Reds (1981) - 25th Anniversary Edition

"I read John Reed’s book, 'Ten Days that Shook the World,' with the greatest interest and close attention. I recommend it to the workers of the world without reservation."

 – V.I. Lenin, 1919 -

Reds is proof that if a big name director uses big name stars to make a long film about a serious topic, many people will acclaim its genius, no matter its actual merits. Warren Beatty made this one three and a quarter hours long (plus intermission), chose the Russian Revolution as his subject, and filled it with superstars like Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, and Gene Hackman. Predictably, it received a bushel of Oscar nominations, and even managed to win Beatty the Best Director award over some strong competition. Hugh Hudson was nominated that year, but would lose the Best Director race even though his Chariots of Fire would be the Best Picture winner. Steven Spielberg was also in the running with his best entertainment picture, Raiders of the Lost Ark, which is currently rated #16 on the IMDb all-time list. But Beatty won!

Reds is fundamentally a biography of John Reed, who is best known as the author of Ten Days that Shook the World, a first-hand account of the October Revolution in Russia. Reed was an American who was physically present in St. Petersburg to report all the small details of those critical days, and he talked personally to Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev and others. His was, and probably still remains, the most reliable journalistic account of the initial establishment of Bolshevism in Russia.

 Here is the summary by act:

Act 1: Reed and Louise Bryant meet and court in Portland, where they both lived.

Act 2: Intellectual life in Greenwich Village and Provincetown in the 1910's. Reed and Bryant interact with other free thinkers like the famous playwright Eugene O'Neill (Jack Nicholson) and the anarchist/intellectual/feminist Emma Goldman (Maureen Stapleton, who won an Oscar for this role). The relationship of Reed and Bryant goes through some very rocky patches. Louise has a famous affair with Eugene O'Neill.

Act 3: Bryant and Reed are present for The Russian Revolution


Act 4: Reed attempts to establish a viable Communist Party inside the United States.

Act 5: Reed returns to Russia and is enlisted (involuntarily!) by the Bolsheviks to assist in spreading socialist propaganda through the far reaches of their vast empire. Louise tries to meet up with him, and manages to reach him only a week before he takes to bed, deathly ill of typhus, He passes away in 1920, only three years after the revolution, at the age of 33.


A good deal of this doesn't work at all. Act 2, for example, is just bickering and shouting between Reed and Bryant about the shape their relationship will take. Act 5 is just bickering and shouting between Reed and Zinoviev about how the Revolution is being destroyed by bureaucracy. Act 4 is also bickering and shouting, this time between Reed and the other people who are trying to establish a socialist political party in America. This act is particularly mundane. In fact, it reminded me very much of the scene in The Life of Brian in which the intellectuals discuss whether the revolutionary interests of the Jewish people should be represented by the People's Front of Judea or the Judean People's Front, or other similarly named groups. If you substitute Socialist Party of America and American Socialist Party into the Monty Python dialogue and place it side-by-side with the Reds script, it would be very difficult to tell the difference. (Reds was made only two years after The Life of Brian, and I'm wondering if the parallel was deliberate.)

In other words, almost everything after the intermission consists of boring bickering about petty matters like credentials and improper translations, all of which are of no interest to you unless you happen to have a scholarly curiosity about such forgotten matters in times long past. The failure of the film in its second half parallels two developments from life. (1) The Russian Revolution began in the wellspring of optimism and hope for a better life for the common man. It almost immediately turned into a regime no less incompetent and repressive than the Czar's. (2) John Reed's life though the Russian Revolution was a glorious success. His accounts of Villa's exploits in Mexico and Lenin's in Russia made him possibly the most famous journalist of his time, maybe of any time. After that, he made a transition from artist to ideologue and found his new role less suitable, although he never lost his enthusiasm for the noble cause. With the film's two subjects having gone sour after the October Revolution, the film was doomed to the same course.

Frankly, the first part of the film is not that much better. It might have spent its time more wisely by showing some of the conditions which led American workers and intellectuals to their long-time flirtation with Communism. That would have created much more empathy for the main characters who devoted their lives to the socialist cause. Instead, Beatty decided on a steady procession of historical cameos that should have required a scorecard. I'm still not sure precisely who Edward Herrmann and Gene Hackman were supposed to be. In the middle of a bunch of chatty parlor socialism is a strange love story between Bryant and Reed that seems to flourish only during the ten days that shook the world, during which the lovers look deep into one another's eyes during Lenin speeches and hold hands romantically as the people around them ransack the Czar's palaces. It's as if the climax of the revolution was their climax as well. The only thing missing is Bryant having a loud climax while Lenin arrives at the Finland Station. This section concludes with a romantic musical montage, filled with images of them romping through the forest with their doggie and making love under heavy blankets and laughing off each other's fumbles in the kitchen. It's the same musical montage that we see in every 80s film, except that in this case the usual soft-rock classic has been replaced by the Internationale, the famous rallying ballad for the global socialist movement. In the last analysis, the first half of Reds is just another conventional Hollywood romance which uses important historical events as a backdrop. It is arguably no better than, for example, Cold Mountain, and in fact scores lower than that Civil War epic at IMDb (7.1 vs. 7.3).

The second half, in my opinion, isn't even worth watching! In fact, I think the film would be better if it ended at intermission, and would have been far better with an expansion of the pre-intermission section. The conditions that brought about the international worker's revolt were enough material for one film. By trying to dissect the destruction of that dream as well, Beatty just assayed too much for one film to handle. Beatty could have spent his time far more wisely by showing why socialism seemed like such a good idea to begin with rather than by dissecting such boring trivia as the socialist movement's internal power struggles, which seemed to fill the entire post-intermission portion of this film with various characters shouting at one another about penny-ante matters like credentials and mistranslations.

The film does use one interesting and involving device - a sort of Greek chorus called The Witnesses. Beatty went out and filmed interviews with elderly people who actually knew Jack Reed, Louise Bryant and Emma Goldman, and/or people who remembered the idealism of the American socialist movement. The diverse group included entertainer Georgie Jessel, historian Will Durant, author Henry Miller, and many more (none identified as they spoke).

Looking back on this film after a quarter of a century, it is difficult to understand how it could have been nominated for so many Academy Awards, or even how it could still have 93% positive reviews at IMDb. It's a long, unfocused movie. Much of it is tedious, and the rest of it is often corny. The critical role of Louise Bryant is fatally underwritten, and what little we know of her is enough to make us wonder why Reed loved her in the first place. Of course, the film is not without some appeal, and it has its moments. Some of the scenes in Russia are especially spectacular, and the re-creations of the look and atmosphere of the turn of the century are quite impressive, but the script seems to consist mainly of bickering, and the whole second half never really seems to be going anywhere.


Diane Keaton . Is this really her bum? I doubt it - but for the record, here it is.



The bum of Misty Traya (zipped .avi) on Nip/Tuck. Various still captures below




Tara Reid Admits to Botched Implants, Liposuction

Announcement of Glorious Nuclear Achievement to Gangster Stooges of Blogosphere

False Child Support Case Exposes System's Failures. How coudl a man pay five years worth of child support for a non-existent child? Read on.

"Scarlett Johansson is Sexier in Allure"

Despite the two humorous rumors below, "New York Yankees manager Joe Torre announced at a Tuesday press conference that he will return to the bench for the 2007 season."

Joe Torre Fired for Surfing Porn Sites at Work

Joe Torre Fired Because Johnny Damon Throws Like A Girl

'Two-A-Days' finale will be broadcast on the internet before TV

The complete pilot from 20 Good Years (New TV Show)

  • John Mason and Jeffrey Pyne are best friends but polar opposites. John (John Lithgow) is a brash, thrice-divorced surgeon, while Jeffrey (Jeffrey Tambor) is a cautious judge who's still hung up on his late wife. But they do agree they have about 20 good years left and resolve to live each day as if it were their last.

The trailer for Tony Scott's Deja Vu

  • "It is deja vu that unexpectedly guides ATF agent Doug Carlin through an investigation into a shattering crime. Called in to recover evidence after a bomb sets off a cataclysmic explosion on a New Orleans Ferry, Carlin is about to discover that what most people believe is only in their heads is actually something far more powerful.It is deja vu that unexpectedly guides ATF agent Doug Carlin through an investigation into a shattering crime. Called in to recover evidence after a bomb sets off a cataclysmic explosion on a New Orleans Ferry, Carlin is about to discover that what most people believe is only in their heads is actually something far more powerful."

Kate Winslet Decided She Wanted To Become An Actress While On The Toilet ... which probably explains her peeing on camera in Holy Smoke.

What's the origin of "the opera ain't over till the fat lady sings?"

The comic-con preview for the Rodriguez half of Grindhouse, which looks like some seriously silly shit. (Check out the new, skinny Rose McGowan!)

Gibson says he's been sober for 65 days, and now thinks that Jews are all great guys and gals, and not responsible for any wars at all. No, really. He can see everything clearly now.

Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Your Lettuce is Tainted"

  • You had to sign a waiver before a trip to the Olive Garden salad bar
  • It comes with penicillin vinaigrette
  • You feel weak and listless and your name's not 'A-Rod'

Randy Newman sings Political Science on The Colbert Report

Colbert reasons with Kim Jong Il, Part 1 ... Part 2

Stephen Colbert's Sports Update covers all teams with mascots named after Stephen Colbert

Colbert discusses arming our teachers.

The Daily Show discusses the North Korean nuclear blast.

Jon Stewart interviews James Baker, Part 1 ... Part 2 ... Part 3

The Daily Show's Asian expert, Assif Mandvi, reports from North Korea

Jon Stewart on Dennis Hastert's "cemetery speech."

The Daily Show continues to prove that the Republican scandal is all the Democrats' fault.

"A Bulgarian woman who killed her son was released from prison because of terminal cancer. She then went home and killed her husband"

Ed Benedict, animator who drew 'The Flintstones' dead at 94. The march of his pallbearers will be accompanied by "tinkly feet" music.

More truth from Pravda: Obscure California law says workers are owed cash bonus if they give up company parking

The good news? William Hung is still alive and singing. The bad news? Similar.

The Boobs Is Right ... A 'Price is Right' montage of the best bouncing boobie footage.

GALLUP: Democrats Surge One Month Before Midterm Elections




Movie Reviews:

Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format. Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.


The Sex Thief (1973)

The Sex Thief is a British sex farce. The film was supplemented with hard core inserts at one time, and released in the US as Handful of Diamonds.

There is a rash of burglaries, all against women alone, all with lots of jewels, and the police are baffled, as every victim gives a wildly different description of the robber. We know that it is none other than pulp fiction author Grant Henry (David Warbeck), who supplements his meager writing income with jewelry sales. He is caught by his victim every time, but gives her the shagging of her life, which is the reason for the poor descriptions given to police. In fact, victim Jennifer Westbrook makes sure the newspaper publishes the fact that he didn't get all of her jewels because she wants the sex thief to come back for the rest!

Insurance investigator Judy Martin (Diane Keen) is on the case, along with various bungling policemen who are more interested in confiscating porn than solving the case. When aging B-movie actress Miss Loraine (Linda Coomes) arrives in town, she claims she was also a victim. During the news conference, she is so glad to be back in front of the camera that her story keeps getting better, and before she is done, he raped her 7 times. Naturally, he has to break in the next night and do everything he was accused of. I won't give away the ending, but I will say that the insurance investigator is the sharpest one in the film.

This is a C+ on our scale. It is one of the better of the 70s British sex farces and is entertaining from start to finish, with some very amusing moments and great nudity. It's no wonder this film is competent, because it was an early directorial effort from Martin Campbell, who went on to films like The Mask of Zorro and Golden Eye.

IMDb readers say 5.5, but based on an insignificant 28 votes. 


Jennifer Westbrook

Linda Coomes

Diane Keen

Susan Glanville

Gloria Maley






Notes and collages


Fairuza Balk in The Craft. No nudity in this film yet a great scene of young witch Fairuza Balk strutting down her high school hallway with her witchcraft buddies.

Melinda Dillon in Slap Shot ... personally, I remember her best from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind;" pretty lady ...

Sissy Spacek in Prime Cut ... I resisted using that close up shot of her breasts in that green dress for this collage ...

Sarah Josyln Crowder in Slashers. Two versions of the same collage. The green one is true to the lighting of the film. The sepia one is a Photoshop experiment I was doing to remove "color casting."  I actually prefer the "feel" of the sepia one though it is false to the film.



Glori-Anne Gilbert in Vamps 2

Amber Newman in Vamps 2

Kate Moss

Scarlett Johansson. The NY Post says that this is a preview of the Allure layout. I might just have to buy me a copy of that issue!

Karen Young in the Wife



Pat's comments in yellow...

A survey by More magazine in the UK found that women have misjudged what men find attractive.  85 percent of men aged 18 to 34 said they hated plastic surgery and found fake breasts to be a "complete turn-off."  The other 15 percent claimed not to even notice when women have cosmetic surgery.  A More spokeswoman said if they want to attract men, "Women would be better off spending their money on a new dress and shoes rather than fake breasts."

*  Trust me, ladies: if a man pays more attention to your shoes than to your breasts, you don't want him.

Blender magazine named Starship's 1985 hit "We Built This City (On Rock 'N'
Roll)" as the worst song of all time.  Now, Blender contributor Russ Heller has been ordered to set a new world record for listening to it.  Friday at 8 a.m., Heller will enter a Plexiglass booth in a Best Buy store in New York City and listen as the song is played repeatedly for 24 hours, or roughly 324 times.

*  That's how many times a day radio stations were playing it in 1985.


Michael Jackson popped up in St. Tropez Wednesday, vacationing with his children on the Riviera in a disguise that did a better job of drawing
paparazzi attention than hiding his identity.  He wore a huge, floppy sunhat, women's slim fit jeans, a fluorescent orange purse and women's-style shoes with three-inch stiletto high heels.

*  But the paparazzi still followed him because they thought he was Joan Collins.