RED MENACE, THE
(director: R.G. Springsteen; screenwriters: from the story by Albert DeMond/Albert DeMond/Gerald Geraghty; cinematographer: John MacBurnie; editor: Harry Keller; music: Nathan Scott; cast: Robert Rockwell (Bill Jones), Hanne Axman (Nina Petrovka), Betty Lou Gerson (Greta Bloch, alias Yvonne Kraus), Lester Luther (Earl Partridge), William Lally (Jack Tyler), Barbra Fuller (Mollie O’Flaherty), William Martel (Inspector Riggs), Shepard Menken (Henry Solomon), James Harrington (Martin Vejac), Duke Williams (Sam), Kay Reihl (Mrs. O’Flaherty), Royal Raymond (Benson), Gregg Martell (Schultz), Mary DeGolyer (Proprietress), Leo Cleary (Father O’Leary), Norman Budd (Anthony Reachi), Napoleon Simpson (Tom Wright), Robert Purcell (Sheriff), Lloyd G. Davies (Narrator); Runtime: 81; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Herbert J. Yates; Republic; 1949)
“The ultimate laughable Red-scare film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
R.G. Springsteen directs ‘the ultimate laughable Red-scare film’ that serves as a public service announcement doling out anti-communist messages and providing propaganda for the American way of life. The priest in one sermon to a wayward member of his flock states: “The best way to defeat Communism, is live for Christianity and Americanism every day of our lives.” It’s a must-see bad film that is good only because it’s so awkwardly bad and over-the-top in its pronouncements.
Lloyd G. Davies provides the narration in a sober voice indicating that this fictionalized piece could be a documentary of vital interest to the public. The Red Menace is told in flashback as a frightened couple, Nina Petrovka (Hanne Axman) and Bill Jones (Robert Rockwell, the biology teacher Mr. Boynton of Our Miss Brooks), are fleeing by car from their Los Angeles home and are now somewhere in the Arizona desert because they quit the Communist Party and expect retaliation. They have good reason to be fearful, as we learn from following their story from the beginning. Nina was born in Europe and joined the Party there as a child. Having become a naturalized citizen, she lied about her Party affiliation–which the Party holds over her head if she ever leaves them. She works for the Party as an instructor to indoctrinate the new recruits in Marxism. One of them is Bill Jones, a disgruntled GI who applied for a “GI Housing Project” and was swindled out of his money by a shady real-estate place because he didn’t read the fine print and the Veterans Department refuses to help. Nina brings her new boyfriend Bill into the elite inner circle of the Party, but becomes disillusioned with the Party when she witnesses a young worker (Norman Budd) who dissents to her dogmatic Marxism line and is taken out of the class by goons and beaten to death. That is followed by Jewish poet and intellectual Henry Solomon being reprimanded by the inner circle for writing a poem in the Party paper where he doesn’t give Marx enough credit for his ideas. He gets ostracized and his fellow Party member girlfriend Molly O’Flaherty is being followed so she can’t meet with him. Henry can’t find work because the Party informs on him being a member whenever he gets a legit job, so the depressed once true believer marches into the Party boss’s (Lester Luther) office and jumps out the window. There are a few more cases of disillusioned Party members quitting, such as the Negro Sam who quits when his dad visits him in the Party office and tells him he’s being used. The funniest bit has inner circle demon Yvonne Kraus (Betty Lou Gerson) go bonkers while interrogated by immigration agents. The film mercifully ends before there’s no one left in the Party (people are quitting but I don’t see any one joining). As it comes out of flashback, Nina and Bill give themselves up to a small-town Texas sheriff, who sympathetically listens to their story all night and it’s decided that they acted stupidly by joining the Party and now will get married and raise their children to be good citizens.
What can you say! It’s as worthy a film as Ed Wood Jr.’s Plan 9 from Outer Space. The lesson learned is that if you want to get out of the Communist Party alive, it’s better to be a higher-up than a lowly member.
REVIEWED ON 4/21/2005 GRADE: C