are saved by an attacking U.S. Army helicopter gunship. After several weeks in the forest, they sneak back into town; Jed and Matt learn that their father is being held in a re-education camp. They visit the site and speak to him through the fence; Mr. Eckert orders his sons to "avenge" his inevitable death.
The kids visit the Masons and learn that they are behind enemy lines in "Occupied America". Robert's father is revealed to have been executed because of the missing inventory from his store. The Masons charge Jed and Matt with taking care of their two granddaughters, Toni and Erica. After killing Soviet soldiers in the woods, the youths begin an armed resistance against the occupation forces, calling themselves "Wolverines," after their high school mascot. The occupation forces initially try reprisal tactics, executing groups of civilians following every Wolverine attack. During one of these mass executions, the fathers of Jed, Matt, and Aardvark are killed. Daryl's father, Mayor Bates, is a collaborator and tries to appease the occupation authorities.
The Wolverines find a downed pilot, Lt. Col. Andrew Tanner, who informs them of the current state of the war: several American cities, including Washington, D.C., were obliterated by nuclear strikes; the Strategic Air Command was crippled by Cuban saboteurs; and paratroopers were dropped from fake commercial airliners to seize key positions in preparation for subsequent assaults via Mexico and Alaska. The middle third of the US has been taken over, but American counterattacks have halted Soviet advances and the lines have stabilized. Concerned about nuclear fallout, both sides refrain from the further use of nuclear weapons.
Tanner assists the Wolverines in organizing raids against the Soviets. Soon after, in a visit to the front line, Tanner and Aardvark are killed in the crossfire of a tank battle. Using threats of torture, KGB officers force Daryl to swallow a tracking device, then release him to rejoin the guerrillas. Spetsnaz are sent into the mountains carrying portable radio triangulation equipment, but are ambushed by the Wolverines. The group trace the source of the signal to Daryl, who confesses and pleads for mercy, but is executed by Robert.
The remaining members are ambushed by helicopter gunships, and Robert and Toni are killed. Jed and Matt attack the Soviet headquarters in Calumet to distract the troops while Danny and Erica escape. The plan works, but Jed and Matt are wounded. Though Colonel Bella confronts the brothers, he lets them go. It is implied that the brothers die in the park where they spent time as kids.
Erica narrates that the United States repelled the Soviet invasion some time later. A plaque is seen with Partisan Rock in the background, with each dead comrade's name inscribed upon it. The rock is fenced off and an American flag flies nearby. The plaque reads:
...In the early days of World War III, guerrillas – mostly children – placed the names of their lost upon this rock. They fought here alone and gave up their lives, so "that this nation shall not perish from the earth."
- Patrick Swayze as Jed Eckert
- C. Thomas Howell as Robert Morris
- Lea Thompson as Erica Mason
- Charlie Sheen as Matt Eckert
- Darren Dalton as Daryl Bates
- Jennifer Grey as Toni Mason
- Brad Savage as Danny Bates
- Doug Toby as Arturo "Aardvark" Mondragón
- Powers Boothe as Lt. Col. Andrew "Andy" Tanner, USAF
- Harry Dean Stanton as Tom Eckert
- Ron O'Neal as Col. Ernesto Bella
- William Smith as Col. Strelnikov
- Vladek Sheybal as Gen. Bratchenko
- Ben Johnson as Mr. Jack Mason
- Roy Jenson as Mr. Samuel Morris
- Pepe Serna as Mr. Mondragón
- Lane Smith as Mayor Bates
- Radames Pera as Sgt. Stepan Gorsky
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2011)|
The script for Red Dawn was written by John Milius and Kevin Reynolds from a story by Reynolds. The original story, called Ten Soldiers, was more akin to Lord of the Flies, the classic novel about the aggressive nature of man, than to the action film it eventually became. Some of the changes included a shift in focus from conflict within the group to 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.
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 train yard, and a building near downtown, which was repainted with the name of "Calumet, Colorado", are still there today. An old Safeway grocery store was 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. Soldier of Fortune reported that the movie's 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".
Red Dawn was the 20th highest grossing film of 1984, opening on 10 August 1984 in 1,822 theatres and taking in $8,230,381 on its first weekend. Its box office gross is $38,376,497. It was the first film to be released in the US with a Motion Picture Association of America PG-13 rating.
Red Dawn received mixed reviews, receiving a score of 53% on Rotten Tomatoes.
At the time it was released, 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. The DVD Special Edition (2007) includes an on-screen "Carnage Counter" in a nod to this.
The film outraged liberal critics, but further to the left it had some supporters. In a witty and perceptive piece for The Nation, Andrew Kopkind called it "the most convincing story about popular resistance to imperial oppression since the inimitable Battle of Algiers," adding that he'd "take the Wolverines from Colorado over a small circle of friends from Harvard Square in any revolutionary situation I can imagine."
Libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard argued that the film was "not so much pro-war as it is anti-State." Rothbard gave the film a generally positive review, while expressing some reservations with the story:
One big problem with the picture is that there is no sense that successful guerrilla war feeds on itself; in real life the ranks of the guerrillas would start to swell, and this would defeat the search-and-destroy concept. In Red Dawn, on the other hand, there are only the same half-dozen teenagers, and the inevitable attrition makes the struggle seem hopeless when it need not be.
Another problem is that there is no character development through action, so that, except for the leader, all the high school kids seem indistinguishable. As a result, there is no impulse to mourn as each one falls by the wayside.
References in the film
- The NRA slogan, "I'll give you my gun when you take it from my cold, dead fingers", is seen on a truck's bumper sticker as the paratroopers take over Calumet before a dead man's M1911 pistol is taken from him.
- The movie being shown to American prisoners at the Soviet camp near Calumet is Alexander Nevsky (1938), Sergei Eisenstein's Soviet anti-Nazi film. It is also playing in the town cinema across from the drugstore.
- One of the radio announcements is "John has a long mustache", which is the same message the French resistance gets before D-Day in The Longest Day (1962).
- Much of the story is set in the Arapaho National Forest, and a group of Soviet soldiers refer specifically to the Colorado War, which was fought there between the Arapaho and Cheyenne Indian insurgencies and the occupying U.S. government.
In popular culture
Film and television
- In the Family Guy episode "Hell Comes to Quahog", Peter stars in Red Dawn: The Musical.
- Numerous references occur in the movie Hot Tub Time Machine.
- In the television show Scrubs, Elliot and Turk watch and discuss Red Dawn in the episode "My Heavy Meddle".
- "Grey Dawn" is a South Park episode which parodies Red Dawn.
- The plot of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 includes an invasion of the United States by an ultra-nationalist Russia, where members of the United States Army's 75th Ranger Regiment have to repel the attack. The achievement "Red Dawn" is awarded for completing the American "Wolverines!" and "Exodus" missions in Veteran difficulty. "Wolverines!" itself is a reference to the movie.
- Freedom Fighters is a 2003 video game that takes place during a Soviet invasion of New York. This game is based heavily on Red Dawn in terms of characters, costumes and design, and the last mission closely resembles one of the final scenes when the Wolverines attack the Soviet base.
- Homefront, a video game also written by John Milius, is about a North Korean invasion of America. One notable "easter egg" relating to the film is a large billboard at a school sport stadium which reads "Go Wolverines!!!".
- Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis is a 2001 tactical shooter that takes place in a fictional conflict between the United States Army and unknown invaders presumed to be Russian Soviets on several fictitious islands. The final, climactic chapter in the game is called "Red Dawn."
Operation Red Dawn
The operation to capture former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was named Operation Red Dawn and its targets were dubbed Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2. Army Captain Geoffrey McMurray, who named the mission, said the naming "was so fitting because it was a patriotic, pro-American movie." Milius approved of the naming: "I was deeply flattered and honored. It's nice to have a lasting legacy."
The remake takes place in the modern day (c. 2010), with North Korea invading the United States.
- "Red Dawn (1984)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
- Richard E. Sincere, Jr. (October 1984). "Schoolkids Battle Red Army in Red Dawn". Journal of Civil Defense (The American Civil Defense Association): 17.
- "Red Dawn Movie Filming Locations". The 80s Movies Rewind. Fast-rewind.com. Retrieved 2011-08-27.
- "This Day In History – August 10th". History Channel.
- Fernandez, Jay A.; Borys Kit (2008-07-09). "'Red Dawn' redo lands director, scribe; MGM will remake the 1984 action drama". The Hollywood Reporter.
- "Red Dawn". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
- "Red Dawn Condemned As Rife With Violence". The New York Times. 1984-09-04.
- Arseneau, Adam (6 August 2007). "Red Dawn: Collector's Edition". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 13 September 2010.
- Miller, John (February 23, 2009). "The Best Conservative Movies". National Review Online. Retrieved March 22, 2013.
- Walker, Jesse (January 28, 2008). "The Ghost of Rambo". Reason.
- Rothbard, Murray. Red Dawn, Libertarian Forum (July–August 1984)
- "Interview with John Milius « The Implied Observer". Impliedobserver.wordpress.com. 2009-03-09. Retrieved 2011-08-27.
- Maslin, Janet (1984-08-10). "Red Dawn (1984) FILM: 'RED DAWN,' ON WORLD WAR III". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-07-16.
- Stephen Prince (1992). Visions of Empire: Political Imagery in Contemporary American Film. Praeger. p. 57. ISBN 0-275-93662-7.
- Dan Iverson (2006-09-25). "Family Guy: "Hell Comes to Quahog" Review – TV Review". Tv.ign.com. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- Phillips, Michael (2010-03-25). "'Hot Tub Time Machine': At last, a fun, idiotic movie that lives up to its name". Chicago Tribune.
- "DIALOGUE DRAFT – "My Heavy Meddle"". Scrubs.mopnt.com. Retrieved 2011-08-27.[dead link]
- "Grey Dawn (Season 7, Episode 10) – Episode Guide". South Park Studios. 2003-11-05. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- Mark Bozon (2009-10-02). "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Achievements Unveiled". Xbox360.ign.com. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- Aaron Boulding (2003-09-22). "Freedom Fighters – PlayStation 2 Review at IGN". Ps2.ign.com. Retrieved 2011-08-27.
- "News: Video game set to take place in Montrose (Montrose, CO)". Montrosepress.com. 2010-01-14. Retrieved 2010-10-04.
- "Walkthrough:Cold War Crisis". Bohemia Interactive. 2007-08-03. Retrieved 2011-12-13.
- "Red Dawn Imitated Art". USA Today. 2003-12-17.
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