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Title: Red Dawn Collector's Edition

Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :3.5stars:
Audio: :3.5stars:
Extras: :3stars:

HTS Overall Score:69

Back in 1984 people were still VERY nervous about the thought of the Russians (irony in today’s political climate) attacking as well as the threat south of the border with Castro and his men all but making the average American a little bit cautious. There used to be political conspiracy theories that the Cubans and the Russians could technically start a 2-front war with us, but naturally nothing ever came of it and the cold war eventually settled down to a low murmur. But in 1984 the thought of World War III was still heavily prevalent in the minds and thoughts of your average joe, and it seems movie makers as well. “Red Dawn” is one of those films that has a heavy tinting of rose coloring to the nostalgia googles, as it was a film that held an all-star 1980s cast and wasn’t your typical “rah rah!” action flick either. It was surprisingly dark and brutal for a PG-13 film starring young adults, and actually almost pushes into the R rated territory at times. The PG-13 rating had just been invented so it was pushed into that middle rating bracket, but it’s bleak and vicious portrayal of a guerilla war on American soil was quite shocking to movie goers 31 years ago.

“It’s World War III out here and people are dying”! Yup, it’s 1984 and things are going swimmingly, at least in America. The rest of the world is in chaos as the Russians invade Poland and the Nicaraguans and Cubans amass their army and start taking over Latin America. Nato is dissolved and we are the last bastion of Freedom left. A sleepy little Colorado town (and all across the nation) gets a rude awakening when Russian and Latin American paratroopers suddenly land in their midst and start tearing things up. Most people are put into internment camps or slaughtered, but some of the young adults such as Jed (Patrick Swayze), his brother Matt (Charlie Sheen) and a few other high school chums are able to escape into the mountains where they decide to form a resistance cell. Known as the “Wolverines”, the young adults (at this point their childhood is gone) form an effective fighting force that does hit and run attacks on the Russian and Latin forces, striking and then vanishing into the night, just waiting for reinforcement American troops to survive.

With will wearing down and the Wolverines losing members slowly but surely, it becomes a test of strength and desire for the young warriors. The seemingly overwhelming forces that they fight against are vastly better equipped, and are getting reinforcements by the day. The only thing that can turn the tide is a suicide run that is sure to whittle their diminishing ranks down to nill, but very well may turn the tide of the war if they can hit the enemy right where they live.

“Red Dawn” is a bit dated by today’s standards, and rightfully so. The concept of a full-on invasion of America from the forces mentioned was pretty crazy even in 1984. Not to mention the fact that “Red Dawn” had the forces invading small towns in the Midwest instead of heavily populated or military targets. Something which leaves you scratching your head and wondering just what they were doing out there. The big benefit that the movie has over other 80s “invasion” action movies was its use of intense emotional drama. This wasn’t a film about guerilla warriors taking back their nation Chuck Norris style (although “Invasion USA” does hold a special place in my heart for the sheer awesome awfulness that it entails), but instead takes on a slightly more realistic and bleak outlook on war. The Wolverines are upbeat and hopeful at first, but soon the losses of war take their toll on the burgeoning adults. The last act of the movie is filled to the brim with desperation and grim fortitude as the freedom fighters realize that this isn’t a lark. This is pure and utter hell.

I still chuckle when I see the casting, as it has ALL the big up and coming 80s kid stars in an adult oriented war movie. Charlie Sheen, the almighty Patrick Swayze, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey (although much less whiny and annoying then she was in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), and Brad Savage. The heavy use of star power luckily doesn’t have anyone overshadowing each other, with the 4 main stars playing against their strengths quite nicely. Swayze is the oldest of the group and naturally takes the lead performance, but he’s still counterbalanced by an actually serious Charlie Sheen and Lea Thompson. The only one who feels a little downplayed is Jennifer Grey, except for the really disturbing scene half way through the film with the assault. It’s a solidly acted film, but one that suffers from a ludicrous plot and a tendency to take itself a bit too seriously for its own good at times.


Rated PG-13 by the MPAA

Video :3.5stars:
The thing you always want to know with these MGM films that Shout are putting out is the question of “how are they different/better”? Well, while I usually REALLY like the new Shout Select titles that they have put out so far, this one is a little disappointing in the PQ department. Upon close inspection, you can see that they seem to be using the same master for the older MGM Blu-ray and just doing a fresh reencode (ala “Mad Max”) and tweaking things a bit. Sadly, there’s some more artifacts that crop up on the new disc and a few bits where fine detail appears to be lackluster upon A/Bing my two discs. However, in motion these problems all but vanish. Colors are solid enough, and the fine detail is there against a nice heavy layer of grain. There’s some speckles and flickers here and there, but once you get out into the open with the wolverines taking the fight to the enemy things look a lot sharper. The image isn’t going to pop off the screen and look razor sharp, but it is a stable looking affair that is pretty pleasing. The only problem, is that it really doesn’t look any different than the cheaper MGM Blu-ray that’s still out there.

Audio :3.5stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track that Shout is using appears to be the EXACT same encode as the MGM Blu-ray, but there is an additional bonus. They’ve also included the film’s original 2.0 track in lossless DTS-HD MA as well. Something that the old disc was sorely missing and is a nice inclusion for purists. Personally, I still like the 2.0 track the best, but the 5.1 remix is a solid affair, albeit a bit front heavy. The dialog is clean and clear, and the mains get a brunt of the heavy lifting while the surrounds just get a few flickers here and there. The LFE pops with power when the mortar shells and gunfire are going off, and there’s a significant amount of weight added to vehicles and the aircraft that blast by overhead. Tank shells whistle by overhead and bullets impact all around, giving a fairly immersive listening situation when the battle heats up, but when the kids are back in the woods it settles down to a decidedly more front intensive mix.

Extras :3stars:

• NEW "A Look Back at Red Dawn" - A 70-minute feature including brand-new stories from co-star Doug Toby, casting director Jane Jenkins, production designer Jackson DeGovia and editor Thom Noble
• Archival Featurettes:
- Red Dawn Rising
- Training For WWIII
- Building The Red Menace
- WWIII Comes To Town
• Original Theatrical Trailer

Overall: :3.5stars:

31 years later, “Red Dawn” is still fun entertainment, despite the fairly ludicrous concept of cold war American paranoia turned deadly. Patrick Swayze and young Charlie Sheen are always appreciated greatly and Shout Factory always has done a good job with their collector’s editions. Sadly recommending this one as a blanket statement is very difficult for me to do. The picture quality is about on par with the older MGM Blu-ray out there and there is only ONE new special feature on this edition. I’ve LOVED the presentation and packaging of the previous Shout Select titles, but with only the one special feature and the 2.0 track for audio purists it’s a very tough upsell from the decidedly cheaper disc that’s been out for years. I can’t make the decision for you, but this edition feels very much like a lateral move instead of a decided upgrade in all the right places that most others have been. I can’t complain too much, not every re-release is going to be light years better than the previous edition, but I also have to say that it REALLY depends on if the new extra is worth it to you, or if you’re an audio purist and have been craving the original 2.0 audio in all its lossless glory. A solid watch that’s for sure, but an upgrade? I’d have to say that “it depends”.

Additional Information:

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, Lea Thompson
Directed by: John Milius
Written by: John Milius, Kevin Reynolds
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Shout Factory
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 114 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 14th, 2017

Buy Red Dawn Collector's Edition On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Fun Watch

More about Mike

4,557 Posts
Mike -- I was hoping this review was going to say this presentation was light years ahead of other versions.

Back in the 80s I had recorded this on BetaMax (probably off HBO?)... have seen it 100s of times!

HTS Moderator , Reviewer
5,742 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Mike -- I was hoping this review was going to say this presentation was light years ahead of other versions.

Back in the 80s I had recorded this on BetaMax (probably off HBO?)... have seen it 100s of times!
yeah, the Shout Select line has so far been really amazing, but this one unfortunately was not able to use a new 2K or 4K master like the rest have mostly used, so it's not a huge upgrade. sad, but it happens.
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