Friday, September 8, 2017

Teenage Survivalists on the Warpath

This is my entry for the Colours Blogathon hosted by Thoughts All Sorts

I'm going to preface this by stating my political stance.  I am pro-gun.  I believe the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution gives each individual the right to own a gun.  But you shouldn't define me as a "conservative" (or any of the harsher "liberal" epithets) because of that one stance.  I define myself as a "libertarian".  Which means I have the liberal stance on some issues and the conservative stance on some others, defined by how it affects my life, and my opinion that the government should keep its nose out of how I live my life as long as I am not infringing on a fellow individual's efforts to live his or her life as they wish (and vice versa).  Your opinion on how to interpret the 2nd Amendment may differ from mine, and that's OK.  After all that's what being an individual is all about.  Just don't think you can define my entire political stance based on this one issue, because eventually you'd be wrong on one account or another.

Red Dawn (1984)

In 1984, Soviet Russia (USSR) and the United States were still staring each other down over the tops of their nuclear arsenal.  The biggest fear in the US, at the time, was that Russia would instigate an attack or an invasion on US soil.  (Conversely, I think the average Russian, at the time, feared that the United States would instigate an attack or invasion on Russian soil.)  Most of that lingering fear was propelled by the aggressive nature of both countries.  The so-called "Iron Curtain" that concealed most of Eastern Europe was a result of Soviet aggressive policy of invading countries and taking over the control and government of said countries.

At the beginning of Red Dawn  the world is in the midst of turmoil.  It's essentially already WWIII.  As the prologue before the opening credits state:

-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.

-NATO dissolves.
United States stands alone.

On this premise, the scene opens at a rural high school in Colorado.  While in a history class, the teacher is the first to observe a bunch of paratroopers landing outside the school.  He goes to investigate and is shot by the invading soldiers (which turn out to be a combined force of Russians and Cubans.)  It is an invasion, although it is not clear immediately why they are invading a remote small town in Colorado.  Even though it later becomes clear that this not just an isolated and randomly chosen target, it does cause a bit of confusion to the viewer who is uninitiated as to the objectives of the invaders.

Jed (Patrick Swayze) and his brother Matt Eckert (Charlie Sheen) are on the ball amidst the pandemonium that ensues.  They take to the hills, accompanied by a handful of their friends, with a brief stop at a local gas station owned by a man known as Mr. Morris.  He lets the boys wipe out the supplies in the store and head for the woods (or mountains, not sure which, since I don't know where in Colorado this takes place,)

Over the course of the film and especially early on, Jed takes the role of a leader, and a rather hard-ass one at that.  But look at the context.  These are just kids who have probably been molly-coddled all their lives (or would have been if this were taking place in today's society.)  The community starts out however as just a sort of Boy Scout camp-out, (although with some rather more drastic supplies than when I was a Boy Scout.)  Eventually however the canned food runs out and they begin hunting.

Meanwhile, back in town, the residents have been divided.  The ones who are complacent enough to go along with the Communist occupation are allowed to roam free (mostly).  The ones who are considered to be a threat (read: anyone who thinks the United States Constitution is more than just an insignificant piece of paper) are rounded up and put in detainment camps.  This includes several of the boys fathers, including Jed and Matt's.  Others, we find out, have been executed by the occupying forces.

Jed and Matt and the rest of the boys thus begin to try to follow Mr. Eckert's exhortation as they leave from a surreptitious visit to the detainment camp: "Avenge ME!"  On one of their forays, they meet with another of the citizens, Mr Mason.  He turns over two young girls he has been hiding out in his cellar and gives Jed charge of them.

The band of teenagers eventually become a crew of renegades, attacking isolated enemy soldiers and causing general chaos in the ranks of the opposing forces.  The Russians do their own part as the bad guys by rounding up some of the dissidents they have detained and executing them in retaliation, but this only inflames the patriotism in the band.  They call themselves "the Wolverines", after the mascot of their high school.  (Sounds a hell of a lot more intimidating than if they came from my high school, which had Cardinals as their mascot...)

Powers Boothe has a brief appearance as a downed pilot who helps the teens in their fight.  In one scene in which one of the girls finds him injured, she suspects he might be an enemy soldier.  The brief query, funny in it's own way, either suggests that the girl is not as educated as she should be, or maybe she's just being cagey.  I never really could tell:

"What's the capital of Texas?" she demands, in order to get him to prove he's an American.
"Austin." the pilot replies.
"WRONG!  It's Houston!" she yells.  (Fortunately she doesn't shoot him at that point.)

The second half of the movie is one big fire fight after another as the enemy tries to find and destroy the renegade band, while the Wolverines use confiscated weapons and artillery against the opposition.  Milius is reviled by liberals because of his pro-gun stance especially in this film.  I admit sometimes this movie does seem to go over the top.  But the one point which is made, with which I totally agree, is that the opposition makes use of the files of registered gun owners to confiscate their weapons in order to quell any potential resistance.

Red Dawn  is essentially a male action fantasy in many respects.  While the mores of society have changed over the course of the past 30+  years since its premiere, and probably not as much a fantasy in the average male mind these days as it was then, it still manages to inspire a feeling of heroism and bravado.  In retrospect it does come off as somewhat propaganda-ish, but it still remains a good actioner, in my opinion, and as I said, politically I side with the pro-gun sentiment, and I make no apologies for that.


  1. Wow...this sounds like a good action movie. I must admit I'd only ever heard of the more recent version (2012) but am definitely going to give this one a watch.
    Thanks so much for joining the Blogathon. Is greatly appreciated.

    1. I have been interested in reviewing that one for a while. I just needed an incentive. It's pro-war stance might put some people off, though. Thanks for reading.

    2. It's always great when you get an "excuse" to review a movie. Glad I could help. He he.
      I always enjoy being exposed to different points of view and am not easily offended. Have an awesome weekend.

  2. I've kind of wanted to see this for years, because Patrick Swayze, but I just never have. And then I watched the remake because Chris Hemsworth, and the ending made me so angry I've decided I don't want to watch the original because they'll probably do the same thing, and my writerly sensibilities were outraged (not to mention my feelings as a fan).

    1. I never saw the remake so I don't know what they did there that would offend you. Thanks for reading.

    2. Oh, it didn't offend me -- it made me mad. They killed off Chris Hemsworth for absolutely no good reason! It was bad storytelling AND my Chris Hemsworth got killed! Angry Hamlette!!!

      That's all.

    3. I thought I was the only one who thought the ending pointless. Hopeless. I mean, fine, kill off a character if it is required but here it made no sense. But I'm definitely giving this version a go.

    4. Hamlette: You don't actually see Patrick Swayze's character die in this one, and the movie never really says he does, but spoiler alert, it is implied that he does. But I feel you would probably accept the circumstances.

    5. ThoughtsAllSorts -- exactly! There was ZERO point to the character's death in the remake. It was there for shock value only. Bad writing.

      Quiggy -- interesting! I may have to try the original after all, then. I might like it much better.

  3. I love this movie one of the first "PG-13" flicks that I could go and see with the guys. The last time I watched this one was days after 9/11 I was with my brother everything around us was still very quite it was fitting for the time. Also a huge fan of Lea Thompson when I was a teen was head over heels for her! in parting I must say Wolverines!

    1. I preferred Jennifer Grey myself. I was 23 when it came out, so I had no restrictions to what I got to see then. thanks for reading.

    2. Oh she is easy on the eyes as well!


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