Red Nightmare: Some Good Old Fashioned Bad Propaganda



This was commissioned by the Department of Defense Directorate of Armed Forces Information and Education, whose primary duties were producing training films, but also moonlighted with propaganda shorts to inspire the nation. They began mass producing these during World War II. Once that conflict was over, they turned gears and churned them out, attacking communism and the Soviet Union. Not that the Ruskies didn’t have it coming, but some of this material is downright bad and trite.

The difference for this short is that while commissioned for release as a short and educational film, it also premiered on TV in the GE True series. The program was a series of shorts, sometimes starring big names, which recreated articles that had appeared in True magazine. True, put out by Fawcett Publications (the same group that created the original Captain Marvel) advertised itself as a men’s magazine that specialized in articles about adventure, true war stories, sports profiles, and the like.


The episodes falls into a “what if” scenario of the propaganda genre. It imagines an average slob from an average town suddenly placed in that same town if there had been a Communist takeover of the country. This is certainly a scare story, but not without merit. Various aspects of what happens in that town are based on true events in other countries. What makes it hysterical is the main character’s flabbergasted hysteria on finding himself in his altered town, and how everyone else’s acting talent suddenly evaporates upon becoming commies. Like Data from Next Generation, they cannot figure out how to use contractions. “Do not interfere,” instead of “Don’t interfere.”

The feature is presented like an episode of The Twilight Zone with infamous commie despiser and law-and-order advocate Jack Webb taking the Rod Serling narrator role. Jack Webb, for those who don’t remember, is best known for his detective drama Dragnet where brutal moral lessons are rotely clipped out between gunshots and drug addled hippie vermin. This story isn’t much of an exception.


The protagonist, Jerry, takes his sweet life and hot wife for granted. He refuses to participate in the social structure that keeps America strong. He ditches the PTA meeting to go bowling and he intends to blow off his Army Reserve training because it’s a pain- which it is. The narrator appears and explains how safe Jerry is in his world but when Jerry goes to sleep,  he will  have a Red Nightmare, here in the Twili…whoops not there.


Suddenly, he has no freedoms. Jerry is forced to address the PTA on the glories of communism. His children are turned against him by school teachers and other evil minions of the state (not much different from today). The local church has been converted to a museum dedicated to communist propaganda. His daughter has been brainwashed into volunteering to spend her life on a collective farm (and probably starve to death). And Jerry, poor Jerry, is eventually put on trial for speaking against the state. He is allowed no defense. After his wife testifies against him, his execution is ordered. Jerry makes a speech about the Soviet people awakening one day to overthrow communism, then gets a bullet in the head. Jerry emerges from this nightmare to appreciate America and all her glory, and promises to never, ever, take her for granted again.

The entire episode is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor

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