The Red Menace (1949)

The Red Menace looked at the links between illicit sex and communism.

Kevin Brianton

Senior Lecturer, La Trobe University

The apparent links between illicit sex and political subversion were a central theme of many anti-communist films. In The Red Menace (1949) directed by R.G. Stringsteen, an ‘impressionable young man’ called Bill Jones was seduced and indoctrinated by a communist agent.  He was angry about being cheated in a land deal.  He was then taken to a demonstration against a local real estate agent which was orchestrated by communist agitators to become violent.  As the crowd attacked the real estate office, the violent demonstration was broken up by the police.  The narrator said:

The introduction of Bill Jones to communist strategy; a misguided young man fallen under the spell of Marxian hatred and revenge.  Unaware of that he is only the tool of men who would destroy his country.  The signs [of the demonstrators] don’t tell of a whole wide Marist racket intent on spreading dissension and treason.[1]

Two days later, Bill Jones was taken along with other recruits to introductory classes at workers school where he was taught Marxist principles, strategy and tactics.  The narrator said the classes explain the basis of communism.

It teaches that man is the product of natural forces which are constantly changing.  There are no positive values, no external principles of right and wrong.  Actually it is the old doctrine of atheism sugar-coated with highbrow terms.  It says that men cannot be responsible to anyone except the totalitarian socialist state and yet the American communist party claim that they do not wasn’t to overthrow the government by force.[2]

Towards the end of the film, Bill Jones comes to his senses and decides to quit the party, but his communist girlfriend Anna Petrovka cannot because she had signed in her immigration papers that she was not a communist. The Party need only send her card to the immigration department and she would be deported back to Eastern Europe.  The studios were once again sending out the message that those who are involved in the communist party could never leave.

Yet the irony was that the communist party in Red Menace seemed to be more interested in stomping on any deviation than in subverting the United States.  One member was murdered after leaving the party, another committed suicide when forced to recant that Marxism was based on Hegel’s writing, and another broke down and confessed to murder after almost three minutes of mild questioning by immigration officials about illegally entering the country.  One member refused to attack an ex-member in their newspaper and then left the party.  Another was influenced by the speech of her priest and returned to her family.  The two remaining communists that we see were about to be arrested by the police.  The communist party appeared to be absolutely useless.

Despite these major organisational flaws, social problems were worsened by the communists.  The audience was told that the greedy real estate agent would be dealt with, but that it ‘takes time’.  The communists promised a speedier solution, but it was merely a trap to recruit people to the party.  They also claimed to be against racism, but call Italians “Mussolini spawned dago’s’ and Blacks ‘African Ingrates’.  The communists admitted that they were merely using people’s suffering to further their own cause.

The only real solution to the communist threat was religion, as one priest in the film said:

God isn’t very popular in some countries, just as he wasn’t in a lot of countries which are now dead.  The atheistic systems are always based on hatred.  Race hatred when they are Nazi, class hatred when they are communist.[3]

According to the priest, ‘the best way to defeat communism is to live Christianity and American democracy everyday.’[4]  These ideas woudl re-emerge with the biblical epics, whihc wer far more popualr than the overt anti-communist films..


[1] The Red Menace, (d) R.G. Springsteen, (w) Albert LeMond, Gerald Gerharty.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Red Menace op cit.

[4] ibid.

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