Country boy goes East
Denver, Oct. 21
An Ohio River Films release. Produced and directed by Will Roberts, in collaboration with Dean Reed. Reviewed at Denver Film Festival, Oct. 18, 1985. (No MPAA Rating.) Running time: 93 MINS.
"American Rebel" focuses on the life and time of Yank pop singer Dean Reed, who presently lives in East Germany and is often referred to as "the Jonny Cash of Communism" (N.Y.Times). One finds him entertaining huge auditorium of stadium crowds in Moscow or Cuba or Eat Berlin or Baghdad (where this reviewer has seen him in action over the past decade or more), and he well deserves to have a docu made on the phenomenon if not the personality behind it. This one took filmer Will Roberts some three years to complete.
Reed grew up in Denver (thus the world preem of pic at the Denver Film Fest), attending the U. of Colorado for a brief spell before slinging his guitar over his shoulder and setting off to Hollywood to seek his fortune. There he recorded a couple songs for Capitol Records, one of which hit the top of the charts in South America.
Reed then hit the trail for Latin America on a promo tour, deciding to stay there for a while when he discovered he could entertain huge crowds while lending his allegiance to Allende's cause in Marxist/Socialist Chile. He learned to converse and sing in Spanish, and departed reluctantly when the military government took charge in Chile and Argentina.
Next Reed is seen doing Italo Westerns with the late Yul Brunner - until he received an invitation to sing his politico folk songs at fests and concerts in Socialist countries in East Europe. The Soviet Union and the German Democratic Republic in particular adopted him wholeheartedly, and Dean Reed suddenly found himself doing concerts, making films (directing and starring), and finally marrying an East German thesp to settle down in East Berlin with a family.
All along, Reed has kept his passport. Occasionally, he returns to the States - only, in 1978, to find himself in the middle of controversy when he was jailed in Minnesota with demonstrators marching to halt power lines going through a farming district. All these headline events and extracurricular activities have been duly recorded for posterity in "American Rebel".
Docu is both informative and eyecatching as something a bit out of the ordinary. It's when Reed has to sit down before a camera to explain his political views that he limps like a lame duck across the pages of contemporary history. He believes in peace and goodwill among men as though every day is Christmas, or as if all one has to do is to collectively wish for the same to attain it. Roberts would have done well to nail him down on his views in a repartee on camera, instead of allowing his subject to repeat his notions over and over again. In the end effect, the best that can be said about Dean Reed is that he has often shown personal courage to put his own life on the line in some rather dangerous Latin American demonstrations.
Those interested in Reed's movie career are recommended to see his "Sing, Cowboy, Sing" comedy produced in East Germany at the end of the 1970s. It set b.o. records in the home market - and it's not bad. As for his singing talent, the charisma is more attached to his tall athletic build (replete with cowboy boots) than to a voice that's slightly fading at 45.
Reed showed up at Denver for the world preem of "American Rebel." Again, controversy flared up when he made an appearance on a talk-show. All the same, as the docu shows in interviews with Reed's mother and father and friends, Denver welcomed back the local hometown boy in typical homespun manner and with a warm embrace as liberal, democratic America is wont to do.