Red Dawn (1984)

PG-13 | 114 mins | Adventure | 10 August 1984

Director:

John Milius

Cinematographer:

Ric Waite

Editor:

Thom Noble

Production Designer:

Jackson DeGovia

Production Companies:

Valkyrie, United Artists Corp.
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HISTORY

The film opens with the following title cards: “Soviet Union suffers worst wheat harvest in 55 years”; “Labor and food riots in Poland. Soviet troops invade”; “Cuba and Nicaragua reach troop strength goals of 500,000. El Salvador and Honduras fall”; “Greens Party gains control of West German Parliament. Demands withdrawal of nuclear weapons from European soil”; “Mexico plunged into revolution”; and “NATO dissolves. United States stands alone.” In the last scene of the film, the plaque marking Partisan Rock is engraved with the following message: “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.’”
       In a 10 Aug 1984 NYT review, Janet Maslin stated that, according to production notes, technical adviser John Early helped coach the young actors in “military discipline and combat techniques,” forcing them to run hills “from sunup to sundown” as part of their training.
       During production in Las Vegas, NV, five of thirty-six parachutists who acted as paratroopers in the film were hospitalized after being blown up to a mile off course, according to a 16 Nov 1983 DV news item. Several parachutists landed in trees, barbed wire, or became tangled in other parachuters’ shroud lines. Prior to the jump, twelve parachutists, including two certified jumpmasters, dropped out of the shoot due to safety concerns, primarily, high winds, a lack of helmets, and a target landing area that was too small. DV reported that producers did not obtain the requisite permits from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ... More Less

The film opens with the following title cards: “Soviet Union suffers worst wheat harvest in 55 years”; “Labor and food riots in Poland. Soviet troops invade”; “Cuba and Nicaragua reach troop strength goals of 500,000. El Salvador and Honduras fall”; “Greens Party gains control of West German Parliament. Demands withdrawal of nuclear weapons from European soil”; “Mexico plunged into revolution”; and “NATO dissolves. United States stands alone.” In the last scene of the film, the plaque marking Partisan Rock is engraved with the following message: “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.’”
       In a 10 Aug 1984 NYT review, Janet Maslin stated that, according to production notes, technical adviser John Early helped coach the young actors in “military discipline and combat techniques,” forcing them to run hills “from sunup to sundown” as part of their training.
       During production in Las Vegas, NV, five of thirty-six parachutists who acted as paratroopers in the film were hospitalized after being blown up to a mile off course, according to a 16 Nov 1983 DV news item. Several parachutists landed in trees, barbed wire, or became tangled in other parachuters’ shroud lines. Prior to the jump, twelve parachutists, including two certified jumpmasters, dropped out of the shoot due to safety concerns, primarily, high winds, a lack of helmets, and a target landing area that was too small. DV reported that producers did not obtain the requisite permits from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to film a jump taking place over a populated area; however, no official complaint had been filed to the time, so the FAA had no plans to take action. A 28 Nov 1984 Var brief stated that the Industrywide Labor-Management Safety Committee later passed new guidelines for “parachute and skydiving safety,” partly due to the injuries jumpers sustained on the set of Red Dawn , as well as the death of a parachutist on the set of The Right Stuff (1983, see entry).
       According to the 16 Aug 1984 LAT article, a replica Soviet T-72 tank used in the film was so realistic that two curious Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents followed the vehicle to the set.
       The budget was $16.9 million, as stated in a 15 Aug 1984 DV news brief, and director John Milius completed the film under schedule and under budget.
       A 20 Jul 1984 HR news item reported that Red Dawn would be the first feature film released in theaters with the newly established rating of PG-13 from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), following controversy surrounding the Jun 1984 release of Gremlins (see entry), rated PG despite considerable violence. The new rating came between PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) and R (Restricted), and was meant as a strong caution to parents given “some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.” Another PG-13 film, Dreamscape (1984, see entry), was set to open 15 Aug 1984, five days after Red Dawn .
       In the 16 Aug 1984 LAT article, Milius claimed that the film was “anti-war”; however, several critics saw Red Dawn as warmongering propaganda. A 29 Aug 1984 Var item reported that various Democratic groups protested the film outside of a Pittsburgh, PA, theater, claiming that it was propaganda for President Ronald Reagan’s policies and validated his “paranoid fantasies.” According to a 19 Sep 1984 LAT news brief, protestors also picketed MGM/UA’s headquarters in Los Angeles, CA, angered by Milius’s “comic-book mentality of war.” The National Coalition on Television Violence called Red Dawn the “most violent on record,” having counted “134 acts of violence per hour.”
       Critical reception was mixed. Both LAT and NYT reviews on 10 Aug 1984 stated that the action overshadowed the narrative and characters, and LAT reviewer Kevin Thomas lamented, “If only Milius’ narrative were as clear as his right-wing sentiments.”
       According to a 19 Sep 1984 Var news item, the tagline on posters and print advertisements for the film read, "In our time, no foreign army has ever occupied American soil. Until now.” Some Alaskan citizens protested the tagline, arguing that the Japanese invaded and occupied Alaska’s Aleutian Islands during World War II. Though distributor MGM/UA Entertainment Co. issued a letter of apology for the oversight to Jan Faiks, Alaskan state senator, they did not alter or remove the advertisements, arguing that the phrase “In our time” could be interpreted several ways.
       In its first five days of release, the film took in $10.5 million in box-office receipts, as reported in the 16 Aug 1984 LAT article. After five weeks of release, a 19 Sep 1984 LAT news item stated that the film had taken in $34 million.



The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant Christy Turner, a student at Oregon State University, with Jon Lewis as academic advisor.
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
16 Nov 1983.
---
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Jul 1984.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1984
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
10 Aug 1984
Section F, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
16 Aug 1984
Section VI, p. 1, 5.
Los Angeles Times
19 Sep 1984
Section I, p. 1, 5.
New York Times
10 Aug 1984
p. 11.
Variety
8 Aug 1984
p. 14.
Variety
29 Aug 1984.
---
Variety
19 Sep 1984.
---
Variety
28 Nov 1984.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT

PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Sidney Beckerman production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit dir of photog
Still photog
Spec title photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost supv
Men`s cost
Women`s cost
MUSIC
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
ADR ed
ADR ed
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Spec eff
Titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Addl casting
Casting assoc
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Aircraft provided by
Unit pub
Tech adv
Courtesy of Delta Productions, Inc.
Spec adv
Loc mgr
Asst to Mr. Milius
Military liaison
Loc auditor
Loc auditor
Transportation coord
Military vehicles supplied by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
DETAILS
Release Date:
10 August 1984
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 10 August 1984
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
filmed in Metrocolor®
Lenses/Prints
Panaflex® camera and lenses by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
114
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27320
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At Calumet High School in Colorado, Mr. Teasdale gives a lecture on Mongolian history but stops when he looks out the window and sees paratroopers landing near the school. As Teasdale walks outside, the invading soldiers shoot him dead and open fire on the students. Jed Eckert, a former high school football star, drives to the school to rescue his younger brother, Matt, and Matt’s friends, Aardvark, Daryl Bates, Danny, and Robert Morris. As Russian and Cuban soldiers swarm the town, Jed and the boys evade them and drive to a general store owned by Robert’s father, Mr. Morris. There, they load up on supplies, including guns, camping gear, and food. After saying goodbye to Robert, Morris warns them not to come back, and the group drives into the mountains. That night, Colonel Bella, a Cuban officer, orders a soldier to raid the local sporting goods store for records with names of local residents who own guns. In the mountains, Daryl suggests to the boys that they give themselves up, and Jed fights him. After Jed overpowers Daryl, he tells everyone they can leave, but warns them that their best chance is to stay hidden. The boys agree and sanction Jed as their leader. One month later, in October, the invading troops have plastered buildings with communist propaganda posters, and the streets are patrolled by tanks. The boys return to town for food supplies and find Alicia, a clerk, running an otherwise empty drugstore. Alicia warns them that the KGB, a Soviet intelligence organization, is looking for them, and says that many local men have been taken to a re-education camp outside town. After nightfall, the boys find the ... +


At Calumet High School in Colorado, Mr. Teasdale gives a lecture on Mongolian history but stops when he looks out the window and sees paratroopers landing near the school. As Teasdale walks outside, the invading soldiers shoot him dead and open fire on the students. Jed Eckert, a former high school football star, drives to the school to rescue his younger brother, Matt, and Matt’s friends, Aardvark, Daryl Bates, Danny, and Robert Morris. As Russian and Cuban soldiers swarm the town, Jed and the boys evade them and drive to a general store owned by Robert’s father, Mr. Morris. There, they load up on supplies, including guns, camping gear, and food. After saying goodbye to Robert, Morris warns them not to come back, and the group drives into the mountains. That night, Colonel Bella, a Cuban officer, orders a soldier to raid the local sporting goods store for records with names of local residents who own guns. In the mountains, Daryl suggests to the boys that they give themselves up, and Jed fights him. After Jed overpowers Daryl, he tells everyone they can leave, but warns them that their best chance is to stay hidden. The boys agree and sanction Jed as their leader. One month later, in October, the invading troops have plastered buildings with communist propaganda posters, and the streets are patrolled by tanks. The boys return to town for food supplies and find Alicia, a clerk, running an otherwise empty drugstore. Alicia warns them that the KGB, a Soviet intelligence organization, is looking for them, and says that many local men have been taken to a re-education camp outside town. After nightfall, the boys find the camp and see Tom Eckert, Jed and Matt’s father, imprisoned behind a chain-link fence. Tom tells his sons to take care of each other, and when Matt asks where their mother is, Tom cannot answer. The next day, the boys go to a ranch outside town owned by Mr. and Mrs. Mason, an older couple who provide them with food, a radio, and horses. Mr. Mason explains that World War III has begun and the United States is under attack. Though Calumet is an occupied zone, Mason tells them that “Free America,” the unoccupied zone, is forty miles away. Robert asks about his parents, and Mason informs him that Mr. Morris was shot after soldiers discovered guns missing from his store and accused him of “aiding guerrillas.” As Robert sobs, mourning the death of his father, Mason asks the boys to take his two granddaughters, Toni and Erica, who escaped from soldiers who sexually harassed them. One day, three foreign soldiers go sightseeing in the mountains and Jed’s group kills them in a firefight. Subsequently, Colonel Bella interrogates Mayor Bates, Daryl’s corrupt father, who defends his son and points to the other boys as the likely culprits. One day, Matt watches through binoculars as a firing squad murders several local men, including his father. Matt returns to camp grieving, but Jed encourages him to turn the grief into anger. The group adopts the name “Wolverines,” after their high school mascot, and launches a surprise attack on Russian soldiers at a gas station, setting fire to their tank. In November, Erica finds Lieutenant Colonel Andy Tanner, a downed American fighter pilot, and brings him back to camp. Andy informs the group that most of the country is now occupied, nuclear missiles have destroyed Omaha, Nebraska, Kansas City, Kansas, and Washington, D. C., and all of Europe, except England, refuses to intervene in the conflict. Andy helps the Wolverines coordinate a strike on the re-education camp, where they release the American prisoners and blow up a Russian fighter jet, setting fire to the whole camp. In December, the Wolverines visit the Masons and learn that they have become famous, and special forces may arrive in the spring to aid them. Back in the mountains, Russian and Cuban soldiers attack the Wolverines, killing Andy and Aardvark. A couple months later, after another firefight in the mountains, the Wolverines take a Russian prisoner and find a tracking device that he used to find them. They realize that the tracking device is picking up a signal from Daryl, who admits that he was captured in town and forced to swallow a tracker. Jed kills the Russian soldier, but stops short when he tries to execute Daryl for his treachery; stepping in for Jed, Robert shoots Daryl. One day, the Wolverines spy on supply trucks, planning to stop them; however, when two boxes of food fall onto the road, Jed calls off the attack, ordering Toni to retrieve the supplies once the trucks are out of sight. After they eat, they realize the boxes were a trap as a fleet of helicopters arrives and shoots at them. Robert hits one helicopter with a rocket, but is shot down. Toni is also shot, but when she doesn’t die, she asks Jed to kill her. He cannot bring himself to do so, instead leaving her behind with a live grenade. Later, Jed adds the names of Toni and Robert onto the side of a rock where he’s etched the names of other fallen Wolverines and dead loved ones. As Jed and Matt plan a final attack on the enemy base, Matt orders Erica and Danny to escape to the free zone, promising that he and Jed will fight alone. At night, Colonel Bella writes a letter to his wife, telling her that he is tired of fighting and plans to resign. Meanwhile, Matt and Jed arrive at the base and use a rocket launcher to blow up the radio tower. Matt is shot by Strelnikov, a Russian officer, and Jed avenges his brother’s death; however, when Jed shoots, Strelnikov fires back, and they are both hit. As Jed carries Matt away, Colonel Bella spots them but lets them go. Jed takes Matt to a deserted playground and holds his brother as they both die. The following day, Erica and Danny hike through the woods and arrive at the free zone. Years later, after World War III has ended, the rock bearing the dead Wolverines’ names has become a monument called Partisan Rock. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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