c Red Dawn [Blu-Ray] (1984)
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MOVIE INFO

Director:
John Milius
Cast:
Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey, Lea Thompson
Writing Credits:
Kevin Reynolds and John Milius

Synopsis:
It is the dawn of World War III. In mid-western America, teenagers band together to defend their town - and their country - from invading Soviet forces.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: 1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $34.93
Release Date: 3/14/2017

Bonus:
• “A Look Back” Documentary
• “Red Dawn Rising” Featurette
• “Training for WWIII” Featurette
• “Building the Red Menace” Featurette
• “WWIII Comes to Town” Featurette
• Trailer


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RELATED REVIEWS


Red Dawn [Blu-Ray] (1984)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 12, 2017)

For a piece of Reagan-era action-drama, we head to 1984’s Red Dawn. In this tale, NATO collapses and leaves the USA as the sole beacon of freedom. Communist forces from the USSR, Cuba and Nicaragua stage a secret invasion of America.

When enemy paratroopers land in small town Colorado, they eventually find resistance. Led by Jed Eckert (Patrick Swayze) and his brother Matt (Charlie Sheen), local teens join forces to fight back against the red menace.

Though I was a high school student myself back in 1984, I never saw Red Dawn. I can’t say why, though I suspect I thought it looked too silly to take seriously. I got enough of the jingoistic Reagan years rah-rah nonsense elsewhere and probably didn’t see the point of this semi-propaganda.

I doubt I realized this in 1984, but the presence of writer/director John Milius adds to my youthful expectation that Dawn would act as a fevered fantasy for the Guns and Ammo crowd. This becomes exactly the sort of unironic violent fantasy one might anticipate from a former member of the NRA Board of Directors and a self-described “right-wing extremist”.

Milius’ worldview flares up all over Red Dawn, a movie that can only be described as a jingistic militia wet dream. Packed with melodrama and violence, the movie becomes unintentionally comedic.

Really unintentionally, as Milius refuses to inject the tale with any form of lightness or levity. Man, does Milius take the project – and by extension, himself – seriously.

Rather than embrace the giddy fantasy of the premise, Milius treats Red Dawn like the most grave, dramatic work committed to film – and that’s a huge mistake. If played with some sense of fun and excitement, the film could’ve become enjoyable, but as depicted with this excessively dour tone, the result seems ponderous.

Red Dawn spends little time with exposition pre-invasion, so we don’t get to know the characters before the action starts. And you know what? We don’t get to know the characters after the action starts, either.

This means it becomes difficult to distinguish one role from another – at least based on the depictions here. I suspect most viewers will simply refer to the characters by their actors’ names, as it cuts out the middleman. Milius does so little to develop the parts that it’s more sensible to just call them “Patrick Swayze” or “Jennifer Grey” than to try to remember their character names.

Dawn does include a decent array of semi-notables, as in addition to Swayze, Sheen and Grey, we find folks like Powers Boothe, Harry Dean Stanton, C. Thomas Howell, Ben Johnson and Lea Thompson. Saddled with terrible dialogue and poorly-drawn characters, not a single one offers a half-decent performance. Swallowed whole by the movie’s idiocy and silliness, the actors go down with the sinking ship.

At least most were about the right age for their parts – except for Swayze, who was far too old to play Jed. We’re supposed to view him as late teens or early twenties, but Swayze was 32 in 1984.

Shades of Stockard Channing in Grease! Swayze really looks too aged for the part, as he clearly seems much older than the others. Cripes, Boothe’s Lt. Col. Tanner treats Jed like a son though Boothe was only four years older than Swayze!

In the end, the film’s biggest flaw comes from the sheer boredom on display. Even with ample amounts of action and an admittedly interesting concept, Red Dawn lacks even a basic sense of excitement.

Which hearkens back to its ridiculous sense of self-seriousness. Every moments gets treated like high drama, with an absurdly overwrought score to boot.

Mawkish, maudlin and dull, Red Dawn seems as ham-fisted as could be. The movie produces some unintentional comedy but it’s far too sluggish and boring to sustain attention.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Red Dawn appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer offered a mix of ups and downs.

Sharpness usually fared well. Despite some mild edge haloes, the image showed pretty good delineation, with only a sliver of softness on display.

I saw no signs of shimmering or jaggies, but print flaws became a moderate distraction. While these didn’t dominate, the movie displayed more than a few instances of specks, marks and blemishes. Though not a messy presentation, the image should’ve been cleaner.

Colors showed pretty good representation, as the film’s natural palette came across well. The movie’s heavier than expected grain could diminish their clarity a little, but the hues were one of the better aspects of the transfer.

Blacks also seemed deep and dark, and shadows looked smooth. Low-light shots offered clean imagery without too much density. Though a lot of the image looked quite good, the negatives dropped this to a “C+”.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield of Red Dawn showed a consistently positive sense of environment. The forward channels mildly dominated the piece, and they presented nice delineation and separation.

The front speakers remained in use through the majority of the movie, and they created a setting that was fairly lively and realistic. Elements blended smoothly, and pieces moved cleanly across the channels.

The surrounds appeared more active than I expected for a film of this era, as they presented lots of material for both quiet and loud sequences. The action scenes brought the surrounds to life, and other segments used all five channels with great effectiveness. Overall, the soundfield worked well to create a relatively immersive environment.

Audio was also fine given its age. Speech seemed reasonably natural and concise, without notable problems. Music appeared vivid and dynamic and showed nice depth and punch.

Effects seemed solid. Occasional signs of distortion occurred and some components were less than natural – especially gunshots - but most of these elements offered good clarity and accuracy, with pretty strong low-end as necessary. For a track from 1984, this one worked fairly well.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get five video programs. A Look Back runs one hour, nine minutes and eight seconds as it provides notes from casting director Jane Jenkins, editor Thom Noble, production designer Jackson De Govia, and actor Doug Toby. The program examines the film’s premise and story/characters, thoughts about director John Milius, cast and performances, training and action scenes, production design, camerawork and editing, and the flick’s reception/legacy.

With only four participants in tow, “Look” comes with a limited perspective. Still, it manages to give us a mix of good notes about the film, and it movies pretty quickly given its length. While I won’t call this a great program, it offers a nice variety of details.

Next comes Red Dawn Rising. It lasts 23 minutes, two seconds and features director John Milius and actors Charlie Sheen, Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson, C. Thomas Howell, and Powers Boothe. “Rising” looks at the script and its path to the screen, story/characters, Milius’ impact on the production, cast and performances, and the movie’s impact.

Created for a 2007 DVD, “Rising” brings in the “star power” absent from “Look”. It lacks the same amount of time, obviously, but it touches on the important subjects in a reasonably positive manner. It’s good to hear from some of the film’s bigger names and this becomes a tight little overview.

With the nine-minute, 49-second Training for WWIII, we hear from Milius, Sheen, Thompson, Swayze, CIA film liaison Chase Brandon and military advisor Dale Dye. “WWIII” examines the actors’ training, military aspects of the movie, and shooting combat sequences. The show offers a nice synopsis of the topics it examines.

Building the Red Menace goes for nine minutes, 37 seconds and offers details from Milius, Swayze, director of photography Ric Waite, and tank designers/builders Renaud and Andre Veluzat. This show relates aspects of the military elements created for the film, and it gives us another engaging and informative piece.

Finally, WWIII Comes to Town takes up 13 minutes, 27 seconds with info from Milius, Swayze, Waite, Sheen, and location residents Edward Tsyitee, Holly Simpson, Mykle Williams,loyd Chavez, Angelica Vigil and Judee Williams. “Town” mainly discusses the production’s stay in Las Vegas, New Mexico and aspects of the shoot there. It’s the least interesting of the featurettes, but it still gives us a smattering of useful details.

Dated and dull, Red Dawn hasn’t aged well. The movie comes across as a silly fantasy without nuance or impact. The Blu-ray offers erratic picture with fairly good audio and a largely informative collection of supplements. Red Dawn offers a turgid stab at an action flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.3333 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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