Red Scorpion

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Red Scorpion
Red scorpion poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoseph Zito
Produced byJack Abramoff
Written by
  • Jack Abramoff
  • Robert Abramoff
  • Arne Olsen
Music byJay Chattaway
CinematographyJoão Fernandes
Edited byDaniel Loewenthal
Abramoff Productions
Distributed by
Release date
  • December 1988 (1988-12) (South Korea)
  • April 21, 1989 (1989-04-21) (United States)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$4.2 million (US)[1]

Red Scorpion is a 1988 American action film starring Dolph Lundgren and directed by Joseph Zito. The film was released in the United States on April 21, 1989.


Lieutenant Nikolai Petrovitch Rachenko, a Soviet Spetsnaz operative is sent to an African country in which 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. Rachenko infiltrates 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 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 he receives a ceremonial burn scar in the form of a scorpion (hence the title), he joins the rebels and leads an attack against the Soviet camp after a previous attack on the peaceful bushmen. Nikolai obtains an AO-63 assault rifle from the armory, confronts his corrupt officers and hunts down General Oleg Vortek, who attempts to escape in a Mil-24 Hind, only to be shot down after takeoff. Nikolai defeats and kills Vortek, as the rebels finally defeat the Soviet forces who were assisting the government.


Production and controversy[edit]

After being denied the right to film 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).[2]

With all the delays and productions issues, the film went over budget by 8-10 million dollars (approximately twice the initial amount).[3]

Producer Jack 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.


Red Scorpion screened at the 1988 MIFED film market, and was first released theatrically in South Korea in late December 1988, then the Philippines,[4] West Germany, and Japan in January 1989, then in the United States 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 film was released in the US 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 special editions in the U.K. by Arrow Video on 6th Feb 2012, and in the U.S. by Synapse Films on June 12, 2012.[5]


Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times described it as "a numskull live-action comic book" that, despite showing Lundgren's charisma, is likely to hurt his career.[6] Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote that Lundgren's physique is the film's true star, as it communicates more emotion than his acting.[7]


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


  1. ^ "Red Scorpion". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2016-06-08.
  2. ^ "First Off . . . - Los Angeles Times". 1988-01-20. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  3. ^ "Red Scorpion (Blu-ray) : DVD Talk Review of the Blu-ray". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  4. ^ "Grand Opening Today". Manila Standard. Standard Publishing, Inc. January 4, 1989. p. 14. Retrieved December 31, 2018. An ASIA FILMS Release
  5. ^ "Blu-ray Review: RED SCORPION | Twitch". 2012-02-25. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  6. ^ "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Scorpion' Anything but Stinging - Los Angeles Times". 1987-12-23. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  7. ^ Holden, Stephen (1989-04-21). "Movie Review - Red Scorpion - Review/Film; Dolph Lundgren In 'Red Scorpion' -". Retrieved 2013-09-29.

External links[edit]