2. If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?
Director: Ron Ormond
Genre: Christian Propaganda, Unintentional comedy
Ron Ormond started his career as an exploitation film-maker, churning out films like Mesa Of Lost Women, where a mad scientist tries to create a race of superhumans by injecting spiders with human hormones. Then he survived a plane crash that led him to convert to Christianity. With the passion of the born-again, he decided his career should be dedicated to Jesus and he would now make films intent on spreading the word of God. Trouble was, he was a born exploitation director, it was in his blood, and thanks to the mixture of the passion of the converted and an exploitationer’s eye for the crass, we have this absolutely insane mix of lunatic preaching and anti-Communist dogma that’s about as incompetent as they come.
If Footmen Tire You… is based on the teaching of a real life preacher, Estus Pirkle. With that name you’d be forgiven for thinking he was the name of Groucho’s character in a lost Marx Brothers film. But I don’t think Groucho’s characters were anywhere near as underhanded as Pirkle. Like many Americans of the period, Pirkle was worried about the threat of Communism to the Christian/American way of life. In the film he decides to give a sermon based around a Communist country where being Christian is a crime. Pirkle thinks that such great evils as television, cartoons and dancing are leading to a weakening of morality that will make America ripe for a Communist takeover. In a profession that requires you to be part-salesman and part carnival-barker, Pirkle has to be one of the least inspiring preachers ever. His audience mostly look bored, some even fall asleep.
Then we get to the good stuff, the sermon leads into a fantasy sequence depicting the way Christian Americans will be treated by the heathen Commies. When those Godless Pinkos take over the U.S. of A, Americans are forced to work all day every day, their only free time spent praising Marx. Children are ordered to pray to Jesus for sweets, when no sweets arrive they are then ordered to pray to Castro for sweets. Cue the communist soldiers carrying bags full of sweeties. A young boy has a bamboo rod shoved into his ears so he can never hear the word of God. Another child who refuses to renounce Jesus is decapitated with a machete. Decent American women are raped in their homes by Russian soldiers. You get the feeling that Pirkle and Ormond were more outraged by them being Russian than by the rapes. Even if these Russians do sound like they come from the Bible Belt. The final story in the film is about Judy. A teen girl who arrives late to the sermon, wearing a mini-skirt of all things! During the propag… service she starts having flashbacks to her own bad behaviour. Somehow her refusal to accept Jesus led to her mother having a heart attack. Yeah, I don’t get it either. Moved by the potential horror of life under the Mississippi Marxists, Judy decides to dedicate her life to Christ.
This could all have been incredibly offensive. People actually are tortured and killed for their beliefs all the time, and using this to create propaganda could upset many people. And I don’t undestand why people who are Christians aren’t more upset by this kind of crassness. For those who aren’t religious, the combination of Ormond’s over-the-top gore and Pirkle’s lifeless oratory turn this into a comedy classic. This remained the most unintentionally funny religious film until the last decade’s double whammy of The Passion of the Christ and Doubt. Exploitation goes gospel! Praise Jesus!