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Kevin R. Austra
- Publié sur Amazon.com
My original intent was to compose a review on the soundtrack and motion picture separately. I discovered, much to my chagrin, that once I reviewed the soundtrack the system would not allow me to enter a unique review of the film. As such, I combined them in the same review. First the soundtrack.
The soundtrack to RED DAWN is one of those oddities that you literally have to stumble onto. It has been available so infrequently that when you spot it available on Amazon or in forgotten in a music store soundtrack bin you ought snap it up right away.
I just about know the movie by heart so that when I play the soundtrack I can easily associate the music with scenes of the film. This soundtrack will never reach the classic status of the original ALAMO or WHERE EAGLES DARE soundtracks, but it is uniquely suited to the movie.
As for the film, RED DAWN was clearly a product of the Ronald Reagan decade. In order to understand the film's premise you have to first buy into the world situation summary flashed on the screen just prior to the credits. Essentially the international community is in turmoil and the United States stands alone. A starving Soviet Union along with Cuban allies invade the American grain belt. Unfortunately for the attackers their quest for victory is stalemated on the battlefield and their rear echelon is plagued by guerilla activity.
The guerillas in this case are a group of high school students and their leader Jed. The reluctant band of irregulars begin as nothing more than terrified teenagers fleeing the gunfire for the protection of the wilderness. The war becomes personal as they learn of the horrors perpetrated on their families. The occupation forces are more or less paralyzed by the effective hit and run tactics of the Wolverines. With each attack the guerillas become more brazen in their attacks and penetrate deep into enemy secured areas.
Patrick Swayze heads the cast as former high school football star Jed. Other members of the group include future DIRTY DANCING costar Jennifer Grey, C. Thomas Howell (SOUL MAN, GETTYSBURG), Lea Thompson (BACK TO THE FUTURE), and Charlie Sheen (HOT SHOTS, SPIN CITY, YOUNG GUNS). There are also notable appearances by Lane Smith (The prosecuting attorney from MY COUSIN VINNY), Ben Johnson (THE HUNTER), and veteran television and film actor Harry Dean Stanton (THE GREEN MILE, KELLY'S HEROES). Also look for a strong and believable performance by Powers Boothe as a downed American pilot -- somewhat of a departure from his usual villainous characters.
The military did not provide much in the way of formal support for RED DAWN. Still the production team was able to retool surplus M-48 tanks into Soviet T-72 tanks, as well as a ZSU 23-4 air defense vehicle. Celluloid legend has it that when the "Russian" tanks were flatbedded from the prop shop to New Mexico they were tailed by Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Even the Soviet heavy machine guns were skillfully converted M-60 machine guns. Likewise the wardrobe team had but one camouflage Soviet paratrooper uniform from a private collection and used it to pattern paratrooper smocks for the small army of extras in the movie. RED DAWN was also one of the first times that the AK-47 assault rifle appeared en masse in an American movie. Prior to that time cinematic Soviet/Russian soldiers were normally equipped with rifles or drum-fed submachine guns.
Although the story takes place around the fictional Colorado community of Calumet the actual filming took place in and around Las Vegas, New Mexico. Las Vegas, which sits astride I-25 about an hour northeast of Santa Fe and not too far from the current day Imus Ranch, has been the backdrop for dozens of films since 1915. Portions of EASY RIDER were also filmed in the town. More recently Las Vegas (New Mexico) doubled for numerous locations in NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN and THE ASTRONAUT FARMER. Situated along Interstate 25, the area around Las Vegas is a mix of grassland, high desert prairie, and nearby mountains. The scenery is stunning. At one time Las Vegas was also a stop on the Santa Fe Trail. Patrick Swayze even bought a ranch nearby.
As an additional bit of trivia, Las Vegas, NM and RED DAWN nostalgically appeared in recent news. The historic corner building featured in the film as the Soviet-American friendship organization was destroyed by fire.
RED DAWN begs for a director's cut. Having seen the movie in theaters, cable movie channels, and on independent local channels I noted that there are several versions of this film out there. Indeed the dialogue and some of the scene edits support that there are scenes missing from the movie. Even the theatrical trailer contains dialogue and shots that did not end up in the final release. For example, there is little to no transition from the point where Jed's woodsy group clumsily counterattacks three Red soldiers, to their well equipped and organized attack on outposts and armored columns. They got their hands on voluminous RPGs, additional AKs and AKMs, grenades, and ammunition from somewhere. Patriot rock also bore names of more casualties than we ever witnessed in the film. Finally, there apparently was an additional story missing regarding the relationship between Lea Thompson and Powers Boothe's characters.
Hey, if they could put THE BIG RED ONE and APOCALYPSE NOW back together from original negative, then RED DAWN should also be available in its full version.
The DVD version is of very good quality. The film length is the same as the MGM VHS release. Curiously the DVD is available in two versions. One sports a graphic of Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen on the cover. The other -- and incidentally the copy I recently purchased -- pictures Swayze, Howell, Thompson, Sheen and Grey on the DVD cover. Specific to the multi-portrait DVD release, it is a double-sided DVD with full screen on one side and letterbox on the reverse. The DVD includes the movie trailer. Otherwise there are no special features. I did hear that there is a version of the release that includes a featurette on the making of the movie. Maybe that could make its way into the director's cut as well.
RED DAWN heralded a string of invasion and patriotic movies such as INVASION USA, BORN AMERICAN, and the television miniseries AMERIKA. RED DAWN is superior to the other in every aspect. Even though the premise might seem a bit corny, the film is action packed from the first few minutes until the conclusion of the movie.