In the late 1960s, Ron Ormond was nearly killed in a plane crash, and, as a result, became a born-again Christian. Prior to the crash, Ormond had directed and/or produced such exploitation fare as Mesa of Lost Women, Outlaw Women, The Monster and the Stripper, and so forth. With his new outlook on life, he decided to leave such sleazy entertainment behind and to produce movies that would help spread the Word. His first effort, If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?, shows that while you can take the man out of the exploitation world, you can’t take the exploitation world from the man.
To make this film, Ormond teamed up with Rev. Estus Pirkle to film one of the reverend’s sermons, and added some dramatizations to round out the film. The idea was to show this movie to congregations and warn them of the danger to the United States if our country falls away from God’s word. Since this was the 1970s, there was only one real danger to worry about- a Communist takeover!
We begin with the credits rolling over some uniformed men on horseback. An off-screen voice asks, “Reverend Pirkle, are the pictures we about to see true fact, or are they figments of your imagination?” Of course, we know Pirkle’s reply- “I can document every statement in this film. And all of the documented re-enactments are taken from actual events that have taken place in Russia, Korea, China, and Cuba, where the communists have already taken over. The only difference is that we’re using Americans to emphasize that the same thing can and will happen.... if they take over.” (And by Americans he means white, small-town Southerners.)
With the credits over, the movie can start. We see Judy being driven to church by some guy who we assume is her boyfriend. Judy, like all the women in this movie, is dressed in some very 70s clothes, and has an elaborately ugly hairdo. As they arrive in church, we realize Judy is a sinner- she says she is only showing up for the sake of appearances. Her boyfriend won’t go in because “[He’s] not a Christian, [he’s] a lover.”
Judy enters the church and takes a pew near the front. We see the church is full of very bored-looking parishioners, and then we see the source of their boredom. We cut to a very tight shot of Rev. Pirkle as he begins his sermon. Get used to seeing Pirkle’s face in close-up- I’d say at least 50-60% of the movie consists of this shot. (Another good portion of the film is footage of people getting gunned down, as we will see.)
Pirkle begins by asking if his parishioners are concerned about their country, about rising crime rates, riots on college campuses, if they think things are getting better. He tells them that there must be a revival in America within the next 24 months, otherwise God completely forsake America and go to another country at the Second Coming instead (He scares his parishioners by saying that maybe God will save Brazil or Indonesia instead of the US). In addition, America will be taken over by the Communists! He warns us that there are “footmen” around us, weakening our minds and wills, and eventually enabling the Communists to take us over.
What kind of footmen do we have to watch out for? Let’s see- there are the violent and sex-filled cartoons on TV. In fact, TV is bad in and of itself. According to Pirkle’s carefully researched facts, TV has increased crime by 1000%! And TV will turn people away from reading the Bible! To illustrate this, we get a POV shot from inside a television, showing a young boy watching what must be an exciting TV show (probably a sexy violent cartoon), because he is getting very wound up watching it. Sitting next to him is Dad, trying so hard to read his Bible, but getting increasingly distracted by Junior and his pornographic anime. Eventually, Dad puts the Bible away and joins in on the fun with his son.
What are some other footmen? How about drive-ins (“a spawning house for sex!”) or dancing (“Just as wrong as it’s always been! It’s the front door to adultery! The thing that started on the dance floor is expected to be finished in a parked car or a motel somewhere!”) This really gets to Judy, as she has an acid flashback to that time she put on make-up, danced with some guy, and drank some alcohol (presumably after watching TV).
And with all this moral weakening, the true horrors will come- America will fall under the boot of Communism. How? Well, Pirkle and Ormond skimp on the details- all we see is a clip of a TV anchorman telling his audience that the president, his chief advisors and the governors of several states have been killed. According to Pirkle, it will only take 15 minutes for all of this to happen.
And now comes the fun part, as Ormond reaches into his exploitation bag of tricks to show us what life in America will be like under the Communists.
Initially, the persecution of Christians will consist of gunning as many of them down as possible, as demonstrated by shots of bloody, bullet-riddled bodies.
Then, they will come to take Christian children from their families to put them into re-education camps. If you resist, you will be gunned down (as demonstrated by shots of the bloody, bullet-riddled bodies of one kid’s parents). “What does re-education consist of?” you ask. The lesson will be very cunning and subtle- we see a Communist teacher asks his students to pray for Jesus Christ for candy, with no result. Then the children pray to Fidel Castro (Castro? Castro?!?!, you mean we end up getting conquered by the Cubans?) and voila!, a soldier just happens to come in and dump a bag of candy in the classroom! (Actually, the candy doesn’t look all that good. That's what you get for praying to a small-timer like Castro. I bet Brezhnev or Mao would have provided Milky Ways.)
And the atrocities mount. The soldiers come upon a man teaching a sermon in the middle of an open field (which seems to be a pretty stupid place to hold it, considering all the gunning down of Christians that is going on.) To prevent the kids from ever again hearing the word of God, one child has bamboo shoved in one ear and out the other. Luckily, the skull contains no vital organs because the kid seems to be pretty much OK, other than the fact that he vomits profusely into the camera. (And I must give Ormond and the kid points for the truly effective vomit- it’s not quite Linda Blair in The Exorcist, but it still looks pretty cool.)
We see other forms of torture- people being forced to stare for hours at a wall 7” away from them, causing their vision to blur; a man is kept out in the hot sun with no water for days, and is then force-fed salt; people must sit on hard benches from 5AM to 10PM listening to Communist propaganda. (Side note: The dialog in this part of the film may be familiar to any Negativland fans out there. Pirkle’s lines “Christianity is stupid,” “Communism is good,” “17 hours a day!” and a few others were later sampled for the song “Christianity is Stupid.”)
The soldiers next show up at the end of a church sermon, and pull aside a young couple who have just received Christ. As a reward, they are taken around the back and gunned down (as demonstrated by shots of their bloody, bullet-riddled bodies). When the rest of the parishioners run over to see what has happened, they are gunned down (as demonstrated by shots of their bloody, bullet-riddled bodies).
The last Christian left standing is a young boy who runs out of the church, carrying a picture of Jesus. The head soldier stops him, and, in an accent that changes from Bela Lugosi to Boris Badenov to Mississippi drawl (sometimes within the space of a few syllables), tells the kid that his parents are dead, but if he steps on the picture of Jesus, he will be well-taken care of. The kid contemplates this for a second, then looks off into space and says “Jeee-zzzuuuss, Yee-eew dahd fer mee-eee. Nay-ow, Ah wee-yull daah fer Yee-eew.” Whereupon the solder proceeds to gun hi.... er, wait- the soldier gets creative and saws the kid’s head off with a knife.
So, what about out harlot friend Judy? During all of these stories, we get occasional shots of her flashing back to her sinful life- the alcohol, the dancing, the pre-marital kissing. We also see her ignoring her aged Mama’s pleas to accept Jesus into her life. Finally, Mama has a heart attack and collapses into Judy’s arms. She tells Judy the only way she can be at rest is if Judy accepts Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior, and then dies. (Wow! Way to lay a really heavy guilt trip on your daughter!)
This memory, coupled with the story of the beheaded child, is too much for Judy. She screams “Noooo!” and runs up Rev. Pirkle to be saved. The acid must really be kicking in, because she also hallucinates her Mom is lying in her casket in front of her. (Surprisingly, they seemed to have buried Mama in the housedress and hairnet she was wearing when she died). Judy accepts Jesus, is saved, and will now go to Heaven when she dies.