When the kids listen to the radio, one message heard is "John has a long mustache". During WWII, Radio Londres issued coded messages to the resistance in France, the most famous being "Jean has a long mustache".
The sprocket wheel on all modern tanks is in the rear. The replica Soviet equipment was mostly American M-48 tanks. Driving the tanks backward and adding a fiberglass turret gave the replicas a more authentic look.
William Smith, who plays the Spetsnaz commander Strelnikov, didn't receive any special language training for his role. Thanks to years of military service and work with both the CIA and NSA, Smith was already fluent in the Russian language and several others.
The ivory gripped revolver passed down to Jed (Patrick Swayze) from his granddaddy is a model 1873 Colt Single Action Army also known as the Colt Peacemaker. This is a Wild West era weapon that has to be manually thumb cocked for every shot. Though woefully antiquated compared to the other firearms in this movie the Peacemaker was a rugged, reliable and accurate weapon and its 45 cal. cartridge packed a serious punch. The weapon remains so popular that Colt still manufactures them to this day and a dozen other companies offer clones.
The original trailer, on the laserdisc release, includes a scene with a tank rolling up to a McDonald's where enemy soldiers are eating. The scene does not appear in the final cut, and was likely removed due to a mass murder at a McDonald's in San Ysidro, CA, weeks before the film opened.
'Soldier of Fortune' magazine said that the film's T-72 tank was such a good replica that "while it was being carted around Los Angeles, two CIA officers followed it to the studio and wanted to know where it had come from".
The original movie tagline said, "In our time, no foreign army has ever occupied American soil." Some historians believe that is historically inaccurate. British troops occupied American territory during the War of 1812. They occupied an area outside of New Orleans, and occupied and burned large parts of Washington, DC, including the White House, in 1814. Japanese forces occupied several islands off the coast of Alaska during World War II. However, the statement "In our time" (within a viewer's lifetime) is technically correct. No viewer was alive during the War of 1812, and Alaska was still a territory when Japan invaded; it became a state in 1959.
The film's opening prologue states: "Soviet Union suffers worst wheat harvest in 55 years. Labor and food riots in Poland. Soviet troops invade. Cuba and Nicaragua reach troop strength goals of 500,000. El Salvador and Honduras fall. Greens party gains control of West German Parliament. Demands withdrawal of nuclear weapons from European soil. Mexico plunged into revolution. NATO dissolves. United States stands alone".
The story was originally to be set in the real town of Calumet, Michigan. It was moved to a fictionalized version of Calumet, Colorado. Colorado was a more central location within the United States which better fit the story and Calumet, Colorado is actually a tiny former mining town abandoned in the 1970s.
Though the story takes place in Colorado, it was mostly filmed in Las Vegas, NM. In the short montage of destroyed Soviet vehicles that have been tagged with Wolverines graffiti, a highway sign in the background (with a large fish on it) advertises Storrie Lake, a New Mexico state park about 5 miles north of Las Vegas, NM.
The Russian leader of the invaders is Strelnikov. In the 1965 movie Doctor Zhivago (1965), schoolteacher Pasha Antipov (Tom Courtenay) assumes the name Strelnikov when he becomes a leader of the Red Partisans during the Russian Revolution.
The Soviet Mi-24 Hind helicopters featured in this film are modified Sud-Aviation SA 330 Pumas fitted with bolt-on wings like the actual Hind helicopters. Similarly-modified Pumas also appeared as Soviet Hind helicopters in Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985) and Rambo III (1988).
In the movie, the Wolverines bomb the invaders' regional headquarters. On August 3, 2006, heavy thunderstorms destroyed the 107-year-old Center Block Building in Las Vegas, NM, where the scene was filmed.
Some movie posters for the film featured a long text preamble that read: "8:44 A.M. A full scale military invasion by foreign troops begins. Total surprise. Almost total success. A gang of high school kids become the last line of defense".
In the film, Toni (Jennifer Grey) sneaks into town and blows up the "Soviet-American Friendship Center." The real life National Council of American-Soviet Friendship (NCASF), a left-wing organization composed of Soviet and communist sympathizers, angrily denounced "Red Dawn" as paranoid and militarist. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the NCASF, whose last president was prominent character actor John Randolph, disbanded.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
When Erica finds the air man, she tries to ascertain his nationality by asking him to identify the capital of Texas. When he says Austin, Erica incorrectly says Houston. The incorrect answer is an in-joke; Powers Boothe is a Texas native, and Patrick Swayze was from Houston.
The upbeat epilogue showing Partisan Rock, with the voice-over explaining that America eventually won the war, was added at the studio's insistence. John Milius for his part, viewed the ending as darkly ironic, suggesting that the characters' struggles were ultimately reduced to a lonely monument.
The film's closing epilogue, which is the same as the inscription on the "Partisan Rock" plaque, states: "...In the early days of World War III, guerrillas - mostly children - placed the names of their lost upon this rock. They fought here alone and gave up their lives, so that this nation shall not perish from the earth". The second half paraphrases Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.