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Red Dawn (1984) - Blu-ray Review

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Red Dawn 1984- Blu-ray Review

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2 stars

Released towards the tail end of The Cold War, 1984’s Red Dawn serves as writer/director John Milius’ follow-up to his compromised stab at epic fantasy Conan the Barbarian.  With MGM finally releasing the now two-year-old remake (which is probably not going to improve on the weaknesses of the original), it seems only fitting that the company would make the move to get the original out on blu-ray.

While initially presenting an interesting alternate history of America - one in which the country finds itself ironically isolated by the collapse of the United Nations – Red Dawn is more concerned with being the action-packed and testosterone-fuelled teenage version of Rambo then portraying any sense of the jarring reality its beginning suggests.  It’s amassed quite a cult following in the years since its release but that love comes more out of shouting “Wolverines!” then an actual celebration of the film itself.

After a harrowing opening in which Russian paratroopers descend from the sky onto an open football field directly behind a high school (a scene that is easily the film’s best and only true moment), Red Dawn focuses on a ragtag group of teenagers – led by actors Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, and D.B. Sweeney - that manage to survive the invasion and maintain their lives on the outskirts of town.  They call themselves Wolverines.

While we never know exactly how, World War III has begun and, it seems, America is losing the war.  An American pilot – played by Powers Boothe – confirms this when his plane is shot down and he parachutes right into the middle of the Wolverine camp.  He explains to the gang of survivors that there are only a few remaining “free zones” in the country.  Together, the Wolverines – now including actresses Jennifer Grey and Lea Thompson – plan a violent assault on the communists in a last ditch effort to … survive.

Red Dawn is not a great film.  It bases its believability upon the shoulders of a group of young actors who are clearly – after drinking blood from a fresh deer kill – in over their heads.  There are some nice moments from Swayze but the rest of the cast is barely there; painted on with broad strokes that test your patience when the more dramatic moments – i.e. death scenes – are just around the corner.  The only form of a “pick me up” arrives when Boothe parachutes in.  Finally, Red Dawn has a guiding and much-needed presence…until he is killed.

Part of the problem is the fact that Milius never once provides any character development that is sure to happen as these kids enter survivor mode.  One falls by the wayside and no one cares.  There’s nothing to distinguish any of the characters from each other.  It’s reported that the actors went through an eight-week long military sponsored survival-themed boot camp.  Mostly wasted money as what is captured on screen features only rote scenarios seen in almost every other movie that has a camp out scene.

Make no mistake, Red Dawn is big American DUMB fun.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Red Dawn 1984- Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: PG-13 (first film to ever garner the PG-13 rating.)
Runtime:
114 mins
Director
: John Milius
Writer: John Milius
Cast: Patrick Swayze; C. Thomas Howell; Lea Thompson; Charlie Sheen; Jennifer Grey; Brad Savage
Genre: Action | Adventure | Drama
Tagline:
The invading armies planned for everything - except for eight kids called "The Wolverines.
Memorable Movie Quote: "C'mon! We're all going to die, die standing up!"
Distributor:
MGM/UA Entertainment Company
Official Site:
Release Date: August 10, 1984
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 9, 2012

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

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Red Dawn 1984- Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Movie
 
Blu-ray Disc
2
 
2
     
Blu-ray Experience
2

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - October 9, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Dutch, Indonesian, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Polish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono; French: DTS 2.0; Portuguese: Dolby Digital Mono;;; Italian: DTS 2.0; German: DTS 2.0; Russian: DTS 5.1; Spanish: DTS 2.0; Czech: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)

The 1080p transfer is decent enough.  It hasn’t been remastered and is in serious need of a “cleansing” as the amount of white flecks and scratches remain on the print.  There’s a good deal of detail with a fine layer of grain. Add to that some nice large-scale shots of the mountains, fields, and trees and you’ve got a nicely-handled transfer.  Everything else – from people to explosions - looks muddy and dull.  White specks, dirt, and black spots appear frequently.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track tries to make up for the weak visuals and lack of fine detail with mighty explosions, but even that is a bit muddied.  In my opinion, MGM should have taken their time with this release.  Instead, they just dumped it on the public.  It is recommended – no matter the asking price - for hard-core fans only.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

Porting everything but the fun supplemental dubbed the Carnage Counter from the Collector’s Edition DVD, the special features offer nothing new to the mix.  There’s your typically standard and short look at the making of the film in “Red Dawn Rising” and a look at what it took to make the film look real in “Building the Red Menace”.   The actors’ boot camp guerilla fighting experience is related in “Training for WWIII” and, in “WWIII Comes to Town”, we return to Las Vegas and find out from locals and extras what happened when 'Red Dawn' turned it into the fictional town of Calumet, Colorado.

  • Red Dawn Rising (12 min)
  • Building the Red Menace (7 min)
  • Training for WWIII (7 min)
  • WWIII Comes to Town (10 min)
  • Theatrical Trailer

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