Communist Love Story

Nominated for a dozen Academy Awards with three taking home gold statues, Reds is director/star/co-writer Warren Beatty’s pet passion project about the love story between political activists John Reed and Louise Bryant. Set against the rise of communism in Russia, the movie star from such trite fare as Heaven Can Wait and Shampoo moves in a more serious direction trying to prove his worth as a filmmaker.

The outstanding cast includes terrific performances by Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Maureen Stapleton, not to mention a cameo from Gene Hackman. Keaton and Nicholson in particular spin gold from straw, outclassing Beatty in his own movie. Known for his leading man good looks, Beatty doesn’t weigh the film down but he’s the weakest link in this big-budget Hollywood affair.

Reds is director/star/co-writer Warren Beatty’s pet passion project about the love story between activists John Reed and Louise Bryant

Taking nearly two years in production and approaching 200 minutes in length, Reds has to be considered a vanity project on some level by Warren Beatty hunting for Oscar gold. A sprawling political epic about a radical American journalist from the Greenwich Village scene involved in the Bolshevik Revolution, Reds is often less than the sum of its many parts.

Made more for critics than audiences, the screenplay is at its best in the quieter emotional moments between Beatty and Keaton. There’s an intensity and grit which only a real life couple could conjure up. The Hollywood stars became a couple off screen while filming Reds and that chemistry happily leaks into their performances.

Telling the tumultuous love story of Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton) and John Reed (Warren Beatty), Reds ducks in and out of Reed’s tenure covering the rise of Communism during World War 1 and his subsequent involvement in the Bolsheviks taking power in Russia.

Realizing audiences aren’t likely to get swept up in a socialist euphoria, Beatty pins his film on the passionate but decidedly topsy-turvy romance between his two stars with a cracking side of Jack Nicholson playing poet Eugene O’Neill. Nicholson’s O’Neill develops a fling with Louise Bryant which threatens Reed’s relationship.

Sumptuous production values in true Hollywood fashion and an all-star cast paper over the movie’s deeper problems. The fairly simple plot shouldn’t require over three hours and begins losing impact as it unwinds. Beatty wanted an ambitious political epic by hook or crook. Like many inexperienced directors before him he couldn’t always separate the wheat from the chaff.

Reds isn’t necessarily the classic Paramount would have liked but the film got Beatty his only Oscar gold. The best performance is Jack Nicholson, who steals every scene he’s in with a trademark flourish.


Newly restored by Paramount for its 40th anniversary, Reds looks great in this new Blu-ray edition. The catalog property receives excellent treatment from high-quality elements. Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro approved this 4K restoration from the original camera negative using a vintage print from Paramount’s vault for the final grading. It’s a vast improvement over the mediocre BD Paramount put out for Reds’ 25th anniversary, which was crippled by Paramount’s alliances in the Hi-Def format wars.

The 1.85:1 presentation is rich and film-like, offering crisp grain reproduction and a healthy palette.

Paramount has split the special features on a separate BD, giving the lengthy main feature its own BD-50. That allows for a beautiful AVC encode which retains every inch of texture without artifacts.

The film transfer doesn’t quite leap off the screen in depth and dimension but offers sizable upgrades in razor-sharp detail. Black levels are stable and inky. The 1080p video hums with fine definition and proper color fidelity. It’s an unfiltered 4K scan with noticeable upticks in clarity and a fine-tuned contrast.

I don’t believe Reds will ever receive a 4K UHD release. It’s never been a big seller and was already out of print for many years.


Newly restored 5.1 and mono options are offered. The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is fairly primitive in sound design, offering clean dialogue exchanges and mild ambient support. There isn’t much in the way of truly discrete surround action.

The dialogue-driven drama becomes sonically richer for the Russian Revolution’s crowd scenes. The entire soundstage is primarily kept upfront. An original mono theatrical soundtrack is offered in 2.0 Dolby Digital but you’ll want the fuller sounding TrueHD audio.

Optional English and English SDH subtitles are included.


Paramount’s two-disc BD set brings over the existing documentary from their 25th anniversary edition. A digital copy redeemable in HDX quality on VUDU is included. There’s nothing new here but the quality documentary is a nice bonus feature. It is a bit head-scratching why Beatty won’t do a commentary.

Reds Trailer (01:21 in HD)

Witness to Reds (67:32 in SD) – An excellent seven-part documentary featuring Warren Beatty and others delving into the film’s background and tortured production history. This is a deep, extensive peek behind the scenes.

The Rising
The March
Revolution, Part 1
Revolution, Part 2

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

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Consciously made with Hollywood in mind, the ambitious political epic won the Oscar for director Warren Beatty despite Jack Nicholson stealing the show.

User Review
4 (1 vote)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 62 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:

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