Red Scorpion (1989)

R | 102 mins | Adventure | 21 April 1989

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HISTORY

       A 9 Jan 1988 NYT article claimed that Red Scorpion was based on the life of Jonas Savimbi, who led a pro-western guerilla force in the Angolan civil war. Like the rebel leader in the film, Savimbi was fighting against a Soviet-Union-backed government using Cuban forces to crush the rebellion. However, unlike the film, Savimbi was well financed by the United States, and South Africa sent troops to assist him in Nov 1988.
       Producer-writer Jack Abramoff is better known as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist who was sent to federal prison for forty-three months in 2006 for his involvement in defrauding four Native American tribes he had represented. Red Scorpion is the only theatrical feature film he has been involved in as of 10 Oct 2014.
       As reported in a 7 Sep 1987 LAT news brief, the government of Swaziland stopped principal photography due to its objections over the script’s depiction of the struggle between African guerillas and foreign mercenaries. It was announced that production was to move to Namibia. However, in a 8 Sep 1987 LAT news item, executive producer Dan Sklar announced that production would not move to Namibia, and that the king of Swaziland was reconsidering his ban. According to a 16 Sep 1987 Var news item, Swaziland’s sensitivity to the script arose from the killing of eleven members of the African National Congress of South Africa, a guerrilla force that was dedicated to the overthrow of the South African apartheid regime, on Swaziland soil during 1987.
       A 21 Jan 1988 DV news item ... More Less

       A 9 Jan 1988 NYT article claimed that Red Scorpion was based on the life of Jonas Savimbi, who led a pro-western guerilla force in the Angolan civil war. Like the rebel leader in the film, Savimbi was fighting against a Soviet-Union-backed government using Cuban forces to crush the rebellion. However, unlike the film, Savimbi was well financed by the United States, and South Africa sent troops to assist him in Nov 1988.
       Producer-writer Jack Abramoff is better known as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist who was sent to federal prison for forty-three months in 2006 for his involvement in defrauding four Native American tribes he had represented. Red Scorpion is the only theatrical feature film he has been involved in as of 10 Oct 2014.
       As reported in a 7 Sep 1987 LAT news brief, the government of Swaziland stopped principal photography due to its objections over the script’s depiction of the struggle between African guerillas and foreign mercenaries. It was announced that production was to move to Namibia. However, in a 8 Sep 1987 LAT news item, executive producer Dan Sklar announced that production would not move to Namibia, and that the king of Swaziland was reconsidering his ban. According to a 16 Sep 1987 Var news item, Swaziland’s sensitivity to the script arose from the killing of eleven members of the African National Congress of South Africa, a guerrilla force that was dedicated to the overthrow of the South African apartheid regime, on Swaziland soil during 1987.
       A 21 Jan 1988 DV news item stated that Warner Bros. cancelled its agreement to distribute Red Scorpion due to its being filmed in South Africa and the South African controlled country of Namibia. According to Warner Bros. spokesman Rob Friedman, a 5 May 1987 agreement between the studio and filmmakers clearly stated that the contract was void if the movie was filmed in South Africa or if it utilized any personnel from that country. South African Defense Forces supplied tanks, jeeps, mortar and soldiers for the production and the film was shot in Namibia, as reported in the 9 Jan 1988 NYT, which also claimed that two active-duty South African army officers were hired as consultants. Eyewitness reports stated that some military vehicles still showed their South African Defense Forces license plates. This was confirmed by a spokesman for the Defense Forces, who stated that South Africa also supplied Soviet-made T-54 tanks and mortars that had been captured in Angola.
       As reported in the NYT article, the film’s budget was $8 million. However, a 20-27 Jan 1988 Time Out (London) reported the budget at $10 million and a 23 Jan 2008 Var new item stated the film cost $16 million to make and only grossed $4.1 in the United States.
       In a 4 Dec 1987 NYT interview, when Abramoff was asked if the South African government had invested in the film, he replied that funding was raised from “normal film investors.”
       A 29 Jun 1988 Var article reported that on 6 May 1988, the First Bank of Minneapolis demanded the producers of Red Scorpion cease and desist distribution of the film until the bank was repaid “all outstanding obligations.” Lenny Shapiro, who was the film’s domestic sales agent, stated that Performance Guarantees, the movie’s completion guarantor, paid off the bank as well as $750 thousand to settle a dispute with Moonrose Film Productions, the Namibian production company, and all South African and Namibian investors.
       A 21 Jul 1988 DV news brief reported that a small demonstration was held outside the First Bank of Minneapolis' Los Angeles, CA, offices on 20 Jul 1988 protesting the bank’s involvement in a film that ignored the United Nations cultural boycott on South Africa.
      The following statement appears in end credits: “Special thanks to Robert Hall.”
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
21 Jan 1988.
---
Daily Variety
21 Jul 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Apr 1989
p. 4, 14.
Los Angeles Times
7 Sep 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
8 Sep 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Apr 1989
p. 5.
New York Times
4 Dec 1987.
---
New York Times
9 Jan 1988.
---
New York Times
21 Apr 1989
p. 17.
Time Out (London)
20-27 Jan 1988.
---
Variety
16 Sep 1987.
---
Variety
29 Jun 1988.
---
Variety
26 Apr 1989
p. 26, 30.
Variety
23 Jan 2008.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
S. G. E. presents
A Jack Abramoff production
A Joseph Zito film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
2d unit dir
2d unit dir
2d unit asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Story
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st focus puller
2d focus puller
Focus puller
Focus puller
Clapper loader
Clapper loader
Clapper loader
Cam maintenance
Still photog
Key elec
Best boy elec
Key grip
Best boy grip
Generator op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Sketch artist
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Assoc ed
Loc 1st asst ed
Loc 2d asst ed
Loc 2d asst ed
1st asst ed
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
Set dresser
Set dresser
Chargehand
Asst buyer
Prop master
Stand by prop
Props
Props maker
Welder
Spanner man
Foreman painter
Sign maker
Painter
Scenic painter
Chargehand painter
Chargehand carpenter
Standby carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Stagehand
Stagehand
Standby stagehand
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
Ward master
MUSIC
Mus supv
for International Music Group
Mus supv
for International Music Group
Mus ed
Don Hahn at
Mus rec and mixed
Asst mus ed
Electronic mus performed
Electronic mus performed
Synclavier programming
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Cable man
Dial and eff
Dial and eff
Dial and eff
Dial and eff
Dial and eff
Supv sd ed
ADR ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley mixer/Rec
Foley mixer/Rec
Foley artist
Foley artist
Re-rec
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Spec eff asst
Weapons and battle eff
Weapons and battle eff
Title des
MAKEUP
Spec eff makeup
Key makeup
Makeup
Asst prosthetics
Hair des
Hairdresser to Dolph Lundgren
Hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Exec in charge of prod
Prod auditor
Prod office coord
Prod office coord
Prod coord - LA
African dial coach for Al White
Creative consultant
Scr supv
Loc casting
Extra casting
Asst loc mgr
Animal handler
Animal asst
Animal asst
Catering mgr
Bushman coord
Unit doctor
Paramedic
Asst accountant
Cashier
Asst cashier
Mechanic
Mechanic
Mechanic
Transportation mgr
Vehicle manufacturer
Auto elec
Vehicle coord
Asst vehicle manufacturer
Action vehicle mechanic
Welder
Asst mechanic
Unit mechanic
Asst aerial supv
Aerial supv
Master armorer
Pilot
Magazine loader
Military tech adv
Asst armorer
Asst armorer
Security
Prod secy
Prod secy
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Asst to Mr. Abramoff
Asst to Mr. Abramoff
Asst to Mr. Zito
Legal counsel
Legal counsel
Prod's representative
Marketing adv
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Jenny, Jenny," performed by Little Richard, words & music by Johnson & Penniman, courtesy of Specialty Records
"All Around The World," performed by Little Richard, words and music by Blackwell & Millet, courtesy of Specialty Records
"Long Tall Sally," performed by Little Richard, words & music by Johnson, Penniman & Blackwell, courtesy of Specialty Records
+
SONGS
"Jenny, Jenny," performed by Little Richard, words & music by Johnson & Penniman, courtesy of Specialty Records
"All Around The World," performed by Little Richard, words and music by Blackwell & Millet, courtesy of Specialty Records
"Long Tall Sally," performed by Little Richard, words & music by Johnson, Penniman & Blackwell, courtesy of Specialty Records
"Good Golly Miss Molly," performed by Little Richard, words & music by Blackwell & Marascalco
courtesy of Specialty Records
"Uyandibiza," performed by Amampondo, words & music by Mzoxolo Plaktjies, courtesy of Claremont Records.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 April 1989
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 21 April 1989
New York opening: week of 21 April 1989
Copyright Claimant:
Moonrose Management Services, Pty. Ltd.
Copyright Date:
20 December 1989
Copyright Number:
PA440002
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo in selected theaters
Color
Duration(in mins):
102
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
29419
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

General Vortek assigns Lieutenant Nikolai Rachenko, a member of the Soviet Special Forces, or “Spetsnaz,” to assassinate Ango Sundata, an African rebel leader who is engaged in a guerilla war to free his country, Mombaka, from Cuban invaders. Rachenko is briefed that Kallunda Kintash, one of Sundata’s warlords, has been captured by Cubans. His mission is to go undercover as a military adviser, befriend Kallunda, and trick him into leading him to Sundata. Rachenko arrives at the Cuban base, pretends to get drunk, shoots up the officer’s club after beating four Cubans, and is arrested. The camp’s commander, Zayas, orders him thrown into the same cell as Kallunda. Kallunda comforts a man who was beaten by the guards and Rachenko offers the man a smuggled bottle of vodka. However, the man dies before he can take a sip. Moments later, Dewey Ferguson, an American journalist, is thrown into the cell and tells Kallunda there is a rumor that the African is to be executed in the morning. Spotting Rachenko, Dewey voices his hatred towards all Russians and warns him to stay away. Later, a group of guards takes Kallunda. When Dewey attempts to stop them, a sergeant burns him with a cigar. Kallunda kills a guard while Rachenko kills the other two. The three prisoners run out and hide in the back of a truck that is leaving the base. The driver stops to take on two passengers who discover the stowaways. As a guard sounds the alarm, Rachenko tosses the two passengers overboard, cuts through the canvas roof, ... +


General Vortek assigns Lieutenant Nikolai Rachenko, a member of the Soviet Special Forces, or “Spetsnaz,” to assassinate Ango Sundata, an African rebel leader who is engaged in a guerilla war to free his country, Mombaka, from Cuban invaders. Rachenko is briefed that Kallunda Kintash, one of Sundata’s warlords, has been captured by Cubans. His mission is to go undercover as a military adviser, befriend Kallunda, and trick him into leading him to Sundata. Rachenko arrives at the Cuban base, pretends to get drunk, shoots up the officer’s club after beating four Cubans, and is arrested. The camp’s commander, Zayas, orders him thrown into the same cell as Kallunda. Kallunda comforts a man who was beaten by the guards and Rachenko offers the man a smuggled bottle of vodka. However, the man dies before he can take a sip. Moments later, Dewey Ferguson, an American journalist, is thrown into the cell and tells Kallunda there is a rumor that the African is to be executed in the morning. Spotting Rachenko, Dewey voices his hatred towards all Russians and warns him to stay away. Later, a group of guards takes Kallunda. When Dewey attempts to stop them, a sergeant burns him with a cigar. Kallunda kills a guard while Rachenko kills the other two. The three prisoners run out and hide in the back of a truck that is leaving the base. The driver stops to take on two passengers who discover the stowaways. As a guard sounds the alarm, Rachenko tosses the two passengers overboard, cuts through the canvas roof, crawls into the truck cab and throws out the driver. A chase ensues in which Dewey and Kallunda gun down trucks, motorcycles and jeeps with machine guns. Dewey crawls into the cab, just as two soldiers leap onto the truck. When Rachenko leans out to knock them off, Dewey kicks Rancheko out of cab and onto a passing motorcycle. The Russian beats up the cyclist, and leaps back into the cab just as an armored personnel carrier rams the truck and a tank appears. Rachenko pulls hard on the wheel, sending the truck down a ravine. The tank fires, causing the armored personnel carrier to explode. Rachenko blows up the truck with a land mine, causing the tank crew to think the escapees are dead. Despite Dewey's objections, Kallunda invites Rachenko to travel with him to his base at Puerto Silver. After days crossing barren mountains, they reach Puerto Silver to discover the village has been destroyed. The few survivors explain they were attacked by a Russian helicopter, however Sundata has survived. Dewey, Kallunda and Rachenko trek across a savannah to find Sundata. They come upon a waterhole where they are ambushed by Cuban soldiers. A fire fight erupts. It ends when a Cuban puts a pistol to Kallunda’s head and threatens to shoot unless Rachenko surrenders. The Russian throws down his gun, only to hear a shot ring out, killing the soldier holding Kallunda. A rebel counter-ambush kills all the Cubans. The rebels want to kill the Russian, but Kalluda vouches for him. Reaching Sundata’s camp, Rachenko is welcomed by Sundata, but orders him confined to protect him from rebels who want revenge for the loss of the village. That night, Rachenko knocks out his guard, steals a knife and sneaks into Sundata’s tent, only to find soldiers waiting. Sundata informs the Russian that even if he had succeeded in killing him, the people would fight on. On Sundata's orders, Rachenko is brought back in chains and put in a cell. There, he expresses his doubts on the morality of the Russian mission in the country to Gen. Vortek. Infuriated by his impertinence, Vortek expels Rachenko from the Spetsnaz, but promises to have the Cubans release him. Later, Zayas appears and tells Rachenko that Vortek has ordered his execution. However, Zayas orders the Russian tortured so he can learn what the Soviet general is planning. After Zayas leaves, a man sticks needles into Rachenko's pressure points. When the man comes too close, Rachenko kills him with a head butt, then yanks his chains out of a stone wall, telling the stenographer to send a message to Vortek that he is still Spetsnaz. Still shackled, Rachenko escapes into the desert where he is bitten by scorpions. A tribe of Bushmen find him unconscious and nurse him back to health. Meanwhile, Vortek uses his helicopter to gas a village where he thinks Sundata may be hiding. Days later, the Cubans find and attack Sundata’s camp. At first the rebels hold their own until the Russian helicopter arrives. Sundata is wounded saving a small child. Days later, Gao, an elderly Bushman, takes Rachenko into the desert to teach him how to survive, including eating roasted grubs and hunting wild boar with stone spears. One night, Gao presents Rachenko with a drug made from scorpion venom. While Rachenko is in a trance, Gao initiates him into the tribe by carving a scorpion into his chest. The next day, Rachenko rips off his dog tags while Gao watches with approval. Upon returning they discover Gao’s tribe has been gassed by a vanishing helicopter. After a futile search for survivors, Gao presents Rachenko with his spear and wishes him good luck destroying the “evil.” Much later, Dewey is shocked to see Rachenko walk into the rebel’s camp and beg a dying Sundata to let him fight alongside the rebels. With his last breath, Sundata tells Rachenko that he can see in his eyes he now understands the evil that is being perpetuated against his people and knows he will help Kallunda end it. Although Kallunda claims they are beaten, Rachenko leads the rebels into attacking the Cuban camp, but they are soon pinned down by a tank. Dewey arrives with an anti–tank gun mounted on a truck, but before he can use it, a shell lands nearby, wounding Dewey and turning over the truck. Rachenko uprights the truck, and uses the cannon to take out the tank. He shoots his way into the administration building to be confronted by Zayas, who is holding a grenade. Rachenko shoots the Cuban’s hand off and runs. Zayas grabs at his severed hand, but the grenade explodes taking out the whole building. Rachenko then sees Vortek trying to lift off in the helicopter and shoots out the engine. He rips open the door to find a wounded Vortek who reminds him he is Spetsnaz. Rancheko agrees, but tells the general that unlike him, he is a true Spetsnaz. As he turns to walk away, Rachenko hears Vortek pull his pistol. He turns and machine-guns Vortek to death. As a battered Rachenko wanders through the camp, Dewey and Kallunda tell him they have won the battle. +

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

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