Red Dawn

So, it’s been a rainy two days. And right now, I’m thankful for it. I’ve slept more in the past 2 days because of the rain and cloudiness than I have all summer. I swear, my body just shut down and refused to move. And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s been relaxing.

The TV has been tuned in to a couple different channels, but I wake up, watch a bit, and then fall asleep again. One channel has been AMC, which has been repeating their Fourth of July “Heroes” lineup. It includes such classics as “Force 10 from Navarone” (with a young Harrison Ford), “Patton” and “Red Dawn” among others.

Wait a minute…”Red Dawn” is now considered a classic hero movie?

If you’ve never seen this movie from 1984 or so, it’s basically about the U.S. being invaded by the commie hordes from the Soviet Union, Nicaragua and Cuba. During the invasion, a bunch of high school kids take off to hide in the mountains (they live in Colorado or something), and end up becoming a kick-ass guerrilla group, killing billions upon billions of commies. It stars Patrick Swayze as “Jed,” the leader of the “Wolverines.” It’s also Charlie Sheen’s first movie, and the first movie to ever get a PG-13 rating.

It’s also ridiculously awful, now that I see it as an adult.

So as I sat wondering how this is now an “American Hero” movie, I thought back to when I was 14 or so, and seeing it for the first time with my friend Jeff in the Cinema I II III in Allegheny Township. And then it hit home.

Back then, a Soviet invasion was still a pretty real thing. The U.S. didn’t enjoy the technological edge that it does now, so the scenario was still in the range of believability. And after seeing the movie, we were all pretty much convinced that the commie hordes were, indeed, coming. My friends and I started planning out where to stash food and munitions in the woods, because when they got here, we were going to be ready and were going to make them pay. Now, it all seems so ridiculous. But back then, we were absolutely inspired.

I mean, in the movie, these kids learned how to operate AK-47s, RPGs and DSHK machine guns with no effort. So why not us? I mean, RPGs are notoriously inaccurate–they’ll spiral off and do their own thing, from what I understand–but in the movie, a kid hits a single guy in the window of a HIND helicopter with one. Rock on! Ok, why he didn’t bother to hit either rotor assembly was beyond me (then and now, actually), but he smoked that one guy good!

There were some differences though. We didn’t know how to ride horses and properly butcher game like the kids in the movie did, but we were in western PA, we could learn! We also (technically) didn’t have mountains to go hide in. We would have never been more than a mile or so from someone’s house, no matter how deep in the woods we got, so that was kind of problematic.

There was also a problem with the guerrilla group’s name. In the movies, they take on the name of their high school mascot, the Wolverines. Well, ours was the Cavaliers, which sounded pretty gay as far as a kick-ass group of teen warriors goes, so we had to come up with a new one. At first we thought we’d just take on the “Wolverine” name, but when we had our “war games” going on at Jeff’s farm (lots of cornfields and such to hide in), whenever someone scored a big kill, he’d scream “Wolverines!” Then the arguments would start. “Hey, you can’t use that, that’s our name!” “Nuh uh! We thought of it first!” “No way, we did!” “Shut up!” “No, you shut up, you’re dead!” I don’t think we ever came up with a consensus on that one, but since there were several different groups of us all trying to call ourselves “Wolverines,” you can see how it’d get confusing.

But as all teen movie inspired dreams of glory do, our dreams of killing loads of commies came to an end. The commies weren’t coming. We didn’t have the time or money to buy cases of canned food or ammo and weapons, and we weren’t quite daring enough to steal from our parents. We tried sleeping out in the freezing cold in Jeff’s plywood cabin, but came in after the temperature dipped into the teens. The final straw came during one of the war games after it had escalated into use of BB guns, and I had shot my friend Jeff in the nuts. Twice. He dove behind a tree after the original shot, and when he re-emerged to surrender, I shot him again. As he sat with ice on his crotch, we all decided that it was better to just to let this idea die.

So, I guess in a weird kind of way, “Red Dawn” did inspire a warped sense of patriotism and many bad ideas. I guess that makes it a classic movie afterall.


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