Whilst reading my dear friend, E4's (better known to all of us as Sweet Eddie Blue Eyes) recent blog post about the difference between 'great' and 'awesome' movies, I could not help but think of an oft thought about, occasionally expressed, and rarely explored opinion of mine of the so-called "Greatest Bad Movie" ever made. For while I agree with E4 about differentiating between movies that we enjoy because of artistic or cinematic achievement and those we enjoy due to sheer entertainment or bad-ass appeal, I find it pertinent to explore with you, what is in my opinion, the greatest bad movie ever made: 1984's "Red Dawn"
One of the most interesting aspects of this film for me is the way in which it was introduced, which in actuality is a moment I cannot call to mind. As best as I can recollect, it was one of those films that I just caught a scene or two here and there on a Saturday afternoon on TBS or USA or some other Superstation. That first screening is irrelevant; however, as the greater point at hand lies in the fact that I always remember each and every scene as nothing short of amazingly kick-ass. As the years went by, I caught more and more of the film until I saw it in its entirety which was probably during my freshman year of college. As I watched it the whole way through, I found myself going through a range of emotions the likes of which I had never really encountered before. I was amazed, energized, patriotic, amused, perplexed, engrossed, curious, terrified, incredulous, and transfixed on what has become one of the most entertaining films I've ever seen. The only problem I've encountered with that assessment is that the film is not good at all.
Let's start with the plot and the opening scene. We are given a text description of a doomsday scenario in which the Soviet Union suffers a horrible wheat harvest shortage, riots occur, Poland is invaded, Honduras and El Salvador fall, and NATO is dissolved. Why? Who really knows? And who really cares? Then, a high school in Colorado is introduced that is apparently located in what appears to be an area at least 50 miles away from anything that can be remotely described as civilization. The late and great (according to my buddy, Matt Fullmer) Patrick Swayze drives his younger brother, played by a pre-drug addled Charlie Sheen, and his buddy to school where they proceed to go to their first period World History class to learn about Genghis Khan and his Mongols terrorizing China. Within a few minutes, the teacher stops his lecture to gaze at the parachuting Russian troopers landing in the nearby schoolyard. For reasons only known to this particular educator, he walks outside to confront the obviously well-armed communist army and callously approaches them as if he's stopping a freshman wandering the halls without a pass. The army proceeds to mow him and half the class down with AK-47's and bazookas and BAM! World War III is in full effect.
Swayze then appears out of nowhere as if he's been waiting for this moment his whole life and picks up Sheen and a few friends that includes C.Thomas Howell who in time will turn into a cold-blooded killer and eventually kill his friend because he was forced to swallow a tracking device that gave away their position. The friends all get together, gather supplies, and head for the hills with a pre-nose job Jennifer Grey and pre-Lorraine Baines McFly, Leah Thompson to escape the horrendous massacre that ensues before their very eyes. In any event, we never find out the specifics of the circumstances, politics, or historical significance of the invasion until Powers Booth is shot down in his F-14 flying over the war zone. He joins forces with our teenage rebels while developing a creepy pseudo pedophilic relationship with Leah Thompson. In order to 'develop' the plot, Booth describes the current status of the invasion which does little more than emphasize the fact that the Russians and Cubans are nothing more than a bunch of sadistic communists who kill for no rhyme or reason. Next thing you know, our saviors declare themselves to be Wolverines after their high school mascot and single-handedly take on the Red Scare.
I won't go into the plot any further, but suffice it to say that there are gaping holes all over the place. But if the poor plot and character development aren't enough to convince you of how bad this film really is, the acting is sure to put you over the edge. Particularly when Swayze and Sheen confront their father who has been captured and placed into a prisoner's camp in what could quite possibly be the cheesiest scene ever that attempts to be serious:
Despite all the problems with this film, the first adjective that will come to my mind while thinking about it is, and always will be, 'awesome'. There aren't many films that can be awesome and horrible at the same time and there is no film that does that combination better than "Red Dawn". Particularly if you are at all to take seriously the opening quote from my sister's favorite president, Teddy Roosevelt:
"Far better is it to dare mighty things than to take rank with those poor timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat."
Ummmmm.......OK..........your movie still sucks..........but it's oh so awesome.
Oh, and I can't wait to see the remake coming soon.