dir: John Milius
What a strange film. It looks like a weird, right wing treatise on the dangers of ignoring the threat of Communism prior to the actual fall of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union, but even accepting that, its kitsch value is through the roof.
Avowed right wing paragon John Milius, who wrote the script on such legendary endeavours as Conan the Barbarian and Apocalypse Now, decided that only he could do his paranoid “epic” justice by directing it himself.
And he’s probably right. Anyone else would have been uncomfortable with making a film with such terrible acting performances from the main characters. But, I guess, thinking as a screenwriter, all Milius wanted was for them to say the precious words that he’d written.
Let’s not overstate this or glide over it: much of the acting by the main players is comically bad. Uproariously bad. Showgirls bad. But, for reasons I can only put down to the seriousness of the subject matter and a nostalgic glow courtesy of the early 80s, it doesn’t sink the film. Far from it.
Red Dawn is the distillation of the worst case scenario right-wing gun strokers imagined possible in the 80s: Middle America invaded by the Soviets and the combined armies of Cuban – Central American tinpot communist dictatorships. But where do they invade? Is it New York, Washington, California, Kalamazoo? Somewhere that would make sense strategically, tactically or sentimentally?
No, it’s Calumet, Colorado. And what aids the nasty invaders in their efforts to subjugate the rugged individualists of these prairie-like locales? The lists required by law for gunshop owners to maintain when gun sales occur. Not only that, but the Guatemalan co-leader of the occupying force, Colonel Bella (the legendary Superfly himself, Ron O’ Neal) refers specifically to the actual form itself when instructing a Russian underling to go collect it and start rounding up troublesome, gun-owning rubes.
Cut to the scene where a bumper sticker informs us that, as far as the owner of the pick-up truck is concerned, you’ll be prying the gun from his cold, dead hand in order to take it away from him. The camera keeps panning downward, and we see the owner’s cold dead hand, and his gun being pried from it by some Cossack scumbag.
Now that is funny. Is it satirical, is it taking the piss or is it doing the NRA’s job for it, considering what a noble and august organisation it is? I’m not sure, but I still like the gag. In the remake of this film, they could actually now use Charlton Heston’s cold dead hand for the scene, as long as they keep him on ice, I guess.