Five of the thirty-six paratroopers in the beginning of the movie did get blown as much as a mile off course during filming. One of them got stuck in a tree. He had to convince locals that he wasn't really an enemy soldier.
The film made the Guinness Book of Records for having the most acts of violence of any film up to that time. According to their calculations, one hundred thirty-four acts of violence occur per hour, or 2.23 per minute.
William Smith, who played the Spetsnaz commander Strelnikov, didn't receive any special language training for his role. Thanks to years of military service, and working with the C.I.A. and N.S.A., Smith was already fluent in Russian and several other languages.
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.
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 did not appear in the final cut, and was likely removed due to a mass murder at a McDonald's in San Ysidro, California, a few weeks before the film opened.
The U.S. flag in the classroom at the start of the movie, and other scenes, is a forty-eight-star flag. This was the flag during World War II, and a symbolic reference for a movie portraying the start of World War III.
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.
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 C.I.A. 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, D.C., 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.
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 this movie as paranoid and militarist. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the NCASF, whose last President was John Randolph, disbanded.
Though the story takes place in Colorado, it was mostly filmed in Las Vegas, New Mexico. 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 five miles north of Las Vegas, New Mexico.
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-caliber 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 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 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).
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."
Near the end of the movie, Jed and Matt climb onto a flatcar that slowly moving in order to escape. The car contains two small anti-tank guns. Both of these guns are from World War II, and although different in appearance, both are 37mm in caliber. The one with the flat rectangular shield is an American M3, and the one with the sloped shield is a German Pak 36.
Powers Boothe's character was originally written as a proud military man who was also anti-war, and who served as the movie's "voice of reason." Boothe was less than thrilled when the character was made into a less complex and more conventional warrior.
This movie was banned from theaters in Finland during its release. The reasons for the ban were excessive violence, disagreements with Finland's foreign policy, and the film being deemed "too anti-Soviet." The film was later released in video format.
The AK-47's used in the film are Egyptian Maadi ARM rifles. In 1983 roughly 2000 of the rifles we imported to the USA by Steyr. A large number of these first imports were used in film and were even converted to have automatic fire for the purposes of the movie. The rifles are the closest to a Russian production AK-47 that you can own in the USA, because they were made on Russian machines using Russian raw materials and under the guidance and supervision of Russian gunsmiths and factory managers. Among collectors the Egyptian Maadi ARM imported by Steyr are highly sought after.
When three Russian soldiers drive up into the mountains near where the Wolverines are hiding, they stop at a sign for "Arapaho National Forest" (located in north central Colorado, where the film is set). However, at the bottom of the sign is the legend "Highest Point: Hermit's Peak, 10,212 feet." Hermit's Peak (in the Santa Fe National Forest) is located near Las Vegas, New Mexico, where the film was mostly shot. The highest point in Arapaho National Forest is Mount Evans (14,271 feet).
In the movie, the Wolverines bomb the invaders' regional headquarters. On August 3, 2006, heavy thunderstorms destroyed the one hundred seven-year-old Center Block Building in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where the scene was filmed.
Captain Dale Dye was the military adviser for this film, he was also in charge of putting the cast and soviet troop extras through boot camp. Dale Dye also advised films such as Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and Platoon. Charlie Sheen would see Dale Dye again when he was cast as the main actor in Platoon, 2 years later.
The Russian leader of the invaders is Strelnikov. In 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.
Lane Smith, who portrayed mayor Bates whom collaborates with the enemy in this movie also portrays a collaborating politician in another production. He portrayed the self-proclaimed mayor of Los Angeles in V (1984). He was a collaborator with the series antagonists The Visitors. His character's last name in that series was also Bates.
Originally, the setting was set in Michigan before changing to Colorado. One of the Michigan elements kept was the mascot of the high school, and adopted for Jed's group, the Wolverines. Wolverines is also used for the University of Michigan. Bella was the main antagonist of the Jed's group, and played by Ron O'Neal. O'Neal briefly attended The Ohio State University, the archrival of the Michigan Wolverines.
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.
At the end of the movie, Colonel Bella (Ron O'Neal) said to Jed (Patrick Swayze), "Vaya con Dios," which are the last words spoken to Jed. Similarly, in Point Break (1991), Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) spoke the same final words to Bodhi (Swayze).
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 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.
Roy Jenson plays the father of Robert Morris, one of the main characters in a band of American teenagers who escape to the mountains during a Communist invasion of the United States, survive, and learn to wage a guerrilla war largely by adapting the tribal lifestyle of the American Indian. In the original Star Trek television series episode Star Trek: The Omega Glory (1968), Jenson played Cloud William, the chief of the tribe of "Yangs" (Yanks) on a parallel planet who have survived, evolved and waged a guerrilla war against the invading "Kohms" (Communists) by taking to the mountains and plains and adapting to the tribal lifestyle of the American Indian.