DVD Article

Iron Curtain Coll

Cold War films -- ''Red Dawn,'' ''Rocky IV,'' and ''The Red Menace'' are some of the titles reviewed

Watching the Soviet Union collapse on the evening news, you can't help feeling a little nostalgic for the old Evil Empire. For all their sociopolitical problems, the Reds sure made great movie villains. Here's the proof on video:

The Red Menace (1949)
A disgruntled World War II vet falls into the insidious clutches of Communist Party recruiters. A sort of red-scare equivalent of Reefer Madness, The Red Menace is a striking example of how far panicky studios would go to distance themselves from anything remotely tainted by left-wing politics. An intriguing movie if you enjoy a campy hoot or are partial to bizarre specimens of social history, or if you're really into paranoia. B

Pickup on South Street (1953)
Film noir is brilliantly adapted to the Cold War by cult writer-director Sam Fuller. An amoral pickpocket (played to weasel-like perfection by Richard Widmark) accidentally lifts stolen military secrets from a Soviet courier. He tries to parlay this accident into a profit but discovers that not even he is willing to do business with traitors. A

The Ipcress File (1965)
Real-life East-West intrigue provided the inspiration for several secret-agent movies, and The Ipcress File, based on Len Deighton's novel, is one of the best. It deals with classic Cold War themes — political kidnapping, the rivalry for technical secrets, brainwashing — that are woven together with clever plotting, suspense, and humor. In his first starring role, Michael Caine is alternately erudite and thuggish as Harry Palmer, one of the most offbeat and entertaining celluloid Cold Warriors. A

Red Dawn (1984)
This loopy exercise in popcorn paranoia revolves around a teenage guerrilla band that resists a Soviet-Cuban conquest of the U.S. Director John Milius (Flight of the Intruder) shapes Red Dawn's anti-Communist zeal into an intense, apocalyptic fantasy, the ultimate manifestation of Cold War fears. B+

Rocky IV (1985)
At the height of the Reagan era, Rocky Balboa takes his hammering dukes to Dolph Lundgren, a soulless People's Superman. The climactic slugfest is the definitive comic-book confrontation between East and West, and Stallone the writer-director somehow manages to wring rousing melodrama out of his predictable formula. B+

The Advenures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, Vol. 4 (1991)
In the '50s and '60s, no East Bloc villains were more incorrigible or sublimely goofy than Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, comic antidotes to Cold War tensions. All volumes in this series are worth seeing, but in this tape Boris and Natasha outdo themselves: They concoct a scheme to ruin the Free World economy by counterfeiting that most indispensable of American monetary standards — the premium box top. This hilarious cassette proves again that Rocky and Bullwinkle was the best kiddie show ever made for adults. A

Originally posted Oct 25, 1991 Published in issue #89 Oct 25, 1991 Order article reprints
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