Red Scorpion

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For the gang, see Red Scorpions.
Red Scorpion
Red scorpion poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Joseph Zito
Produced by Jack Abramoff
Written by Story:
Jack Abramoff
Robert Abramoff
Screenplay & story:
Arne Olsen
Starring Dolph Lundgren
M. Emmet Walsh
Al White
T. P. McKenna
Carmen Argenziano
Alex Colon
Brion James
Music by Jay Chattaway
Cinematography João Fernandes
Edited by Daniel Loewenthal
Distributed by Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment
Release dates
  • December 1988 (1988-12)
  • April 19, 1989 (1989-04-19) (U.S.)
Running time
105 min
Country South Africa
United States
Language English
Budget $16,000,000
Box office $4,192,440 (US)

Red Scorpion is a 1988 film directed by Joseph Zito starring Dolph Lundgren.


The plot centers on Lundgren's character Nikolai Petrovitch Radchenko, a Soviet Spetsnaz operative who is sent to an African country where Soviet, Czechoslovakian and Cuban forces are helping the government fight an anti-communist rebel movement. He is tasked with the mission to assassinate the rebel leader. In order to infiltrate the rebel movement and get within striking distance of his target, he stirs up trouble in the local bar and gets arrested for disorderly conduct. He is put in the same cell as a captured resistance commander and gains his trust in facilitating the escape. Upon finally reaching the rebel encampment he is met with distrust by the rebels. During the night he attempts to assassinate his target but does not succeed when the distrustful rebels anticipate his actions.

Disgraced and tortured by his commanding officers for failing his mission, he breaks out of the interrogation chamber and escapes to the desert, later to be found by native bushmen. He soon learns about them and their culture, and after receiving a ceremonial burn scar in the form of a scorpion (hence the title), he rejoins the freedom fighters and leads an attack against the Soviet camp after a previous attack on the peaceful bushmen. Nikolai obtains an AO-63 from the armory, confronts his corrupt officers and hunts down General Vortek, who attempts to escape in a Mil-24 Hind only to be shot down after takeoff. Nikolai defeats and kills Vortek, as the freedom fighters finally defeat the Soviet oppression.


Production and controversy[edit]

After being denied the right from filming in Swaziland and a search for other locations, the film was made in Namibia (then South-West Africa). Warner Bros., who had a negative pickup deal to release the picture, pulled out for the breach of their contract with the production. Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid then condemned the production for breaking the international boycott against South Africa. The film allegedly received help from the South African government as part of its propaganda efforts to undermine international sympathy for the African National Congress (see International Freedom Foundation).[1]

With all the delays and productions issues, the film went over budget by 8-10 million dollars (approximately twice the initial amount).[2]

Abramoff later claimed that he did not intend the film to contain so much violence and profanity, blaming the director. He established a short-lived "Committee for Traditional Jewish Values in Entertainment" to release films more in line with his values, but later abandoned the project, feeling it would be unfeasible.

A sequel, Red Scorpion 2, appeared in 1994, although the story is largely unrelated to the first installment.


Red Scorpion had a world premiere at the 1988 MIFED film market, and was first released theatrically in South Korea in late December 1988, then Germany and Japan in January 1989, then domestically USA on April 21, 1989. The movie was released theatrically worldwide except in the United Kingdom (where it went "direct to video" in January 1990).

The movie was released domestically on VHS and Laserdisc in August 1989 through Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment Home Video. In 1993, a budget tape of the film was released by Starmaker. The movie has had at least two Region 1 DVD releases. The first DVD was released in 1998 by Simitar and the second DVD was released in 2002 by 20th Century Fox. In 2005, Tango Entertainment released a UMD of the film for the Sony PlayStation Portable. The two DVDs are now discontinued.

The film has been released on Blu-ray in the U.K. by Arrow Video on 6th Feb 2012.[3] This special edition contains the following features:

  • Introduction to the film from star Dolph Lundgren
  • UK exclusive audio commentary with director Joseph Zito, moderated by filmmaker and genre scholar Howard S. Berger
  • "All Out Of Bullets: Dolph Lundgren remembers Red Scorpion"
  • "Music With Muscles: Composer Jay Chattaway on the soundtrack of Red Scorpion"
  • Original Trailer (SD, fullscreen 4/3)
  • Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by The Dude Designs
  • Double-sided fold-out artwork poster
  • Collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by author Calum Waddell

A special edition Blu-ray/DVD combo was released in the U.S. by Synapse Films on June 12, 2012, with the following features:[4]

  • All-New 2K High-Definition Digital Restoration of the Uncensored Version
  • All-new DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack mixed specifically for this release
  • Audio Commentary with Director Joseph Zito and Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson
  • "Hath No Fury – Dolph Lundgren And The Road To Red Scorpion" featurette
  • "Assignment: Africa" – Interview with Producer Jack Abramoff
  • "Scorpion Tales" – Interview with Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini
  • Rare original on-set behind-the-scenes video footage
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, widescreen 16/9) and TV Spots
  • Animated Still Gallery
  • Booklet with extensive liner notes on the making of Red Scorpion by Jérémie Damoiseau
  • Reversible Cover Design


The movie gained a negative reaction from critics, but, on the other side, gained a positive reaction from fans of action films and moviegoers in general, becoming a cult action classic in the years after its theatrical release. [5][6]


  1. ^ "First Off . . . - Los Angeles Times". 1988-01-20. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  2. ^ "Red Scorpion (Blu-ray) : DVD Talk Review of the Blu-ray". Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  3. ^ "Blu-ray Review: RED SCORPION | Twitch". 2012-02-25. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  4. ^ "Red Scorpion [Blu-ray/DVD Combo]". Synapse Films. 2012-06-12. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  5. ^ "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Scorpion' Anything but Stinging - Los Angeles Times". 1987-12-23. Retrieved 2013-09-29. 
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen (1989-04-21). "Movie Review - Red Scorpion - Review/Film; Dolph Lundgren In 'Red Scorpion' -". Retrieved 2013-09-29. 

External links[edit]