Wednesday, March 25, 2015


“…There are those who believe that we should attack the United States first…Red October was built for that purpose…”

This month marks the 25th anniversary of John McTiernan’s THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. 

Based on the novel of the same name by author Tom Clancy, in which a Russian submarine captain and his silent-running nuclear submarine vanish into the sea with unknown intentions, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER was the 4th feature film from director John McTiernan. When McTiernan signed on to helm the seafaring espionage voyage, he had already solidified himself as a solid action director with a talent for fleshing out great characters in a thrill-ride landscape; as evidenced in his films PREDATOR (1987) and DIE HARD (1988). 

The effort to get RED OCTOBER out to sea was not an easy sail in the early stages. Many Hollywood executives passed on the project, calling Clancy’s dense novel too complicated to understand and un-filmable. It was also feared that the film, which would spend a lot of time aboard U.S. submarines, aircraft, and other Navy vessels, would give away many U.S. military secrets. After screenwriters Larry Ferguson and Donald Steward whittled down the novel to a filmable screenplay, producer Mace Neufeld gained full cooperation from the U.S. Navy, who had hopes that RED OCTOBER would do for submariners what TOP GUN had done for fighter pilots. The cooperation from the Navy would pay off on film. Actors trained alongside active duty personnel, and commanders made suggestions to the script…adding a great deal of authenticity and realism to the Cold War-era drama. 

The cast was led off by Sean Connery who would play Red October’s captain. As a veteran of the sea, he was countered by the landlocked desk jockey CIA analyst, played by Alec Baldwin. The rest of the cast could be considered a glorious ensemble by today’s standards; Fred Thompson, Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, James Earl Jones, Joss Ackland, Richard Jordan, Tim Curry, Courtney Vance, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeffrey Jones, and Larry Ferguson. 

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER would be one of the top grossing films of 1990, both in North America and worldwide. It would be nominated for four Oscars, winning one for Best Sound Editing. Sean Connery’s iconic performance would earn him a nomination for Best Actor at the British Film Industry Awards, and composer Basil Poledouris, also famous for his work in CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982), would win a BMI Film Music Award. 


In the Spring of 1990, this Blogger and his brother were taken by Dad to see THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. The opening moments of the film, in which a computer screen tells us that “nothing of what you are about to see, ever happened”, right away set the tone…which was full of mystery and seriousness. It was the first time Dad had taken us to see a grown-up movie, and the impact was ever-lasting. RED OCTOBER was an eye-opener; the stakes were high, the storytelling was very adult, and the battle of wits across the depths of the ocean made for a very smart, thinking-man’s thriller. This was not a film which relied heavily on special effects or the fury of sights and sound to get a point across, but instead weaved a thick and glorious web of espionage. It was a cat-and-mouse game at sea; what was the Russian sea captain up to, who knew about it, and did he know who knew about it? It was, and still is a great spy story that would feel right at home in a James Bond flick, and to this day has its place on this Blogger’s Wall of Fame: 

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER never won Best Picture, and it is sadly often overlooked when in discussions concerning great spy movies. But its legacy in time is secure; it was the first of many Jack Ryan films, and one of the last great films prior to the CGI era. It is a true adventure at sea and just as relevant today as it was 25 years ago. 

“Today comrades, we sail into history!” 

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