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Cold War at The End of 2009, pt. 2

December 29, 2009
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In the 1960’s, director Ron Ormond made films like The Monster and the Stripper; after surviving a plane crash in 1968, he teamed up with a preacher named Estus Pirkle and made several fundamentalist Christian films.  Most famous was 1971’s, If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?

Regular Is It Luck reader Jonathan thought I might like Footmen.  He was very, very right.  Pirkle preaches against both immorality (“Dancing: the front door to adultery!”) and Communism (“for the rest of your days, you’ll be controlled by submachine gun”).  Pirkle’s confidently misinformed opinions and Ormond’s poor filmmaking make for a heady cocktail .  As Jonathan said, even after he saw the light, Ormond couldn’t leave his exploitation films behind.  Footmen is a campy, bloodsoaked mess that would be right at home in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Below is my favorite scene from Footmen.  In it, a boy is punished for hearing the word of god.  It’s laughably vile.  If you like that, you can watch the whole movie here.  Enjoy!

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Jonathan permalink
    December 29, 2009 9:51 pm

    Yeah, it is a fun flick. I saw it at a weekly screening series of weird, bad, and just plain out insane films called Holyfuckingshit. At the screening they called Footmen Christploitation, which fits.

    This is my favorite scene from the movie:

    I enjoy the dramatic confrontation between the Soviet and the child, and I like the child’s heroic refusal to step on the portrait of Jesus.

    Odd though, that we both like scenes about child torture and murder.

    Of all the lapses in logic in the film, the most glaring to me is that the Soviets, as portrayed, don’t seem to be technologically advanced enough to conquer the United States.

    It is also funny that the filmmakers don’t seem to have a firm grasp on what communism actually is. Why don’t the communist invaders set up the mass plutocracies that were necessary so that a Soviet era society could function? The Communists’ sole interest here seems to be in using violence to keep people from practicing Christianity.

    Well, the filmmakers don’t seem to have a clear grasp of what Christianity is either. Or America. Or reality.

    As for the exploitation element, yeah, it comes mostly from the over the top violence. In the drive-in and Grindhouse films, this violence would have been used to stimulate the audience, and get them worked up.

    A classier director would have increased the impact of the violence by not showing it, and instead showing its impact. For example, there is an excellent scene in Blade Runner when Roy crushes Tyrol’s head with his hands. The camera is on Roy’s face the entire time, and we see his anguish in such a way that the scene is really about Roy’s self-loathing, as opposed to being about a guy crushing another guy’s head.

    When you show puss coming out of a kid’s ear and then show him vomiting, or show a kid’s head rolling off onto the grass, then the scene becomes something that is just about a boy getting his ears poked out, or a boy getting his head chopped off. Because of the nature of Footmen, this is completely inappropriate, and makes it difficult to divine what the filmmakers are trying to convey.

    This is not to say that all exploitation films are rubbish. The Gore-Gore Girls is an excellent example of great sleaze cinema, that doesn’t take itself too seriously and just wants to be a fun, at times funny serial killer flick.

    Anyway, I remember hearing that before his conversion to Christianity the director was part of the California LSD movement. This makes sense, as there is something undeniably psychedelic about the pic.

    Over all the film is an entertaining piece of so-bad-its-hilarious filmmaking, and a perfect example of cold war era paranoia taken to absurd extremes.

    And man are these guys paranoid.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 29, 2009 10:12 pm

      There’s really not enough to say about the terrible acting in the film, too. The Soviet boss speaks with an accent that I think is supposed to be Russian, but sounds nothing like Russian. In fact, I think it’s entirely inconsistent with itself throughout the movie. Also, the people bearing witness to unspeakable atrocities show no emotion at all. The kids suck out loud. The pastor’s inflections don’t quite match up with the words and ideas he’s expressing, though that could just be because he’s a total stiff. The “best” performance is by Judy, and that’s only because a normal human being would have killed the annoying ugly mother herself.

      Thanks again for the tip. I loved it. And “Estus Pirkle” might be the greatest name of all time.

  2. Jonathan permalink
    December 29, 2009 10:35 pm

    I think the “actors” were probably parishoners, but it’s just a guess.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 29, 2009 10:37 pm

      Sounds like a safe bet.

  3. Jonathan permalink
    December 29, 2009 10:50 pm

    Oh, on the same note as what you said about the actors not responding to the horrific violence… OK, at times you have like, 20 adults being guarded by a single Soviet with a gun.

    Furthermore, the Christians completely outnumber the Soviets. There are no wires or fences, no concentration camps, nothing to stop them from rebelling, yet they just stand around doing nothing. They could have easily ganged up on the Soviets. The only reasonable explanation is that they have been so traumatized by the violence that they have lost the ability to act, but of course it is clearly a case of the filmmakers not thinking things through.

    • Barry permalink*
      December 29, 2009 10:57 pm

      Ha! You’re right. Especially in the Bible Belt, where the Second Amendment seems to be the most treasured.

  4. Jonathan permalink
    December 29, 2009 11:25 pm

    Come to think of it, the Soviets don’t do a single thing you would expect an invading army to do. They don’t set up road blocks or check points, or attempt to restrict movement in any way. They don’t terrorize the masses with tanks or large artillery. They aren’t interested is supply lines or open channels of communication with a central base.

    They don’t behave like soldiers at all. They don’t even march in formation.

    All they are interested in doing is murdering individuals who practice Christianity. Don’t you think they would be more interested in guarding bridges at this stage? Come on, how long could such an occupation last?

    • Barry permalink*
      December 29, 2009 11:31 pm

      There are like 3 of them, and they seem to prefer ambling around the countryside on horseback to military maneuvers. The only way this would make sense is if the action of the film were taking place long after they defeated us militarily. Of course, there would very likely be an American insurgency. The Soviets in the film aren’t even wearing body armor (though this could be due to the film taking place in the 70s). The point is that they don’t seem worried about insurgents picking them off.

      The Soviets of Estus Pirkle’s mind are not adept overlords.

      That may be the greatest sentence I have ever composed. Here it is again:

      The Soviets of Estus Pirkle’s mind are not adept overlords.

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