Tuesday, April 05, 2011

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?

"Does this turn your stomach?" Reverend Estus W. Pirkle asks. Yes, it does, but not for the reason you think it does. What Pirkle is referring to is the bloody, bullet-riddled corpses of children strewn across the altar of a church.

Yep, there's nothing quite like a sermon with body count. And boy, does this film have one. Christians are mowed down left and right, like pious bowling pins under Communism's ten-pound balls.

You see, America has a problem. Communists will invade the U.S. within the next 24 months unless there is a Great Revival in this country. Why? If I understood Pirkle correctly, God only has time to save one country from the Red Menace, and if America doesn't get its shit together God is heading to Brazil.

And when the Commies arrive, brother, are you in trouble. They'll take over in just 15 minutes. That's how well they've thought out this plan. And once they’re here, things will be dire. Everyone will work sixteen-hour days, 363 days a year, under armed guard. That is, if you're not being tortured (e.g. having salt shoved down your throat, forced to stare at blank walls, sitting on uncushioned benches) or murdered. And chances are you'll be murdered. The invading hordes plan to kill 67 million Americans.

This film isn't much more than Pirkle's infamous sermon intercut with small vignettes dramatizing the events he describes. This may sound boring, and in a more capable director's hands, it might have been. But not so with Ron Ormond behind the lens, he of Mesa of Lost Women and The Monster and the Stripper fame.

As we all know, Commies want nothing more than to kill Christians. And this is exactly what they'll do when they invade. So Ormond pours on the carnage. Scene after scene of Christians being gunned down, tortured, and brutalized fills the screen. (I tell ya, if more sermons were this gruesome, I’d attend church regularly.) Ormond pays special care to the suffering of children. If you prefer kids young, dead, and Christian, this may be the movie for you.

Of course, if you just prefer them deaf, you're in the right place too. The film's oft mentioned highlight being the young boy who is punished for listening to a bible lesson. A gruff and badly-accented Commie thug rams bamboo in the lad's ears, puncturing them so he may never hear a sermon again. The child's reaction is to violently puke and sulk dejectedly, blood dripping from the bamboo piercing his head.

But the topper has to be boy who refuses blaspheme. He's given a choice: dig his heel into a picture of Jesus or get beheaded. The good Christian boy does the right thing. His head is flung into a field by a swarthy, sweaty Communist.

Footmen is scarevangelism at its finest. It holds almost zero relevance today, except as a curious look at Christian paranoia during the Cold War. Still, it’s great fun, in its own twisted way.

Directed by Ron Ormond • Unrated • 1972 • 50 minutes

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