Sunday, May 10, 2015

Don't Make a Scene: The Hunt for Red October

The Story: There's a lot of sub-terfuge going on here, comrade.

For one thing, in this scene from The Hunt for Red October, we're not on submarines here, we're on sets. Very expensive sets that rocked and gimballed, so that when the order is given to turn, the floors would tilt, forcing the actors to try to remain up-right by grabbing anything they could on the set, thus avoiding the "Star Trek Bridge" look of actors attempting to kabuki the same movement at the same time. It made many of the actors sea-sick for real.*****

Audiences might have felt the same way, for director John McTiernan used two strategies to differentiate the Russian and American subs: one was color, the Americans having warm colors, while the Russians were shown in black and chrome interiors with blue and green screens and harsh white lights; the other was McTiernan's swooping pans—nothing makes a move on Red October so much as the camera, moving from player to player on the bridge and stalking its narrow corridors—while by contrast, the shots are fairly rock-steady aboard the U.S.S. Dallas.

In the story, the much-respected sub commander Ramius has killed the KGB operative who held the second key to unlock their secret orders, and once the orders have been obtained, he burns them and replaces them with his own—to take this new, assuredly built-for-assault weapon and defect to the Other Side. But the crew is not a part of this, and so when he addresses the crew, he gives a rousing speech on the superiority of the Russian least his part of the Russian Navy...and whips the crew into a lather of patriotism. They begin singing the Russian National Anthem,* and as their voices ring out, it also resonates through the hull and into the water. Vibrations are Vibrations, good, bad, or red, and its vibrations that both sides use to track the other.

But the Red October uses a new propeller-less drive that doesn't churn up the water in sonar-detecting waves,** rendering it invisible on the sonar screens. Enemy subs can follow in another sub's wake making it undetectable on sonar, but a sub following Red October is naked and vulnerable, making the Russian sub the one eyed man in a sea of the blind.

Larry Ferguson (who plays the Dallas Chief) and Donald Stewart wrote the screenplay (improving Tom Clancy's novel, who can write a decent nightmarish plot, but can't seem to write a compelling character—call it "Crichton Syndrome"), but Ramius' speech was written by maverick director John Milius. Milius touched up the Ramius character (at Connery's request, as he was the writer/director of The Wind and the Lion starring Connery), and this speech has all the swagger of a great propagandist, that being Milius.

The Set-Up: Moments after killing the KGB monitor (aboard the new Typhoon-class sub, The Red October (with a silent drive for sneaking up on an enemy, undetected by sonar), Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) reveals bogus mission instructions to his crew. His own mission is known to but a few of the sub's personnel —including his first officer Borodin (Sam Neill): Ramius intends to defect, with this new sub in tow, to whatever country will have him, hopefully the Americans. What he doesn't know is that he's already being tracked by a Navy sub, the U.S.S. Dallas, commanded by Captain Bart Mancuso (Scott Glenn), who's taken an interest in this previously unheard of boat. It's being tracked by Seaman Jones (Courtney B. Vance), an expert at sonar imaging. He's about to see something else new.

Captain Marko Ramius: Any sonar contacts, Mr. Kamarov?
Kamarov: No contacts, Captain...Kamarov: The sonar is clear.
Ramius: Good. Do we have any surface contacts, Mr. Borodin?
Captain Borodin: No contacts, sir. Scope is clear.
Ramius: Good. Then it is time I explain our orders to the crew.
Ramius: (over intercom) Comrades, this is your Captain. It is an honor to speak to you today...
Ramius: (over intercom)...and I'm honored to be sailing with you on the maiden voyage of the Motherland's most recent achievement.
Ramius: Once more, we play our dangerous game. A game of chess ... against our old adversary, the American Navy.***

Ramius: (over intercom) For forty years, your fathers before you and your older brothers played this game...and played it well. But today the game is different.
Ramius: (over intercom) We have the advantage. And it reminds me...
Ramius: ...of the heady days of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin, when the world trembled at the sounds of our rockets. Well, they will tremble again at the sound of our silence.
Ramius: The order is...engage for silent drive.
Borodin: Aye sir. Ballast control, open outer doors.
Sailor: Yes. Open outer doors.
Borodin: Engine control, engage caterpillar and secure main engines.
(The doors begin to open)
Borodin: Doors opening, Captain.
Ramius: Comrades, our own fleet doesn't know our full potential.
Ramius: (intercom) They will do everything possible to test us. But they will only test their own embarrassment.
Ramius: (intercom) We will leave our fleet behind.
Ramius: We will pass through the American patrols, past their sonar nets, and lay off their largest city...
Ramius: ...and listen to their rock n' roll, while we conduct missile drills.
Ramius: (intercom) Then...
Ramius: ...when we are finished, the only sound they will hear is our laughter...
Ramius: (intercom) ...while we sail to Havana, where the sun is warm, and so is the...
Ramius: (intercom) ...comradeship.
(Sailors in the cafeteria react ebulliently, whooping it up)
Borodin: Cryogenic plant coming on-line, Captain.
Ramius: A great day, comrades. We sail into history.
(One sailor stands at attention and begins to sing "The Russian National Anthem."**** Quickly, the other sailors join in, and throughout the boat.)
Soyuz nerushimy respublik svobodnykh
Splotila naveki velikaya Rus'!
Sailor: Caterpillar engaging! Borodin(smiling, quietly):Caterpillar engaging, Captain.

Da zdravstvuyet sozdanny voley narodov...
(The Red October's propellers stop turning, and a green glow emerges from the Caterpillar exhaust and creates an underwater wake) (Aboard the American submarine Dallas, the displays lose contact, and Sonar Seaman Jones looks up in surprise)
Chief: What happened?
Seaman Jones: I don't know.
(Aboard the October, the sailors sing.)

Slavsya, Otechestvo nashe svobodnoye,
Druzhby narodov nadyozhny oplot!
Partiya Lenina — sila narodnaya...
Ramius: Full rudder left!
Borodin: Full rudder left.
Ramius: Navigator, new course 2-5-0.
Navigator: Yes, new course 2-5-0.

Nas k torzhestvu kommunizma vedyot!
Sailor: Steering 2-5-0.
Sailor: Yes, course is 2-5-0.

Skvoz' grozy siyalo nam solntse svobody,
I Lenin veliky...
(Red October's foreplanes extend and the sub heaves to port, leaving the Dallas behind)
(The sailor's continue to sing)
Slavsya, Otechestvo nashe svobodnoye,
Kamarov: Sonar contact, Captain! Fourth quarter!
Kamarov: Close aboard! American! Los Angeles class!
Borodin: American! Captain, we...
Kamarov: Course 3-1-0...

Druzhby narodov nadyozhny oplot!
Ramius: Is the American turning to follow us?

Partiya Lenina — sila narodnaya
Kamarov: No, Captain. The American is continuing on his original course.
Kamarov: He's continuing northwest.
Ramius: He can't hear us (chuckles)
Borodin: And the singing?

Nas k torzhestvu kommunizma vedyot!
V pobede bessmertnykh idey kommunizma
My vidim gryadushcheye nashey strany,

I krasnomu znameni slavnoy otchizny
Ramius: Let them sing.

My budem vsegda bezzavetno verny!
Slavsya, Otechestvo nashe svobodnoye,
Druzhby narodov nadyozhny oplot!

Partiya Lenina — sila narodnaya
Nas k torzhestvu kommunizma vedyot!
(The Red October moves away from the Dallas)
Captain Bart Mancuso: What are you talking about? Check your gear.
Jones: Running diagnostics now, Captain.
Jones: Sonar is working, Captain. The Russian disappeared.
Jones: One minute, he was steady, 4,000 yards off the bow...and then he was gone.
Jones: And for a second...I thought I heard...
Mancuso: Heard what?
Jones: I thought I heard singing, sir.
Mancuso: Singing?
Jones: Yes, sir.

The Hunt for Red October

Words by Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart (and John Milius)

Pictures by Jan de Bont and John McTiernan

The Hunt for Red October is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Paramount Home Video.

* The same anthem will the background as the Russian Naval Commander (Peter Zinner, the original editor for the film, who couldn't work with all of McTiernan's camera moves) reads a letter from his son-in-law Ramius, telling him of his plans to defect.

** The effects were a last-minute "save" by Industrial Light and Magic. Done on the cheap and a shrewd combination of practical effects and the crude beginnings of CGI, they were not filmed underwater, but in a darkened warehouse filled with smoke, the subs suspended on wires, maneuvering around sculpted escarpments. For wakes and particulate matter (indicating movement) ILM used the same software used to create flow patterns as they did for the stars in the "Star Trek" movies.

*** Mel Gibson mocks Connery's pronunciation of "ad-VER-sary" in What Women Want: "Surely you mean "AD-ver-sary, Old Boy" in a not-bad Connery imitation (but doesn't mention Connery's pronunciation of "Ga-GAIR-in"). Alec Baldwin imitates Connery later on in Hunt (and does a spot-on Fred Thompson, as well.)

Here's is the English translation—the parts in brackets aren't used:

Unbreakable union of freeborn republics
Great Russia has welded forever to stand!
Created in struggle by will of the peoples
[United and mighty, our Soviet land!]

Sing to the Motherland, home of the free,
Bulwark of people, in brotherhood strong!
Oh! Party of Lenin! The strength of the people.
To Communism's triumph lead us on!

Through tempests the sun rays of freedom have cheered us
Along the new path where great Lenin did lead!
[To a righteous cause he raised up the people
Inspired them to labour and valorous deed!]


In the victory of Communism's deathless ideal,
We see the future of our dear land
And to her fluttering scarlet banner
selflessly true, we always shall stand!



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