Red Scorpion (1988)


Red Scorpion is a 1988 American action film starring Dolph Lundgren and directed by Joseph Zito.

It was followed by Red Scorpion 02 in 1994.


Lieutenant Nikolai Petrovitch Rachenko, a Soviet Spetsnaz operative is sent to an African country in which Soviet, Czechoslovakian and Cuban forces are helping the government fight an anti-communist rebel movement. He is tasked with the mission to assassinate the rebel leader. Rachenko infiltrates the rebel movement and get within striking distance of his target, he stirs up trouble in the local bar and gets arrested for disorderly conduct. He is put in the same cell as a captured resistance commander and gains his trust in facilitating the escape. Upon finally reaching the rebel encampment, he is met with distrust by the rebels. During the night, he attempts to assassinate his target, but the distrustful rebels anticipate his actions.

Disgraced and tortured by his commanding officers for failing his mission, he breaks out of the interrogation chamber and escapes to the desert, later to be found by native Bushmen. He soon learns about them and their culture, and after he receives a ceremonial burn scar in the form of a scorpion (hence the title), he joins the rebels and leads an attack against the Soviet camp after a previous attack on the peaceful bushmen. Nikolai obtains an AO-63 assault rifle from the armoury, confronts his corrupt officers and hunts down General Oleg Vortek, who attempts to escape in a Mil-24 Hind, only to be shot down after take off. Nikolai defeats and kills Vortek, as the rebels finally defeat the Soviet forces who were assisting the government.


  • Dolph Lundgren as Lieutenant Nikolai Petrovitch Rachenko.
  • Al White as Kallunda Kintash.
  • M. Emmet Walsh as Dewey Ferguson.
  • T.P. McKenna as General Oleg Vortek.
  • Anthony Fridjhon as General Alfonso Callaraga.
  • Irene Stephano as Edelira Villarin, Stenographer.
  • Carmen Argenziano as Colonel Hernando Zayas.
  • Alex Colon as Sergeant Ciro Mendez.
  • Brion James as Sergeant Miroslav Krasnov.
  • Ruben Nthodi as Ango Sundata.
  • Nomsa Nene as Noe Kossongo.
  • Elijah Dhlamini as Elano.
  • Regapstaan as Gao.


After being denied the right to film in Swaziland and a search for other locations, the film was made in Namibia (then South-West Africa and belonging to South Africa). Warner Bros., who had a negative pickup deal to release the picture, pulled out for the breach of their contract with the production. Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid then condemned the production for breaking the international boycott against South Africa. The film allegedly received help from the South African government as part of its propaganda efforts to undermine international sympathy for the African National Congress (see International Freedom Foundation).

With all the delays and productions issues, the film went over budget by 8-10 million dollars (approximately twice the initial amount).

Producer Jack Abramoff later claimed that he did not intend the film to contain so much violence and profanity, blaming the director. He established a short-lived “Committee for Traditional Jewish Values in Entertainment” to release films more in line with his values, but later abandoned the project, feeling it would be unfeasible.


Red Scorpion screened at the 1988 MIFED film market, and was first released theatrically in South Korea in late December 1988, then the Philippines, West Germany, and Japan in January 1989, then in the United States on 21 April 1989. The movie was released theatrically worldwide except in the United Kingdom (where it went “direct to video” in January 1990).

Home Media

The film was released in the US on VHS and Laserdisc in August 1989 through Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment Home Video. In 1993, a budget tape of the film was released by Starmaker. The movie has had at least two Region 1 DVD releases. The first DVD was released in 1998 by Simitar and the second DVD was released in 2002 by 20th Century Fox. In 2005, Tango Entertainment released a UMD of the film for the Sony PlayStation Portable. The two DVDs are now discontinued.

The film has been released on Blu-ray special editions in the UK by Arrow Video on 06 February 2012, and in the US by Synapse Films on 12 June 2012.


A sequel, Red Scorpion 02, appeared in 1994, although the story is largely unrelated to the first film.


  • The filmmakers used a real bushmen tribe and Regopstaan was their 95 years old leader who only agreed to play in the movie if his tribe can follow him everywhere.
  • Dolph Lundgren performed some of the most dangerous stunts in his career, notably jumping from a moving motorcycle to a truck.
  • The “Mil-24 Hind” in reality is a Sikorsky S-62 modified to look like a gunship. The same helicopter was also used in the movie Braddock: Missing in Action III (1988).
  • The tank used in the final battle sequence is a soviet-made WWII-era T-34 with an 85mm cannon.
  • Despite being a box-office disappointment on release the film did exceptionally well when released onto the home video rental market.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Joseph Zito.
  • Producer(s):
    • Jack Abramoff … producer.
    • Robert Abramoff … executive producer.
    • Barney Cohen … associate producer.
    • Paul Erickson … executive producer.
    • Moonyeenn Lee … associate producer.
    • Mati Raz … associate producer.
    • Daniel Sklar … executive producer.
    • Harmon Kaslow … associate producer (uncredited).
  • Writer(s):
    • Robert Abramoff … (story by).
    • Jack Abramoff … (story by).
    • Arne Olsen … (story by).
    • Arne Olsen … (screenplay by).
    • Joseph Zito … (rewrite) (uncredited).
  • Music: Jay Chattaway.
  • Cinematography: Joao Fernandes.
  • Editor(s): Daniel Loewenthal.
  • Production:
    • Abramoff Production.
    • Scorpion Film Production.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment (1988) (World-wide) (theatrical) (international sales).
    • Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment (1989) (USA) (theatrical).
    • Cineplex Odeon Films (1989) (Canada) (theatrical).
    • Constantin-Film (1989) (Austria) (theatrical) (as Constantin-Filmverleih).
    • Herald Film Company (1989) (Japan) (theatrical).
    • Les Films Jacques Leitienne (1989) (France) (theatrical).
    • Scotia-Cannon (1989) (West Germany) (theatrical).
    • Ufilms (1989) (Spain) (theatrical).
    • Unirecord Internacional (1989) (Spain) (theatrical).
    • Unión Films S.A. (1989) (Spain) (theatrical).
    • Alsen Cinematografica (1990) (Italy) (theatrical).
    • Cinematografica Vicarsa (1989) (Mexico) (theatrical).
    • Independenti Regionali (1990) (Italy) (theatrical).
    • Nippon Herald Films (1989) (Japan) (theatrical).
    • Vestron Pictures Australia (1989) (Australia) (theatrical).
    • 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (2002) (USA) (DVD).
    • Amsell Entertainment (World-wide) (all media).
    • Arrow Films (2012) (UK) (DVD).
    • Arrow Films (2012) (UK) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
    • Atlantic Film (2002) (Sweden) (DVD).
    • CEL Home Video (1990) (Australia) (VHS).
    • Carlotta Films (2016) (France) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
    • Cineplex-Odeon Home Video (1989) (Canada) (VHS).
    • Delta Vidéo Diffusion (1990) (France) (VHS).
    • Delta Vidéo Diffusion (France) (all media) (laserdisc).
    • Dutch FilmWorks (DFW) (2011) (Netherlands) (Blu-ray).
    • FilmRise (1988) (USA) (video).
    • Filmkompaniet Distribution (1990) (Norway) (VHS).
    • Future Film (2001) (Finland) (DVD) (cropped to 1.33:1).
    • H.O.M. Vision (2002) (Netherlands) (DVD) (cropped to 1.33: 1).
    • Herald Videogram (1990) (Japan) (VHS).
    • MCA Home Video (1989) (Canada) (VHS).
    • NSM Records (2020) (Germany) (Blu-ray).
    • NSM Records (2020) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Nameless Media (2017) (Germany) (Blu-ray).
    • North American Pictures (2012) (World-wide) (all media).
    • Pan Vision (2011) (Finland) (DVD) (cropped to 1.33: 1).
    • RTL Plus (1992) (Germany) (TV).
    • Razzel Video (1990) (Finland) (VHS).
    • SGE Home Video (1989) (USA) (VHS).
    • Showtime Video (1990) (Finland) (VHS).
    • Simitar Entertainment (1998) (USA) (DVD).
    • Splendid Film (2011) (Germany) (DVD) (uncut).
    • Star Media Entertainment (2002) (Norway) (DVD).
    • Starmaker Entertainment (1992) (USA) (video).
    • Synapse Films (2012) (USA) (DVD).
    • Synapse Films (2012) (USA) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
    • Tango Entertainment (2005) (USA) (DVD) (UMD).
    • UFA Video (1989) (Germany) (VHS).
    • VL-Musiikki (2013) (Finland) (Blu-ray) (DVD).
    • Vestron Video International (1990) (UK) (VHS).
    • Videosonic (1989) (Greece) (VHS).
  • Release Date: 25 October 1988 (MIFED).
  • Running Time: 105 minutes.
  • Rating: 15.
  • Country: France, Germany, and US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.