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Film: If Footmen Tire You What Will Horses Do

The loudspeaker spoke up and said, Christianity is stupid. Christianity is stupid. Communism is good. Communism is good. Give up. Give up.

One beautiful morning, a young sexually-active woman named Judy stops by her local church, where the fire-and-brimstone preacher is delivering a sermon about the coming horrors of communism.

That's the Framing Device for If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, a 1971 Red Scare film produced by Reverend Estus W. Pirkle, who also appears As Himself in the role of Judy's preacher. Reverend Pirkle is here to warn us that America must abandon its sinful ways and turn back to God, or else it will be taken over by communists. The film's director is Ron Ormond, a man who could not be stranger bedfellows with Reverend Pirkle. The creator of Exploitation Films like Mesa of Lost Women and The Monster and the Stripper, Ormond found religion after surviving a plane crash.

Thus, comes the unholy matrimony of fundamentalist preacher and Ed Wood-style filmmaker. Throughout the resulting one-hour... experience, we're treated to Imagine Spots which illustrate the horrors of 1970s American society, tell of Judy's various misdeeds, and hysterically warn of what America will be like under communist rule.

During the 1970s and 1980s, this film was circulated amongst the more fundamentalist churches in the Deep South. Today, it's something of a Cult Classic for different reasons.

Tropes:

  • Artistic License - History: Hoo boy:
    • "Are you aware that less than sixty years ago there was not one communist in the world, whereas today communism controls one billion, one hundred million people?" Obviously, he means to refer to people living under communist governments, and not to people espousing communism.
    • Reverend Pirkle claims that it took only a week for the communists to take over China. Who knows where he got that figure from, but it's total nonsense. The Chinese Civil War which eventually resulted in Communist military victory (under Mao Zedong) lasted from 1916 to 1950, with some time on the proverbial back-burner/low heat for the Second Sino-Japanese War.
    • Reverend Pirkle says that three million Christians have been killed in North Korea, twenty million Christians have been killed in the Soviet Union, and fifty million Christians have been killed in Red China. If that seems like an oddly large number of Christians to be living in China, it's because Pirkle took the complete death toll of the Maoist regime and just assumed that all the victims were Christians.
    • "One of the top communists in America today said, 'I dream of the hour when the last Congressman is strangled to death on the guts of the last preacher and since the Christians love to sing about the blood, let's give them a little of it. Let's cut the throats of their children and let them drown in their own blood on the altar. Then we'll see if they enjoy singing these hymns or not.'" Christian conspiracy theorists have long attributed various versions of this quote to then CPUSA leader Gus Hall, but it seems to have no basis in fact. invoked
    • Pirkle claims that communists are worse than Hitler because the Nazis supposedly killed people mercifully whereas communists torture. Obviously, the notion that the Nazis never used torture is a fantasy on par with Holocaust denial. And yes, the Soviets used torture too, but the point is that that alone is not something which made them different from the Nazis.
  • As the Good Book Says: The title paraphrases Jeremiah 12:5:
    If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses?
  • Author Tract: The whole film is literally a preacher preaching at us
  • Bad Liar: Tommy denying that he is a Christian
  • Broken Aesop: The film decries the violence on television, despite having some rather graphic scenes depicting communist horrors. The blood is very obviously fake, but it's still more violent than anything you would see on U.S. television during the 1970s.
  • Cassandra Truth: Pirkle says communists torture people in a deliberately over-the-top manner in order to ensure that the victims' stories won't be believed.
  • The Coup: This is how the communists will take over the United States. It will happen "within fifteen minutes after zero hour", improving from the supposed week it took them to take over China.
  • Day of the Jackboot: Reverend Pirkle actually provides a deadline for his nightmare vision. Unless Americans turn back to God in a hurry, the communists will take over the U.S. within the next twenty-four months. Oops.
  • Dirty Communists: As far as the film is concernced, a "communist" is someone who goes around torturing and murdering Christians for no reason. Capitalism is only brought up once, and rather offhandedly at that.
  • Easy Evangelism: Judy (although to be fair, it does take the whole film to get her to repent)
  • The Fundamentalist: Our "hero", Reverend Pirkle
  • God Test: Communist brainwashers use this to teach children that Jesus can't miraculously provide them with candy, but "our glorious leader Fidel Castro" can.
  • Good Old Ways: Reverend Pirkle sings the praises of early twentieth-century schooling, and especially the old McGuffey Readers.
  • Hysterical Woman: Pretty much every single woman who has any kind of contact with a communist
  • Monochrome Casting: Despite being obviously filmed in the South, the film doesn't contain a single black person.
  • Moral Guardian: Reverend Pirkle ("Dancing is just as wrong as it's always been!")
  • New Media Are Evil: Reverend Pirkle is definitely not a fan of television. He tells us that, "since the advent of TV, the crime rate in some areas has increased one thousand percent." Needless to say, he provides no evidence that television is the cause of the rise in crime. Correlation does not imply causation, Mr. Pirkle.
  • Obviously Evil: Communists are hammy sadists who hate Jesus for no reason and wear Red Army uniforms at all times.
  • Putting on the Reich: The communist soldiers have Nazi-style armbands, with the hammer and sickle in place of the swastika.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: The whole point
  • Schizo Tech: Throughout the film, communist soldiers ride around on horses. Presumably, this is to drive home the "footmen and horses" metaphor, but there doesn't seem to be any internal logic behind it.
  • The Soulsaver: How we're supposed to see Reverend Pirkle
  • This Loser Is You: Judy
  • Vodka Drunkenski: A drunken communist soldier is shown drinking vodka, because obviously all communists drink vodka, whether they're Russian or not.
  • We Interrupt This Program:
    Reporter: We interrupt this program to bring you news bulletins from Washington, DC. All the wires have sent us the account. The President of the United States has been killed [strange pause] in the White House, along with the Secretary of State and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Other bulletins, coming from around the country, say that the governors of several states have been killed; the Governor of California, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana... and of New York. There are other bulletins that tell us... that people are being herded into the street of the large cities and machine-gunned down like cattle! Ladies and gentlemen... this... is the communist takeover of the United States! This is the end of democracy as you and I know it!
The HospitalFilms of the 1970sJo

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