Today The Board will take a look at two classic Cold War films. They were released 18 years apart, and they could not be more different. One is a completely unrealistic paranoid fantasy, the other was a madcap comedy released in the Soviet Union as a publicity stunt to extend its run in the US.
If you weren’t young in the early 80’s, you might not understand. I think older people can understand. Y’all had Duck and Cover. We didn’t, but we had Afghanistan, the Olympics boycott, the Carter Doctrine, and renewed draft registration. A competent Cold war President and Cabinet were replaced by Reagan and crew. Reagan was nowhere near to pushing the button as some people think, but the Reagan years were all about fear. Don’t let anyone tell you those were the good old days. I was there. They weren’t.
The movie studios knew this too, and made the perfect film for the times, Red Dawn. You cannot imagine how perfectly this movie was directed at its audience, teen males, unless you were one at the time. I didn’t want to see it as I expected it to be wildly unrealistic, but my friends were going to see it, so I did.
Even the trailer is repulsive and unrealistic:
Seriously? Soviet paratroopers are gonna land in Colorado without anyone having any idea something is going on? Seriously, the Soviet Union isn’t glassed over with nukes at this point?
Red Dawn tries to address this by supposing that Soviet missiles were more accurate than expected and that Cuban saboteurs took out SAC and NORAD. Really? And as far as Soviet missile accuracy goes, so what? We already knew the dense missile fields of the Dakotas could be dug out by Soviet nukes.
So somehow the Soviets at their weakest because of Afghanistan and a bad grain harvest are gonna invade the US and steal our wheat? Somehow the Soviets are going to manipulate elections in West Germany at their weakest? Somehow NATO will fall apart because of Soviet weakness?
And suppose the USSR led off with a decapitation strike. Could they kill every submarine? Might they not face last resort firing procedures that would give them more worries than a bad grain harvest?
Red Dawn made CNN’s listt of best 80’s Cold War movies. I agree it should be there, but so should War Games and Miracle Mile, which I have written about here.
“It’s a conspiracy…. To make you laugh!”
The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming from 1966 is the best antidote to Red Dawn:
It’s all madcap cast of stars 60’s humor, but if you watch it you’ll see why it had plenty of viewers inside the Soviet Union.