Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Bill is an ex-GI who is having a rough time adjusting to life back home, and the latest kick in the head is getting cheated out of money in a real estate scam. He complains to Veterans Affairs but doesn’t get satisfaction. Earl, a member of the local chapter of the Communist party, gives Bill a sympathetic ear and takes him to a bar where hot Commie totsies provide a little more than an ear; Mollie winds up taking him home that night and, between seductive moves, starts to propagandize about trying to end the exploitation of mankind. The next morning, Bill has left but her apartment shows signs of a late night, and who should show up but Mollie's good Catholic mother who is trying to talk her out of her fallen ways. But Mollie believes that her father died young due to the ravages of worker exploitation and sticks with the party. Nina, a genuine Russian, takes up the case of Bill—they become close and he joins the party, even going to "Worker’s School," where classes in Marxism are taught by Nina.

Meanwhile, not everything is Red Heaven in the party. Henry, a poet who writes well-received agitprop poems for the paper The Toilers, is criticized for implying that not all of Karl Marx's ideas were original, and is soon persona non grata around the offices; an Italian worker named Reachi raises serious objections to the party line at a meeting and winds up dead, though the newspaper blames his death on anti-Communist agitators; Mollie is ostracized for continuing to see Henry, for whom she seems to have a thing; Sam, a young African-American reporter for the Toiler, becomes disillusioned. Yvonne, the most dyed-in-the-wool of all the party members, is practically driven mad by all the turmoil, and she cracks when Immigration agents question her passport. Finally, Bill and Nina try to leave the party by getting out of town, but become paranoid thinking that the Party is chasing them.

Yes, this is overwrought anti-Communist propaganda, probably one of the first such films of the Cold War era, but it's actually a well-made movie: good acting, some nice directorial touches (from R.G. Springsteen), and characters that are more interesting than the B-film norm. Bill (Robert Rockwell) isn't blindly bamboozled into the party—yes, the sex may have clouded his thinking a bit, but he knows what he's getting into. Nina (Hanne Axman, pictured at right with Rockwell) and Henry (Shepard Menken) seem a bit rounder than the average duped-commie characters. The hard-core party members are all cartoonish, but Betty Lou Gerson as Yvonne has a couple of good moments including an incredibly fun scenery-chewing mad scene near the end (pictured above left). The movie is quite quotable: the narrator refers to the Communists as casting "a spell of Marxian hatred and revenge" and calls the basis of Marxist thinking "sugarcoated atheism." When Bill tries to, um, press his advantage with Nina, she slaps him and he replies, "The party's getting rough." Sam (Duke Williams) is asked to brand Henry a "decadent psycho-poet" in the newspaper. By the time that Mollie's mom’s priest gets in the act, telling her that the way to defeat Communism is to "live Christianity and American democracy every day of our lives," the lecturing from parental figures has gotten a little out of hand—priests, moms, dads, federal agents and sheriffs all pop up to give advice. Still, this is watchable both as a fairly compelling melodrama and as slightly campy outdated propaganda; that it can be both is a compliment. [DVD]

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