Production Notes Red Dawn 1985

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Hollywood's politico-financial 'empire' did indeed strike back during the final decade of the Cold War. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, America's filmmaking culture had been increasingly dominated by directors. Together with a wider scope for independent film production, this gave rise to greater creativity and political unorthodoxy on screen. In the 1980s, however, this culture was supplanted by one dominated by business-minded executives, agents and lawyers. With this came a new reliance on advertising and marketing, and new exhibition patterns that were aimed at a quick profit rather than gradual returns. In the early eighties, an average Hollywood film cost roughly $11 million to make and another $10 million to market; these sums inevitably militated against the production of risky material, political or otherwise. Like so much of the US economy in the Reagan era, the film industry was also deregulated. In 1985, the 1948 Supreme Court anti-trust ruling was reversed, allowing the major film companies to buy back into cinema chains, thus increasing their control over which movies could be shown and where. All of this, plus the shift to the political right caused partly by increased East-West tensions in the early part of the decade, explains why so much of Hollywood's output in the 1980s spoke of reaction and conservative reassurance.81

The three main films analysed above all fit into this new financial and political framework. Red Dawn on the one hand represented a return to McCarthyite anti-communist agit-prop, minus the HUAC factor. On the other hand, it reflected both the industry's and the New Right's appetite for violence — film executives saw stylised violence as a box office draw, whereas military and political hawks like Alexander Haig and Ronald Reagan believed warlike violence was part of a healthy society, if targeted at the enemy. The fact that a movie as critical of US Cold War strategy as Alex Cox's Walker got made at all in the mid-1980s shows how far Hollywood had travelled politically since the McCarthy era. Yet Cox's row with Universal also demonstrated that, though many of the constraints of the classical studio era had long gone, filmmakers were often still only as free as their distribution deal let them be. This lack of autonomy alerts us to the difficulties filmmakers had in making politically subversive statements even during the latter stages of the Cold War, when many people had long passed the point of looking at the conflict in simplistic terms and even when, as was the case with the Reagan administration's actions in Central America, Congressional and public opinion were bitterly divided over an issue.

Walter Hill's Red Heat combined 'high-concept', easily marketable filmmaking with violence and a huge box office star (Schwarzenegger). Neither its makers nor its viewers probably regarded Red Heat as a 'political' movie. But it was so, of course, not least in the way in which it projected the political establishment's view of the dangers that the United States faced in the new, post-Cold War world. By the late 1980s, many in Washington believed that drugs had already replaced communism as terrorism's twin evil, and Red Heat pointed the way towards a joint US-Russian policing role to combat that dual threat. In September 1989, the United States and Soviet Union held a conference on how the two nations could work together against terrorists.82 In the same month, US Secretary of Defence Dick Cheney ordered his military commanders to devise new plans for a drug war. Three months later, in December 1989, US forces invaded Panama to overthrow President Manuel Noriega, on the grounds that he engaged in international drug-smuggling. America's new enemies had started to fall.83

Hollywood's last major contribution to the Cold War was John McTiernan's $30-million blockbuster The Hunt for Red October. Based on Tom Clancy's 1984 best-selling novel, which Ronald Reagan publicly called 'a perfect yarn', the movie was about a Soviet naval commander (played by the former James Bond, Sean Connery) who defects with his country's new, untraceable nuclear submarine in order to avert a first strike on the United States and thereby hopefully establish the grounds for a post-Cold War alliance of Russian and American peoples. The US Navy gave McTiernan full logistical support after

Steering a peaceful path ahead: sharing the helm of the Soviet nuclear super-sub, Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) and CIA analyst Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) defeat the communist old guard at the climax of The Hunt for Red October (1990). Paramount/The Kobal Collection.

vetting the script, and Connery's dialogue was partly written by John Milius. Back in 1985, when the producers Mace Neufeld and Jerry Sherlock had acquired the rights to Clancy's book, Russia's underwater fleet posed one of the most critical threats to the United States. By the time The Hunt for Red October hit the screens in March 1990, however, Moscow's hold over Eastern Europe had collapsed, and Mikhail Gorbachev had famously declared, in December 1989, that his country no longer considered the United States its enemy. Despite being out of date, The Hunt for Red October was a huge commercial success. Many Americans presumably watched the film with mixed emotions — with an element of pride that the United States had 'won' the Cold War, tinged with relief that, in the process, they could consign such East-West doomsday nuclear scenarios to history once and for all.84


1 Cited in Philip John Davies and Paul Wells (eds), American Film and Politics from Reagan to Bush Jr (Manchester, 2002), p. 8.

2 The partial exception to this is India, where there is a long history of matinee idols entering politics. Some have served as state chief ministers. See Ram Avtar Agnihotri, Film Stars in Indian Politics (New Delhi, 1998).

3 Ronald Reagan, An American Life (London, 1990), pp. 104-25; Gary Wills, Reagan's America (New York, 1987), pp. 246-58. Reagan served as Guild president from 1947 to 1952 and returned for another year in 1959-60.

4 Frances Fitzgerald, Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War (New York, 2000), p. 60; Wills, Reagan's America, p. 300.

5 On Reagan's relationship with and, some argue, mastery of the media during his presidency see Mark Hertsgaard, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency (New York, 1988) and John Tebbel and Sarah Miles Watts, The Press and the Presidency: From George Washington to Ronald Reagan (New York, 1985), pp. 531-53.

6 Nicholas J. Cull, 'Public Diplomacy and the Private Sector: The United States Information Agency, its Predecessors and the Private Sector', in Laville and Wilford (eds), Citizen Groups, p. 220. On Wick's time at the USIA see Snyder, Warriors. Reagan also slotted others friends from his Hollywood days into political positions. Roy Brewer, for instance, a former head of the film trade union IATSE, and a life-long anti-communist, was given a high posting in the US Labour Department. May, Tomorrow, p. 212.

7 Rogin, Reagan, pp. 1-43 especially; James William Gibson, Warrior Dreams: Paramilitary Culture in Post-Vietnam America (New York, 1994), pp. 267, 269; Jeffords, Hard Bodies, pp. 3-5.

8 Fitzgerald, Way Out There, pp. 34-8.

9 Ibid., pp. 24, 37, 74; Lou Cannon, President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime (New York, 2000), pp. 289-90.

10 See, for instance, Robin Wood, Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan (New York, 1986); Chris Jordan, Movies and the Reagan Presidency: Success and Ethics (Westport, CT, 2003); Belton, American Cinema/American Culture; Ryan and Kellner, Camera Politica.

11 Yablans' efforts to save the company failed. By the end of the 1980s, MGM/UA had been dismantled and its back lot sold. On this see Peter Bart, Fade Out: The Calamitous Final Days of MGM (New York, 1990).

12 Variety, 21 September 1988.

13 'Ten Soldiers', revised second draft script by Kevin Reynolds, 27 October 1982, Collection 073, Box F-741, UCLA AL.

14 Bart, Fade Out, pp. 110-11; Variety, 16 June 1997, p. 34.

15 Marquee, June/July 1984, pp. 24-6.

16 American Film, March 1986, p. 48; Devine, Vietnam, pp. 219-21.

17 Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 10 February 1982 and 9 September 1984; Alexander Haig, Inner Circles: How America Changed the World: A Memoir (New York, 1992), p. 550.

18 'Red Dawn' AKA 'Ten Soldiers', shooting script by Kevin Reynolds and John Milius, 19 October 1983, Collection 073, Box F-24, UCLA AL; Bart, Fade Out, pp. 111-13, 134; BAM, 7 September 1984, pp. 18-19. A still from the McDonald's scene - showing four Red Army soldiers posing with a Russian tank under a Golden Arches sign - remained the most prominent advertisement for Red Dawn in the press.

19 Bart, Fade Out, pp. 133-5, 138-9; Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 2 April 1984; Red Dawn Production notes and Press book, AMPAS; Los Angeles Weekly, 17-23 August 1984, p. 37; Red Dawn budget file, Box 6, Buzz Feitshans Collection, AMPAS.

20 This is partly due to the frequency with which Reagan quoted lines from the movie. See, for instance, his speech on tax reform at the Santa-Cali-Gon Days Celebration in Independence, Missouri, in September 1985, at www.reagan. (27 March 2006). Rambo: First Blood Part 2 made $200 million in the United States alone. On the movie's cultural and political impact see Palmer, Eighties, pp. 62-3, 96-9. In early 1986, the New York Times reported that Rambo video-cassettes were much sought after even on the Russian black market. In that year, as part of a government-ordered Five Year Plan of anti-American movies, Soviet film-goers got to see actor Mikhail Nozhkin play their industry's equivalent of John Rambo, making short work of American military terrorists in Mikhail Tumanishvili's Solo Voyage. See Val Golovskoy, 'Art and Propaganda in the Soviet Union 1980-5', in Anna Lawton (ed.), The Red Screen: Politics, Society and Art in Soviet Cinema (London, 1992), pp. 264-74.

21 Green's 'invasion' - which starts with a Soviet nuclear attack on Alaska - is not as 'real' as that depicted in Red Dawn. It turns out to be the result of a hypnotist's trick, played on the patrons in a New York bar as a warning against complacency in the face of the communist threat. Hollywood Reporter, 3 December 1952, p. 3, and New York Times, 30 April 1953, p. 39.

22 Fitzgerald, Way Out There, pp. 37, 73.

23 Gibson, Warrior Dreams, pp. 270-4.

24 Jeffords, Hard Bodies, p. 12.

25 According to calculations conducted by a group calling itself the National Coalition on Television Violence, an act of violence occurred in Red Dawn at an average rate of 134 per hour or 2.23 per minute. This earned the film an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most acts of violence in a single film up to that time. New York Times, 16 September 1984, H19, 24.

26 On the strong propaganda component of Reagan's 'Star Wars' programme see Fitzgerald, Way Out There. On Hollywood's nuclear films of the 1980s, including Testament and The Day After, see Chapter 5, note 73, and Palmer, Eighties, pp. 179-205.

27 For a contemporary analysis of the revenge theme see Vincent Canby, New York Times, 8 December 1985, H21-2.

28 Cannon, President Reagan, p. 11; Marquee, June/July 1984, pp. 25-6.

29 Bart, Fade Out, p. 227-8; Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 9 September 1984.

30 David Denby in New York, 20 August 1984, p. 90; Janet Maslin in New York Times, 19 August 1984, H15.

31 Wall Street Journal, 14 November 1984, p. 35; New York Times, 10 November 1984, pp. 48, 79.

32 Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 15 August and 9 September 1984.

33 Andrew Britton, 'Blissing Out: The Politics of Reaganite Entertainment', Movie, Vol. 31/32, Winter 1986, p. 17; Los Angeles Times, 21 September 1984; Soldier of Fortune, Vol. 9, No. 9, September 1984, pp. 28—31; Gibson, Warrior Dreams, pp. 161-2.

34 Variety, 2 and 9 January 1985; New York Times, 4 January 1986, p. 3.

35 Variety, 26 June 1985. In Rocky IV, ageing US boxer Rocky Balboa (played by Stallone) travels to Moscow, where he defeats a computer-programmed Russian, Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). On the movie's iconographic representation of the man versus machine cliché of American-Soviet relations see Palmer, Eighties, pp. 218-22.

36 Variety, 16 June 1997, p. 34; Los Angeles Times, 16 December 2003.

37 In June 1986, the OPD congratulated itself on having 'played a key role in setting out the parameters and defining the terms of the public discussion on Central America policy'. Peter Kornbluh and Malcolm Byrne (eds), The Iran-Contra Scandal: The Declassified History (New York, 1993), pp. 2-8. See also David Thelen, Becoming Citizens in the Age of Television: How Americans Challenged the Media and Seized Political Initiative during the Iran-Contra Affair, 1985—1990 (Chicago, IL, 1996).

38 Steven Paul Davies, Alex Cox: Film Anarchist (London, 2000), pp. 15-16, 22, 32-45, 61,79.

39 Walker Production notes, pp. 4-5, AMPAS; New York Times, 4 December 1987, C10; Mother Jones, December 1987, pp. 31,38. On William Walker see E. Bradford Burns, Patriarch and Folk: The Emergence of Nicaragua, 1798-1858 (Cambridge, MA, 1991), pp. 160-210.

40 Palmer, Eighties, pp. 134-48. On the difficulties Wexler had in shooting Latino in war-torn Nicaragua and in finding a distributor for his movie see 'Latino: Cinecom International Press Kit', AMPAS, and LA Weekly, 21 June 1985.

41 Davies, Cox, p. 95; Mother Jones, December 1987, p. 41.

42 Walker Press book, p. 4, and Production notes, p. 5, AMPAS; Rudy Wurlitzer, Walker (New York, 1987), pp. 20-1.

43 Walker Production notes, p. 5, AMPAS; Box 2, Folder 4, Alex Cox Papers, Collection 174, UCLA AL; Wurlitzer, Walker, p. 63ff.

44 Walker Production notes, p. 5, AMPAS; Box 2, Folder 4, Cox Papers, UCLA AL; Davies, Cox, p. 100.

45 Los Angeles Times, 19 April 1987, pp. 16-23; Interview, December 1987, p. 154; New York Times, 22 March 1987, pp. 19, 37; Village Voice, 7 July 1987.

47 Los Angeles Times, 19 April 1987, pp. 16-23; City Limits, 23-30 March 1989, p. 13; New York Times, 22 March 1987, pp. 19, 37; Wurlitzer, Walker, p. 12.

48 Walker Shooting schedule, Box 5, Folder 1, Cox Papers, UCLA AL; Wurlitzer, Walker, p. 14; Los Angeles Times, 19 April 1987, pp. 16-23; Walker Production notes, p. 13, AMPAS; New Musical Express, 5 September 1987, p. 22.

49 Robin Denselow, When the Music's Over: The Story of Political Pop (London, 1988), pp. 181-6; Davies, Cox, p. 74.

50 Walker script, dated 29 October 1986, Box 2, Folder 5, Cox Papers, UCLA AL; Wurlitzer, Walker, p. 25.

51 Walker scripts, dated 29 October 1986 and 7 January 1987, Box 2, Folder 5, Cox Papers, UCLA AL; Cox's interview with Cork City-based filmmaker Chris Neill, October 2002, (5 September 2004). For a more detailed analysis of Walker's unusual take on the historical film genre see Robert A. Rosenstone, 'Walker: The Dramatic Film as (Postmodern) History', and Sumiko Higashi, 'Walker and Mississippi Burning Postmodernism versus Illusionist Narrative', in Robert A. Rosenstone (ed.), Revisioning History: Film and the Construction of a New Past (Princeton, NJ, 1995), pp. 188-213.

52 Sight and Sound, Vol. 56, No. 4, Autumn 1987, pp. 250-1; Walker script, undated but between 29 October 1986 and 7 January 1987, Box 2, Folder 6, Cox Papers, UCLA AL. The directors of The Terminator (1984) and Commando (1985) were James Cameron and Mark L. Lester respectively.

53 Wurlitzer, Walker, p. i.

54 Rob Moore to Alex Cox, 11 March 1987, Box 2, Folder 4; Walker script, dated 29 October 1986, Box 2, Folder 5: Cox Papers, UCLA AL.

55 Kornbluh and Byrne, The Iran-Contra Scandal, pp. xv, xx, 408.

56 Los Angeles Times, 19 April 1987, pp. 16-23; Los Angeles Weekly, 15-21 January, 1988, p. 41; Cineaste, Vol. 16, No. 3,1988, pp. 12-16, 52-3.

57 Newsweek, 20 April 1987, p. 44. In 1989, Oliver North was sentenced to a three-year suspended prison term, having been found guilty of three charges in relation to his activities while at the National Security Council. A year later, his convictions were overturned on the grounds that his Congressional testimony prejudiced his right to a fair trial. During the Iran-Contra Affair, Elliott Abrams was indicted for giving false testimony about his role in the illicit money-raising schemes by the special prosecutor handling the case, but he pleaded guilty to two lesser offences of withholding information from Congress in order to avoid a trial and a possible jail term. President George Bush pardoned Abrams along with a number of other Iran-Contra defendants shortly before leaving office in 1992. Lawrence E. Walsh, Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-up (New York, 1998), pp. 158-9, 490-510.

58 Los Angeles Times, 19 April 1987, pp. 16-23; City Limits, 23-30 March 1989, pp. 13-14; Davies, Cox, p. 100.

59 Los Angeles Weekly listings, 10-24 December 1987 - Walker advertisement 4 December 1987, p. 82; Village Voice listings, 10-13 December 1987; City Limits, 23-30 March 1989, pp. 13-14.

60 Wurlitzer, Walker, pp. 24-5; Guardian, 30 March 1989, p. 27; Davies, Cox, p. 101.

61 Variety's Film Reviews, Vol. 20, 1987-8 (New York, 1991), 2 December 1987; BoxOffice, February 1988.

62 Village Voice, cited in Wurlitzer, Walker, p. ii; Commonweal, 29 January 1988; Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 4 December 1987, p. 11; Davies, Cox, p. 100.

63 Los Angeles Times, 5 March 1988, VI, 8; Davies, Cox, p. 104; title/tt0096409/business (25 March 2006).

64 Los Angeles Times, 10 February 1988; Palmer, Eighties, p. 209.

65 Palmer, Eighties, p. 21; Reagan's toast, 30 May 1988, in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Ronald Reagan, 1988: Book 1: Jan. 1—July 1, 1988 (Washington, DC, 1988), p. 680. Ironically, and probably unbeknownst to Reagan, the screenplay of Friendly Persuasion was credited to a communist writer, Michael Stevens. See Joseph Dmohowski, 'The Friendly Persuasion (1956) Screenplay Controversy: Michael Wilson, Jessamyn West, and the Hollywood Blacklist', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 22, No. 4, 2002, pp. 491-514.

66 Films and Filming, February 1984, p. 36.

67 Hollywood Reporter, 28 March 1984, p. 419.

68 S. J. Ball, The Cold War: An International History, 1947-1991 (London, 1998), pp. 221-6.

69 Variety, 4 November 1987, p. 11; Hollywood Reporter, 25 May 1982, p. 3; Motion Picture Herald, 25 May 1966, p. 525.

70 BoxOffice, September 1988; (27 March 2006).

71 Katz, Encyclopedia, p. 631; Bart, Fade Out, p. 110.

72 Los Angeles Times, 25 October 1987; Adrian Wright, Arnold Schwarzenegger: A Life in Film (London, 1994), p. 103.

73 Katz, Encyclopedia, p. 756; Variety, 29 April 1987, p. 16.

74 Movie, January 1989, pp. 34-45.

75 See, for instance, first draft shooting script of Red Heat, undated, by Troy Kennedy Martin and Walter Hill, Collection 073, Box 741, UCLA AL.

76 US, 17 June 1988; Red Heat Production notes, AMPAS; Laurence Leamer, Fantastic: The Life of Arnold Schwarzenegger (New York, 2005). Schwarzenegger followed in Ronald Reagan's footsteps when he was elected Governor of California in 2003.

77 Red Heat Production Notes, AMPAS; Variey, 17 February 1988; Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, 10 February 1988.

78 'Making of Red Heat', Red Heat DVD (2001), Momentum Pictures MP024D.

79 Variety, 17 February 1988; Wright, Schwarzenegger, p. 104.

80 Lone citizen-warriors battling against petty functionaries to defeat foreign robber terrorists or drug-smugglers were a staple theme in mid-to-late eighties Hollywood movies like Lethal Weapon (1987) and Die Hard (1988). On this see Jeffords, Hard Bodies, pp. 58-63, and Palmer, Eighties, pp. 110-11, 130-2.

81 Lev, American Films of the 70s, pp. 181-5; Jeffords, Hard Bodies, p. 16; Thomas Schatz, 'The Hollywood Studio System', in Crowdus (ed.), Companion, pp. 199-204.

82 Los Angeles Times, 29 September 1989.

83 Gibson, Warrior Dreams, pp. 288-91.

84 Lee Pfeiffer and Philip Lisa, The Films of Sean Connery (New York, 1993), pp. 238-41; Suid, Guts and Glory, pp. 570-9. Another Cold War drama, John Frankenheimer's The Fourth War, was also made in 1989 and appeared two weeks after The Hunt for Red October. This was about two aged, hawkish commanders (one American, the other Russian) who carry out their own private and outdated war against each other on the German-Czechoslovakia border. It hardly made a dent at the box office. Variety, 14 March 1990, p. 21.

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