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Warren Beatty
Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Edward Herrmann, Jerzy Kosinski, Paul Sorvino, Maureen Stapleton, Nicolas Coster
Writing Credits:
Warren Beatty, Trevor Griffiths

Not since Gone With The Wind has there been a great romantic epic like it!

Warren Beatty's award winning epic mixes drama and interviews with major social radicals of the period. Reds tells the story of the love affair between activists Louise Bryant and John Reed. Set against the backdrop of the tumultuous start of the twentieth century, the two journalists' on-again off-again romance is punctuated by the outbreak of WWI and the Bolshevik Revolution. Louise's assignment in France at the outbreak of the war puts an end to their affair. John Reed's subsequent trip to Russia, and his involvement with the Communist party, rekindles their relationship. When Louise arrives in Petrograd, she finds herself swept up in the euphoria of the Revolution. Reed, however, eventually becomes disillusioned with Communism when he sees his words and intentions augmented and controlled by the growing Soviet propaganda machine.

Box Office:
$35 million.
Opening Weekend
$2.325 million on 396 screens.
Domestic Gross
$31.802 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Monaural
French Monaural

Runtime: 195 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 10/17/2006

• “Witness to Reds” Seven-Part Documentary
• Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Reds: 25th Anniversary Edition (1981)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (october 20, 2006)

Come Oscar night 1982, we got a case of What Was, What Should Have Been, and What Most Thought Would Be. In regard to “What Was”, Chariots of Fire took home the prize as Best Picture. As for “What Should Have Been”, I thought – and still believe – that Raiders of the Lost Ark was the best flick of the year and it most deserved the prize.

Then we come to What Most Thought Would Be: a Best Picture victory for Reds. The movie received good reviews and had the kind of epic Oscar feel that the Academy so often likes. When Warren Beatty took home the Best Director trophy, a Best Picture win for Reds seemed even more likely, but it wasn’t to be.

While I felt Raiders was the best of the year’s bunch, I definitely preferred Reds to the lackluster Chariots. Reds starts from reminiscences from “witnesses” who knew the movie’s main characters, Jack Reed (Beatty) and Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton). From there we flash back to Portland Oregon circa 1915 to meet Diane and her dentist husband Paul Trullinger (Nicolas Coster). She supports the arts but he frowns upon her indulgences. Louise clearly moons over rebellious journalist Jack. She pursues an interview with them and they spend a night during which he espouses his left-wing viewpoints, mostly related to potential American involvement in World War I.

As a result, the pair launch a relationship that causes Louise to leave Paul and move to New York with Jack so she can pursue her work as a writer. She ends up with him in Greenwich Village where she gets caught up in the progressive movement with Jack and others such as Max Eastman (Edward Herrmann), Emma Goldman (Maureen Stapleton), Floyd Dell (Max Wright), Bill Haywood (Dolph Sweet) and Eugene O’Neill (Jack Nicholson). However, she resents that no one takes her seriously and she ends up regarded as little more than Jack’s babe. Eventually this comes to a head, and after they shift bases to Provincetown, she’s better able to create useful work.

Louise also finds a distraction during all of Jack’s many trips away from home. She gets involved in an affair with O’Neill though she remains focused on Jack. This love triangle presents lasting repercussions even after Jack and Louise marry. Reds follows their relationship as well as their political proclivities, an area that leads them to Russia for the revolution. This affects them strongly and makes them even more involved in radical issues back in the US. The rest of the flick examines both political and personal subjects.

I seem to recall that I really liked Reds back in 1981, but I tend to discount some of my teenage opinions due to pretension. I wanted to dig movies beyond those normally endorsed by my peer group, so if something seemed to be “sophisticated” and “important”, that was good enough for me. Reds fit the bill in both categories, so it became more likely that I’d endorse it more because of my desires to be “adult” than on its own merits.

25 years later, I’m about as adult as I’ll ever get, and I’d like to think that I’ve abandoned most of my perceptions. Seen in that light, I find that Reds offers a generally successful historical effort but not one that quite lives up to its ambitions.

And what were those ambitions? To be a grand epic on a par with legendary flicks such as Dr. Zhivago. I find that film to offer the most apt point of comparison since both it and Reds cover related territory. Of course, Reds takes the Russian Revolution as a more inspirational event while Zhivago goes in the opposite direction, but the pair share more than a few common components and themes.

Both go through their subjects with a focus on human relationships, and that’s where Reds shines. Beatty approaches his lead characters and their lives in an understated manner that works well. Throughout the film, he tells his tale in a clear manner that lacks the usual sentimentality.

Indeed, Reds offers a very good depiction of the devotion to each other between Jack and Louise. This feels earned, not gratuitous, and comes across in an unsentimental manner that makes it more effective. The movie doesn’t pour on the gooey love; it keeps things calm and unemotional as would befit intellectuals like these. Beatty couldn’t quite resist a music swell during one particularly emotional scene, but given his restraint the rest of the time, I can forgive that move.

Reds blends the emotional side with the historical and creates a nice look at the events. No, we don’t get a full retelling of the Russian Revolution, but we learn more than enough as a backdrop. The main characters remain the focus, and that helps develop the historical elements in a vivid way. For feature films, I usually think they tell history best when viewed through the eyes of different people, so I like the way Reds moves along that side of things.

I must admit I’m not particularly wild about the “witnesses”, though. I don’t think the movie needs that sort of gimmick. Those participants help give us some insights into Reed and Bryant, but I feel they distract more than they add.

I also think the film runs a little too long. It tends to become a bit redundant as it examines the various relationships and threatens to lose the viewer, especially during the first half. Sometimes it feels like the length exists to pad the flick to “epic” scope but doesn’t come for organic storytelling reasons. It does improve its pace once it gets to Russia, though, so the second half proceeds more smoothly.

In any case, Reds has more than enough to overcome the minor weaknesses, especially because we hear less and less from the “witnesses” as the movie progresses. It boasts an absolutely stellar cast and gives us an interesting history of a somewhat forgotten aspect of American history. This is a quality movie that remains solid after 25 years.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B-

Reds appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The intermission occurred at the 1:43:45 mark; I believe this broke up the flick during its theatrical run as well, but it’s hard to remember after 25 years. The movie never showed its age via this splendid transfer.

Sharpness seemed excellent. The movie remained nicely crisp and detailed from start to finish, as very few instances of softness appeared. Overall, the picture was accurate and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I saw only a smidgen of light edge enhancement. Print flaws caused no issues. If any source flaws cropped up, I couldn’t find them in this clean image.

Reds boasted a natural and subdued palette. The movie stayed with a nearly sepia look much of the time, as it gave us a muted set of colors. The DVD replicated these well, however, as the tones were just as full as the film demanded them to be. Black levels were deep and dense, while shadow detail seemed appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. I found almost nothing about which to complain in this excellent transfer.

As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Reds, it presented a pretty positive affair given its age. Much of the track stayed fairly heavily oriented toward the center channel. I noted reasonably good general ambience throughout the film, and some more action-oriented scenes – storms, war, the beach and bustling streets – provided a greater level of activity. The surrounds seemed fairly passive throughout the movie, but they contributed a nice sense of reinforcement, especially in the more active sequences I mentioned.

Audio quality appeared good. Speech came across as natural and crisp, with only a smidgen of edginess at times. Effects played a minor role in the film, but they always seemed accurate and well defined, with no issues related to distortion or other areas. The occasional explosion or blast managed decent oomph. Music provided reasonably positive solid reproduction of the score. The pieces of music sounded acceptably bright and vivid, and they boasted fairly good dynamic range. This wasn’t an amazing piece of audio, but it worked more than acceptably well for a 25-year-old flick.

In addition to a DVD Trailer, we find a seven-part documentary called Witness to Reds. In total, this runs one hour, seven minutes and 25 seconds as it mixes movie shots, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from director/producer/writer/actor Warren Beatty, former Paramount chairman and CEO Barry Diller, actor/author Jerzy Kosinski’s widow Kiki, executive producer/assistant director Simon Relph, special consultant Jeremy Pikser, director of photography Vittorio Storaro, editor/executive producer Dede Allen, production manager Nigel Wooll, supervising location manager Redmond Morris, editor Craig McKay, 2nd unit director Craig R. Baxley, composer Stephen Sondheim, former Paramount Senior VP-Advertising Creative Services Shelly Hochron, and actors Jack Nicholson, Paul Sorvino, and Edward Herrmann.

“Witness” examines why Beatty pursued the subjects in Reds and its development, casting, characters and performances, and the use of the “witnesses”. From there we move through locations and sets, visual elements and challenges related to making a period film, conflicts during the shoot, Beatty’s work as director, and musical choices. Finally, the program investigates facts and research, editing, the score, advertising and the film’s legacy.

“Witness” presents a solid overview of the film’s creation. The active participation of Beatty helps. At the outset, he indicates that he doesn’t much care for this sort of film discussion, but that doesn’t seem to affect his willingness to chat about the movie. The show gives us a nice mix of elements to create an informative take on the production.

Reds may have been upset for the Best Picture Oscar, but I’d argue it was better than the flick that actually won. While it shows some flaws, the movie maintains a nicely objective and unsentimental tone that allows it to become involving and effective. The DVD presents excellent picture and solid audio along with a good documentary. This is a worthwhile DVD that earns my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.913 Stars Number of Votes: 23
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