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Reds 25th Anniversary Special Collector’s Edition | DVD Review

“…the impeccable cinematography of Storaro and award winning directorial style of Beatty, and the convincing and compelling performances given by the incredibly talented cast, REDS is a true epic classic worthy of its Silver Anniversary and its place depicting and part of, history.”

In the midst of the Cold War, Warren Beatty set out to bring history to life with an epic tale of the Russian Revolution and the rise of the American Left. After an introduction at this year’s 44th New York Film Festival, Beatty’s Oscar gold shines through on REDS Silver Anniversary DVD.

Reagan just took the White House, the hostages had just come home from Iran, the Berlin Wall still stood strong, and America had grown tired of the shallow and often gloomy films of the 1970’s. The stage was set for a subtle political epic that would pave the way for such films as Gandhi and Chariots of Fire (which beat REDS for the title Best Picture). REDS took the critics by storm and garnered 3 Academy Awards in the process. Twenty-five years later, the film still carries a powerful message of the determination of love, and the dangers of fear.

With the Cold War still raging full strength and America still nursing wounds from the Vietnam Era, Warren Beatty’s epic historical drama of the rise of Communism in America may have been a gamble, but with a stellar cast and riding the wave of the success of Heaven Can Wait, the Academy Award winning director brought his dream to life. Beatty co-wrote, produced, directed and starred in the film that not only showcases his political beliefs that the American public unreasonably feared Communism, but also gave voice to his vision and talent as both actor and director. The film garnered more Academy Award nominations – twelve – than any other film in the previous 15 years.

Based on actual events, the film tells the story of John Reed (Beatty), American Communist, activist and journalist, who falls for feminist/writer Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton). Their love affair grows as the world around them unravels in the midst of World War I, the Russian Revolution and Congressional inquests into the American Communist Party. Bryant’s love is put to the test when Reed is arrested trying to return to the United States from Russia and she embarks on a treacherous journey to be reunited with him. As the only American entombed in the Kremlin, Reeds impact on both the American Communist movement and the Russian Revolution itself are chronicled in the film. The film deftly utilizes personal interviews with those who actually knew Reed and Bryant, along with a steady pace of drama and romance to completely immerse its audience in the story. Beatty utilizes historic re-enactments and poignant deliveries from his stars – including Maureen Stapleton, who won Best Supporting Actress gold for her role – to create a bond with the characters and hope for their fates.

The acclaimed epic has never before been released on DVD and comes now as a 2-disc, 25th anniversary Special Collectors Edition, containing over 2 hours of never-before-seen extras. The special features, collectively called “Witness to REDS”, chronicle production from the initial concept by Beatty, through to the directors attempts to get his 13 year old daughter to watch the film.
The features are divided into 7 chapters, which take the viewer through the entire production and growth of the movie.

• “The Rising” includes a first ever DVD interview with Beatty detailing his motivation for the film and the subtlety of its political message of tolerance and understanding of the views of those we consider to be our enemies.

• “Comrades” takes the viewer through Beatty’s directorial style including his propensity for multiple takes, interviews with several cast members regarding their call to the project and thoughts on the production. The feature includes interviews with stars Jack Nicholson, Paul Sorvino, Edward Herrman, and others from the cast.

• “Testimonials” gives the viewer a more in depth look into the people who’s first hand memories of the rise of the American Communist Party and the historians whose work formed the basis of the structure of the film. Beatty’s dedication to the historical accuracy of the film went so far as to perform what was essentially a nationwide casting call, utilizing newspaper classifieds to locate authentic information for the film.

• “The March” Chronicles the location search for the nearly two-dozen shooting sites; including the ill-fated attempt to gain permission to actually film in Russia. Oscar winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, explains his devotion to the art and his attention to detail that won him the auspicious honor.

• “Revolution parts 1 & 2” delves into the behind the scenes drama behind the scenes as Beatty struggles to bring the same passion to the surface from his cast and crew that he had within himself. Storaro and Beatty each describe the compromises and artistic dialogue that eventually led to the Oscar for Storaro. The epic scale of the film, from production costs, to the over 2 million feet of shot film completes the production as Beatty marks the effort with emotional and physical exhaustion.

• “Propaganda” completes the tour of the production; interviews with the editors, composer and other postproduction crew personnel lead the audience to feel they too have been a part of the grand event without devoting the year to filming, and endless hours of editing and post production. The Special Features conclude with Beatty’s visualization of the film as a modern adaptation. The modern CGI and formula driven plot lines that permeate today’s Hollywood make REDS a film that could only have been done the way it was, and in the time it was.

The Special Features as a whole take the audience through a whirlwind of behind-the-scenes drama and passion for the cause that runs like a vortex drawing all who are participants in, or witness to the film. Conspicuously absent from the special features was Diane Keaton, though many minor players in the production were interviewed, along with deeper recollections by the witnesses featured in the film itself.

As the memories of the Cold War fade, and the new threats of terror and insurgency mark the globe, REDS serves as both a reminder of the power of the common man and a lesson from the history of one of the greatest powers in modern times. With the impeccable cinematography of Storaro and award winning directorial style of Beatty, and the convincing and compelling performances given by the incredibly talented cast, REDS is a true epic classic worthy of its Silver Anniversary and its place depicting and part of, history.

Movie rating – 5

Disc Rating – 5

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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