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Film / A Study In Reds

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A Study in Reds is a 1932 short film (18 minutes) by Miriam Bennett.

The "Tuesday Club", a Real Life social club of small-town Wisconsin ladies, has a meeting of a local chapter. The lecture topic for the meeting is "reddest Russia" and its "famous Soviets." As the chairwoman starts out on what appears to be a deathly dull lecture about the Soviet Union and its communal farms, one of the women in the club nods off. She has a dream in which she and her fellow middle-aged housewives are instead Soviet babushkas living on a communal farm, subject to the tyranny of Josef Stalin.

Miriam Bennett was the daughter of a photographer and herself a member of the Amateur Cinema League; her short films were some of the most sophisticated amateur filmmaking of the era. Ironically, Bennett's droll satire of both communism and anti-communist hysteria grossly underestimated the horrors taking place in the Soviet Union, where a terrifying famine was just then underway.


  • Animated Credits Opening: The letters in the opening titles assemble themselves via Stop Motion animation.
  • Black Comedy: A woman standing in front of a firing squad, doing her makeup?
  • Capitalism Is Bad: In-Universe. "CAPITALISM MUST CEASE", says a placard.
  • Chromosome Casting: The women of the Wisconsin Dells chapter of the Tuesday Club are the entire cast.
  • Commune: A very negative vision of a state-run collective farm, although the tone is farcical throughout.
  • Dirty Communists: Pushed to the point of absurdity. Falling one egg short of your quota is grounds for execution.
  • Dystopia: Life in Soviet Wisconsin. One mother is imprisoned for being too affectionate with her child when dropping the girl off at state-run day care.
  • Evil Is Petty: The GPU supervisor snatches a single sardine from a woman's tin at lunch and eat it.
  • Face Death with Dignity: A woman being stood up in front of a firing squad for stealing an egg rejects the blindfold, and promptly pulls out her compact and powders her face.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: The evilness of the GPU policewoman is emphasized when she smokes a cigarette with a long fancy cigarette holder.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: Just as one of the women of the commune is about to be executed, the sound of applause at the end of the lecture wakes up the woman from the Tuesday Club, and the dream ends. The meeting ends, and the women get up and leave—and, interestingly, after a pause, we are back to seeing all the women as Soviet peasants. This raises the question of just what from the film is the dream, the life on the commune or the life in small town Wisconsin.
  • Pun-Based Title: The title is a pun on the Sherlock Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet.
  • Red Scare: A subtle parody of anti-communist hysteria.
  • Shot at Dawn: A woman is stood in front of a firing squad for stealing an egg. The dream ends right before the order to shoot is given.