Welcome back you Ladies and Gentlemen. It is I, Doc Comeau and we are back for another movie review. Today we are reviewing the original 1984 version of the Movie Red Dawn. A movie I found on HBO Max.
Authored by Doc Comeau on Friday, August 6th, 2021 at 5:42 PM EST
Photo from IMDb
The foundation of the decision to review this movie came from my business partner Ken asking me to review a more relevant movie. Up until now movies were randomly selected without much thought, but I thought a film about modern war in the United States was the perfect choice to facilitate that request. So without further ado, here is the story of the Wolvernies a group of high school students forced to become gorilla war fighters.
Photo from IMDb
In order from left to right, are Jed Eckert portrayed by Patrick Swayze, Aardvark (Doug Toby), Jed's brother Matt (Charlie Sheen), Robert (Christopher Thomas Howell), the Mason Sisters Erica (Lee Thompson) and Toni (Jennifer Grey) and Danny (Brad Savage). The group makes up the core foundation of the Wolverines. A ragtag group of high school kids forced to retreat to the mountains of Virginia to survive and inevitably attempt to free their home from the invading Russian and Cuban Alliance.
The story of this film is a very simple story. The United States is embargoed by NATO, after withdrawing from the organization. A small town in Virginia must defend their home and their liberty from the invading Russian and Cuban Paratroopers. A task they must perform on their own because the rest of the nation is occupied by various NATO entities.
For those of you that are new here, I grade flicks on a one-to-ten scale, where one is a complete failure and ten being a masterpiece of art and storytelling. I grade each film in a few different sections. These are story and screenplay, performances and dialog, and Cinematography.
As if the time I started writing this review the original version of Red Dawn is and remains a classic film with a cult following. Rotten Tomatoes currently has an "Audience Score 65%" with a "Critic Score" of "46%." With and I quote most critics felt the film had "an appealing ensemble of young stars will have some audiences rooting for the Wolverines, but Red Dawn's self-seriousness can never conceal the silliness of its alarmist concept."
An appealing ensemble of young stars will have some audiences rooting for the Wolverines, but Red Dawn's self-seriousness can never conceal the silliness of its alarmist concept. - Rotten Tomatoes
The story and screenplay here are pretty straight forward. After NATO forces were disbanded all of the alliances enemies strategically isolate and invade the United States of America by land, air and sea. The American people have been left to defend themselves and their freedoms from an occupying army. With the main focus being the Wolverines.
Photo from IMDb
Instead of presenting this through visuals, it was given a beginning not unlike the Star Wars movies but with a different theme and no scrolling text. If this was a modern movie I would deduct points from my score as a result of this, because a visual explanation with scenes and dialog is much more engaging that text on a screen. However, this time I have to give it a pass. It is an older film and I must judge it with that in mind. The technology of movies was still in its infancy.
The intro makes the internal world make sense and directly influenced the choices of the narrative's characters. The United States of America could easily be overrun if its alliances collapse and our enemies came at us all at once. I am one of the people likes the idea of this kind of the underdog rising up against a superior enemy, but it is an average story. I would have to give the story of Red Dawn a 5 out 10. This section could easily be a 6 out of 10 if you are a fan of the United States rising up against its enemies.
I would have to give the story of Red Dawn a 5 out 10. This section could easily be a 6 out of 10 if you are a fan of the United States rising up against its enemies. - Doc Comeau
Now we move onto the performances and Dialog. I watched and reviewed both versions of this film this week and in the area of performances it is this version though the remake takes the gold for dialog. Even with that it is the performances that make a movie and the emotional and rational motivations for the original Wolverines much more believable.
If you read the review for the remake before you read this one you would know that the performance of the actors in the more modern version of the film was enhanced and helped by superior visual technology. Though it is not fair to fault this film for that as it simply could not have accomplished the same scenes with the tech of the era. With that in mind there are too many Wolverines to talk about all the performances, so we will focus on three. There will be spoilers from here until my rating, so if you want to avoid them skip to the end.
Photo from IMDb
The first performance I am going to talk about is Swayze's portrayal of Jeb Eckert. I chose this performance for the review of both versions of this film because a team is no better than the leader that commands them and the character of Jeb rises to that responsibility in both films. Swayze accomplishes this by maintaining a traditional masculine presence. He does a great job portraying a man emotionally affected by the world around him, by burying it to keep his friends and family alive. A performance that shines well when he tries to maintain his cold appearance to keep the morale of the team up during the chaotic events of the film.
Photo from IMDb
Next is Robert and this version of the character is far superior to the newer remake. Howell creates the original scene mentioned in the other review, and goes on a hunt where the Eckert brothers make him drink the blood of his first kill. This version has more character in my opinion because it was a serious cultural exchange rather than the joke of the newest remake. This combined with Howell's excellent portrayal of someone suffering from Battle Fatigue makes this the best version of the character.
Photo from IMDb
The final performance that stood out from the rest was Lee Thompson's portrayal of Erica Mason. Out of the remaining Wolverines her's was the most eye catching and believable. She was a young girl who was raped trying to reach her grandparents during the military occupation of her country. The Post Traumatic Stress of that encounter is well shown in Thompson's mannerisms and reaction to any joke that can remotely be sexual. Culminating in her attachment to an Army Captain that joins the group halfway through their ordeal. One of the most believable performances of the entire film.
There are too many Wolverines to discuss each and every performance, but the were on par with the other performances mentioned. This version of the film had better overall performances than its remake, but they didn't get much screen time to develop. Something the more recent version of the film rectifies. I would give the performances here an 8 out of 10. I should have been a 9 but it lost a point for not developing the whole team.
I would give the performances here an 8 out of 10. I should have been a 9 but it lost a point for not developing the whole team.
As with the other review this section will be rated as if its level of technology was the best available. Even with that in mind, I think the remake was better in this area. This version did a bad job transitioning the team from civilians to soldiers. Something the remake accomplished with better use of visual technology.
This version would have benefitted from a short visual opener that visually told the events of the world instead of the scrolling text. It could have easily accomplished that with the technology at hand. Radio broadcasts instead of news media and a montage of survival rather than a time jump to having an established mountain village. It lost points for this. Visual Storytelling is always the best options in visual media.
This was a difficult film to rate as it was older and even though I watched it first for this review I was introduced to Red Dawn with the new remake. Still, I had to put my nostalgia to the side and make a determination. I would have to give the cinematography a 7 out of 10 as well. It lost points for the lack of a visual introduction to the world and the lack of a training montage.
I would have to give the cinematography a 7 out of 10 as well. It lost points for the lack of a visual introduction to the world and the lack of a training montage. - Doc Comeau
From here the review is a relatively simple math problem. The original Red Dawn gets 6.7 out 10. It really suffered from a lack of screen time for some of the wolverines and the lack of some visual elements mentioned above. It was a slightly more than average film experience that I would recommend to anyone that like action films.
From here the review is a relatively simple math problem. The original Red Dawn gets 6.7 out 10. It really suffered from a lack of screen time for some of the wolverines and the lack of some visual elements mentioned above.
1) Milius, J., & Reynolds, K. (1984). Red dawn. IMDb/Red Dawn (1984). https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087985/?ref_=tt_mv_close.
Archived at; https://archive.ph/JDttq
2) Red dawn (1984). Rotten Tomatoes. (n.d.). https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1017321-red_dawn.
Archive at; https://archive.ph/xq0YO