On Film and Film-Watching: Revisiting ‘The Hunt for Red October’ in 4K…and Listening to the Commentary Track

A screengrab from Cold Waters’ “Stalking the Red Bear” that evokes the opening sequence from “The Hunt for Red October.” (C) 2017 Killerfish Games

Well, it’s early afternoon in New Hometown, Florida on Saturday, October 16, 2021. Even though it is ostensibly autumn, because we are in the subtropical zone it is summer-like hot outside. The current temperature is 86˚F (30˚C) under mostly cloudy skies. With humidity at 41% and the wind blowing from the north-northwest at 8 MPH (10 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 91˚F (32˚C). Today’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 90˚F (32˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy. The low will be 68˚F (20˚C). The Air Quality Index (AQI) is 45 or Good.

(C) 2018 Paramount Home Media Distribution

Last night I watched my recently acquired 4K UHD Blu-ray of 1990’s The Hunt for Red October. Amazon had Paramount’s Jack Ryan 5-Film Collection on sale for $35.74 (regular price is $69.99); I had some Shop with Points reward points in my Amazon Visa account, and since I already forked over my rent to The Caregiver, I decided to grab a set along with six pairs of men’s socks that I needed. You only live once, ya know?

I love John (Die Hard) McTiernan’s take on Tom Clancy’s 1984 bestselling debut novel about a group of disillusioned Soviet naval officers that steals the Soviet Union’s latest Typhoon-class nuclear-powered missile sub and plans to defect to the West, bringing the sub and its secrets into American hands in the process. I saw it on opening day in March of 1990 in Miami with my usual movie-going crew not long after my 27th birthday, and I’ve owned it in three home media formats – VHS videotape, DVD, and Blu-ray. So even though I need another copy like I need a frontal lobotomy, I now own it in a fourth[1].

I’ve seen Red October many times over the past 31 years – another tempus fugit kinda thing – so I know it almost by heart. Of the five “Jack Ryan” films, it’s the one that best captures the spirit – if not quite the letter – of Clancy’s novel. Larry Ferguson, Donald Stewart, and an uncredited John Milius wrote a decent script, and the chemistry between the two leads (Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin) makes it easy for the pickiest Clancy fans to accept the discrepancies between the novel and film.  

Chris Pine is one of the four actors whose take on Jack Ryan is seen in Jack Ryan 5-Film Collection.

That’s why this time around I watched the movie with the audio commentary by John McTiernan, which is the only extra feature on the 4K UHD disc. Here, the director gives viewers some insights into the movie and how it was made. Some of the stuff in the commentary track I knew about already: Tom Clancy, for instance, was initially unhappy with the choice to make Caroline Ryan (Gates McFadden in a brief cameo) British, even though he later got over it (per McTiernan’s account). Other stuff, such as the use of the Valdez Inlet in Alaska to pass for Russia’s Kola Peninsula at the film’s pre-main titles sequence, was news to me.

I started watching the movie relatively late last night – around 9 PM – and I had been up since before dawn, so even though I  tried again to watch an episode of the new version of The Stand, I fell asleep halfway through. (Note to self: When you plan to watch a new movie or TV miniseries on home media, don’t watch it when you’re tired.) I managed to turn the TV and the Blu-ray player off with the remote control, but I now have to rewatch the first two episodes (this 2020-2021 version has nine parts) before watching the rest.

Maybe I’ll do that today, Dear Reader. It will entertain me, for one thing. It will also keep me from thinking about my mom too much on the eve of what would have been her 93rd birthday.

Well, my package with six pairs of men’s socks arrived, so before I watch anything, I should open the Amazon shipping envelope and put the socks away in my Ikea cubby’s socks-and-undies drawer. Enjoy the weekend, Dear Reader. Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

[1] Of course, I don’t have the VHS tape anymore, but I still have the DVD and Blu-ray editions that I bought while I still lived in Miami.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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