The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 film based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Tom Clancy. It was directed by John McTiernan and stars Sean Connery as Captain Marko Ramius and Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan. The film is followed by the 1992 film, Patriot Games.
It received mostly negative critical reviews from many major publications upon its theatrical release but was one of the top grossing movies of the year, grossing $122 million in North America and $200 million worldwide.
The year is 1984. Captain First Rank Marko Ramius is the commanding officer of Red October, a new Soviet submarine whose caterpillar drive renders it undetectable to sonar. Ramius leaves port to conduct exercises with the submarine V.K. Konovalov, commanded by his former student Captain Viktor Tupolev. Once at sea, Ramius murders political officer Ivan Putin, the only man aboard besides himself who knows the sub's true orders. Ramius then burns the orders and commands the crew to head toward America's east coast to conduct missile drills. The USS Dallas, an American submarine on patrol nearby, briefly detects Red October but loses contact once Ramius engages the silent drive.
The next morning, CIA analyst Jack Ryan briefs U.S. government officials on the departure of Red October and the threat it poses. Officials in the briefing, upon learning that the Soviet Navy has been deployed to sink Red October, fear Ramius may plan an unauthorized strike against the U.S., but Ryan believes Ramius plans to defect, and leaves for the North Atlantic to prove his theory before the U.S. Navy is ordered to sink Red October.
Red October's caterpillar drive fails at sea and sabotage is suspected. No longer silent, the sub comes under attack by Soviet forces and begins risky maneuvers through undersea canyons. Petty Officer Ronald Jones, a sonar technician aboard Dallas, plots an interception course. Ryan arranges a hazardous mid-ocean rendezvous to get aboard Dallas, where he attempts to persuade its captain, Commander Bart Mancuso, to contact Ramius and determine his intentions.
The Soviet Ambassador, who earlier claimed that Red October was lost at sea and requested US assistance in a rescue mission, at this point informs the US that the sub is a renegade and asks for US help to sink it. An order to do this is communicated to the US Fleet, including Dallas. Bart Mancuso is conflicted about whether he should sink Red October as ordered, but Ryan convinces him to make contact, offering to assist Ramius in his defection.
Ramius, stunned that the Americans correctly guessed his plan to defect, accepts their cooperation. He then stages a nuclear reactor emergency and orders the bulk of his crew to abandon ship, telling Red October's doctor Yevgeni Petrov that he and the other officers will scuttle the sub rather than let it be captured. Ramius submerges and Ryan, Mancuso and Jones come aboard via a rescue sub, at which point Ramius requests asylum in the United States for himself and his officers.
Thinking their mission is complete, Red October's skeleton crew are surprised by a torpedo attack from Konovalov, which has followed them across the Atlantic. As the two Soviet subs maneuver, Red October's cook (an undercover GRU agent) opens fire, fatally wounding Ramius's first officer, Vasily Borodin before retreating into the missile launch area. Ryan follows and guns down the saboteur just before he can detonate a missile and destroy the sub.
Meanwhile, with help from Dallas, Red October makes evasive maneuvers, causing Konovalov to be destroyed by one of its own torpedoes. The evacuated crew of Red October on board a U.S. Navy rescue ship witness this explosion and, not knowing that there is a second Soviet sub, assume it was Red October. Their subterfuge complete, Ryan and Ramius sail Red October to the Penobscot River in Maine.
Producer Mace Neufeld optioned Tom Clancy’s novel after reading the galley proofs in February 1985. Despite the book becoming a best seller, no Hollywood studio was interested because of its content. Neufeld said, “I read some of the reports from the other studios, and the story was too complicated to understand.” After one and half years, he finally got a high-level executive at Paramount Pictures to read Clancy’s novel and agree to develop it into a movie.
Screenwriters Larry Ferguson and Donald Stewart worked on the screenplay while Neufeld approached the United States Navy in order to get their approval. They were initially reluctant because of the fear that top secret information or technology might be revealed. However, several admirals were fans of Clancy’s book and reasoned that the film could do for submariners what Top Gun did for the Navy’s jet fighter pilots. Captain Michael Sherman, director of the Navy’s western regional information office in Los Angeles, suggested changes to the script that would present the Navy in a positive light.
The Navy gave the filmmakers unprecedented access to their submarines, allowing them to photograph unclassified sections of USS Chicago and USS Portsmouth to use in set and prop design. Key cast and crew members took rides in subs including Alec Baldwin and Scott Glenn taking an overnight trip on the USS Salt Lake City. Glenn, who played the commander of the USS Dallas, trained for his role by temporarily assuming the identity of a submarine captain on board the USS Houston (which portrayed the USS Dallas in most scenes). The sub's crew all took "orders" from Glenn, who was being prompted by the actual commanding officer. (Glenn does have military experience in real life, as a U.S. Marine.) Alec Baldwin also learned how to steer a Los Angeles-class submarine. Some of the extras portraying the Dallas crew were real-life U.S. Navy submariners, including the pilot of the DSRV, Lieutenant Commander George Billy, the actual commander of the DSRV. The actual submariners cast as extras came from submarines homeported in San Diego after it was determined that it was easier to hire real submariners rather than teach actors to how to "play" submariners. Crew members from the USS La Jolla, including Lt. Mark Draxton, took leave to participate in filming. According to an article about the filming in Sea Classics magazine, at least two sailors from the Atlantic Fleet-based Dallas took leave and participated in the Pacific Fleet-supported filming. The crew of the USS Houston called their month-long filming schedule the "Hunt for Red Ops." During this time the Houston made over 40 emergency surfacing "blows" for rehearsal and for the cameras.
Baldwin was approached to do the film in December 1988 but he was not told for what role. Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer was cast as Soviet sub commander Marko Ramius but two weeks into filming he had to quit due to a prior commitment. The producers quickly faxed a copy of the script to Sean Connery who agreed to do it. He arrived in Los Angeles on a Friday and was supposed to start filming on Monday but he requested a day to rehearse and get into the role.
Estimates for the film’s budget ranged from $30 – 50 million with much of it going to the Navy for use of their equipment and personnel. The Navy had lent out the 360-foot long fast-attack USS Houston (which doubled for the USS Dallas), the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier, helicopters, two frigates, and a dry-dock crew.
Filming in actual submarines was deemed impractical and so five soundstages on the Paramount backlot were used. Two 50-foot square platforms housing mock-ups of the Red October and the USS Dallas were built, standing on top of hydraulic gimbals that simulated the sub’s movements. Connery recalled, “It was very claustrophobic. There were 62 people in a very confined space, 45 feet above the stage floor. It got very hot on the sets, and I’m also prone to sea sickness. The set would tilt to 45 degrees. Very disturbing.” The veteran actor shot for four weeks and the rest of the production shot for additional months on location in Port Angeles, Washington to the waters off Los Angeles.
To keep the audience oriented, each country's submarine had its own background color scheme: Soviet submarines, such as the Red October and Konovalov, had interiors done in black with silver trim. American ships, such as the Dallas and the aircraft carrier Enterprise, had gray interiors (although during one scene when the Dallas goes to alert status, it is flooded with red light).
Early filming was done aboard the USS Reuben James in the area of the Juan de Fuca Strait and Puget Sound in March 1989. The ship operated out of the Coast Guard Station at Port Angeles. The SH-60B detachment from the world famous Battlecats of HSL-43 operated out of NAS Whidbey Island, after being displaced by the filmcrew.
The film received mixed critical reviews from many major publications upon its theatrical release but was one of the top grossing movies of the year. The Washington Post’s Hal Hinson criticized the film in his review, commenting, “Nothing much happens, at least not onscreen ... There isn’t much to look at. When the action sequences finally come, the underwater images are murky and impossible to follow.” Vincent Canby in his review for the New York Times wrote, “Mr. McTiernan is not a subtle director. Punches are pulled constantly. The audience is told by word and soundtrack music when it should fear the worst, though the action on the screen gives the lie to such warnings.” Newsweek’s David Ansen wrote, “But it’s at the gut level that Red October disappoints. This smoother, impressively mounted machine is curiously ungripping. Like an overfilled kettle, it takes far too long to come to a boil.” Roger Ebert, however, called it "a skillful, efficient film that involves us in the clever and deceptive game being played." Nick Schager, for Slant magazine's review, notes, "The Hunt for Red October is a thrilling edge-of-your-seat trifle that has admirably withstood the test of time." Currently, the film has an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
- The Hunt for Red October debuted in 1,225 theaters on March 2, 1990, grossing $17 million on its opening weekend, more than half its budget. The film went on to gross $122 million in North America with a worldwide total of $200,512,643.
- The film caused a minor sensation in the black projects / submarine warfare technology community. In one scene, where the USS Dallas is chasing the Red October through the submarine canyon, the crew can be heard calling out that they have various "milligal anomalies". This essentially outed the use of gravimetry as a method of silent navigation in US submarines. Thought to be a billion dollar black project, the development of a full-tensor gravity gradiometer by Bell Aerospace was a classified technology at the time. It was thought to be deployed on only a few Ohio class submarines after it was first developed in 1973. Within a few months after the film was released, Bell Aerospace partially declassified the technology, ultimately leading to its sale to Bell Geospace, which still uses the technology for oil exploration purposes.
- "Lt. Cmdr. Mike Hewitt" is the torpedo operator on the surface ship who calls out the range of the torpedo fired on the Red October, only for it to be remotely detonated by James Greer (James Earl Jones) just prior to impact (to fool the Red October's crew being rescued on the surface). He is not referred to by name in the movie, but his character and the actor's name is listed in the credits. "Mike Hewitt" is a real person, although at the time of filming he was Captain Michael Hewitt (now retired - he was Captain of the USS Fulton, a "sub-tender" ship stationed at the Naval Base in Groton, CT). He was a technical advisor on the film and they gave his name to the character as a thanks.
- After being faxed the script, Sean Connery initially turned the role down on the basis of the plot being unrealistic for the post-Cold War era. Whoever sent the fax neglected to include the foreword explaining the movie as historical; once he received the foreword, Connery accepted the role.
- Kevin Costner was originally cast as Jack Ryan.
- Klaus Maria Brandauer was originally cast as Marko Ramius, but broke his leg prior to filming. It was Brandauer who suggested his friend Sean Connery for the role, having known him since they appeared together in "Never Say Never Again".
- During filming, several of the actors portraying USS Dallas crewmen took a cruise on a real submarine. To train for his role as the Dallas' commander, Scott Glenn was installed as the "commander" of the real sub and gave orders to the crewmen as the real captain would.
- The real life crew of the USS Dallas adopted the tagline "The Hunt Is On" as an unofficial ship's motto.
- The dual-beeping sound effect of the Red October moving on the USS Dallas' sonar screen was also used in Patriot Games as the sound of Jack Ryan's EKG.
- The ship escorting the Red October out of port is the USCGC Blackhaw (WLB-390), a buoy tender stationed in San Francisco California at that time.
- The frigate shown when the Red October surfaces is not the real USS Reuben James, an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate with hull number 57. USS Gary, hull number 51, portrayed Reuben James and also provided some of the engine room shots of Red October. The crew also participated on some scenes.
- The underwater model of the Red October has never been in the water. This effect was achieved using smoke on the 'underwater' set and a few digital touch-ups. The sub was hung by 12 wires from an overhead grid which gave the ability to tilt and turn the model as needed.
- For the purposes of filming the underwater model of the Red October, only the left side of the sub was detailed to appear as an authentic submarine. The effect of showing the right side of the boat was achieved by simply turning the frame and reversing the image.
- Director Trademark: [John McTiernan] [teddy bear] Jack Ryan takes a teddy bear home with him at the end of the film. McClane has one at the start of Die Hard (1988) (it's the same bear).
- Sean Connery joined the cast after turning down the role of The Player in Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead".
- Rip Torn was announced for this film
- When the movie was first released on VHS in 1991, the tapes were red.
- While preparing for his role in the film, Scott Glenn met the captain of the U.S.S. Salt Lake City. Glenn then composited the captain into Bart Mancuso.
- Two torpedoes are dropped from the air at the Red October. One from a Bear-Foxtrot bomber and the other from a Seahawk helicopter. There was only one actual torpedo drop which was incorrectly reported here as: "filmed from two different angles for the attacks". By watching carefully the two sequences, played at the same time, it can be easily seen that the splash pattern around the torpedo of the second sequence is just the mirror image of the first sequence.
- To help the audience quickly grasp which sub's interior they were seeing as the movie jumped from scene to scene and sub to sub, the filmmakers created a subtle lighting scheme: black and silver for Russian vessels such as Red October and Konovalov, while blue and gray were used for American vessels such as Dallas and Enterprise.
- During filming in 1989, the USS Houston, which was used as the USS Dallas in the movie, snagged the tow cable between the commercial tugboat Barcona and a barge sinking the tugboat, 10 miles off Long Beach, California. One crewman drowned and two more were rescued.
- Most of Gates McFadden's role as Cathy Ryan was deleted from the final print.
- Due to his obligation to this film, director John McTiernan had to pass up the opportunity to direct Die Hard 2, the sequel to his big hit Die Hard.
- The bible verses that Putin reads at the beginning of his conversation with Ramius come from Revelation 16:16-17.
- Several employees that designed and built submarines from the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company (now known as Northrup/Grumman Newport News) were set design advisors for the submarine interiors on the Dallas and Red October. Some of the interiors actually contain real submarine items - mostly things like hatches, lights, etc, to add realism.
- Director John McTiernan replaced his original editor, Peter Zinner, because Zinner found McTiernan's shooting approach difficult to work with given his classical, more traditional film background. However, Zinner has a bit part in the film as a Soviet admiral.
- Richard Jordan was second choice for Dr Jeffery Pelt, the national security adviser. The role was first offered to an Irish actor.
- In the opening credits, Red October is escorted by two tugs and a US Coast Guard 180 foot class bouytender, clearly seen off its starboard quarter.
- The Hunt for Red October (1990) was released in March 1990, just as Major League Baseball was entering spring training. Lou Pinella and the rest of the Cincinnati Reds used this movie all season for motivation and swept the Oakland A's in the World Series that October.
- In the scene with the frigate "Ruben James", a second frigate was used during the filming. The USS Wadsworth FFG-9 was also used to depict the Ruben James. The Wadsworth's hull number 9 is clearly visible in a couple of scene's.
- The scene where Jack Ryan was lowered onto the USS Dallas was filmed in the parking lot of the Mole Pier at Long Beach Naval Station on a beautiful sunny day. Editing made it look like it was the ocean.
- A US Navy yard oiler was used to escort the sub at the beginning of the movie. It was in Long Beach CA, and the Red October was built to look like it submerged by using two articulated barges and flooding the front one while being towed.
- Alec Baldwin was succeeded in his role by Harrison Ford; with whom he appeared in "Working Girl"; and Ben Affleck; with whom he appeared in "Pearl Harbor".
- It is a manly film: Gates McFadden with Louise Borras (as Jack Ryan's wife and daughter) and Denise E. James as a flight attendant have the only credited female speaking roles, and all of their dialog scenes are over before the end of the opening credits. There is an uncredited female engineer speaking in the background at Skip Tyler's dry dock and another (non-speaking) flight attendant appears at the end, but apart from that there are no other women in the film.
- The name of the frigate that rescues the Red October's crew, the Reuben James, is from another of Tom Clancy's novels, ‘Red Storm Rising’.
- At the end of the film, Ramius quotes a poem that is attributed to Christopher Columbus. According to director John McTiernan the poem was actually written for the film by screenwriter Larry Ferguson.
- The body count of this movie is debatable because of the sinking of the V. K. Konovalov - the Alpha class submarine was intended to be operated by a crew of only 16-18 officers but in actual deployment would mostly have some 23-24 officers, as well as 4 petty officers and a cook on board. Apart from the crewmen of the Konovalov, the count is five: - Victor Putin, the political officer, the pilot and navigator of the F-14 crashing onto the Enterprise, Red October XO Vasilij Borodin, and cooks assistant/saboteur Loginov.
- The film footage of the crash aboard the carrier is actually that of an F9-F Panther of Korean War vintage.
- Navy recruiters set up booths in some theater lobbies for people to sign up to join the service, or to at least look into it.
- Jack Ryan mentions that he wrote a book about Adm. William F. Halsey. This is appropriate, as Ryan is also a professor of military history at the U.S. Naval Academy, as shown in Patriot Games (1992).
- Alec Baldwin accepted the role of Jack Ryan because Harrison Ford turned it down. Cast member Sam Neill also benefited from Ford's refusal three years later, by being cast in the lead role of Jurassic Park (1993).
- Johanna's calls it "The favorite movie of all time!"
- Sean Connery, Sam Neill and Stellan Skarsgård have all previous experience, with spy characters. Sean Connery, of course, originated the role of James Bond. Sam Neill played real-life spy, Sidney Reilly, in mini series Reilly, Ace of Spies (he also auditioned for Bond, when Roger Moore retired from the role). And Stellan Skarsgård originated the role of Carl Hamilton (a swedish spy character).
- Much of the information about Soviet submarines is speculative, as the film was made during the Cold War.
- The Hunt for Red October (Novel)
- The Hunt for Red October (Game)
- The Hunt for Red October (Board Game)
- The Hunt for Red October: Music from the Motion Picture
- The Hunt for Red October on VHS at Amazon.com
- The Hunt for Red October on DVD at Amazon.com
- The Hunt for Red October on Blu-ray at Amazon.com
- The Hunt for Red October on 4K at Amazon.com