Friday, December 16, 2005

If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?

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I was greatly pleased to recieve a package in the mail yesterday from an internet-friend in Nebraska: a rare, bootleg tape containing two 1970's Biblespolitation films directed by Ron Ormond, If Footmen Tire You What Will Horses Do? and The Burning Hell. Who's Ron Ormond, you might ask, and what the heck is "Biblesploitation"? Allow me to clue you in, brother.

Ron Ormond was a director of such classics as The Monster and the Stripper and The Girl from Tobacco Road, who became a born-again Christian after surviving a plane crash in the late sixties. Wanting to give up making grindhouse flicks and do the Lord's work, he teamed up with fire-and-brimstone Southern Baptist preacher Estus W. Pirkle to make church-produced scare-films to bring the gullible back home to Jesus. Unfortunatley (or fortunatley), Ormond's newly-restored faith did little to improve his filmmaking skills. His collaborations with Pirkle were just as shoddy, cheaply made, poorly written and badly acted as his previous blood n' tits fare. If Footmen Tire You is the first collaboration between these two knuckleheads, and is a must-see for any fan of oddball cinema.

The film begins in church, where Reverend Pirkle is beginning his sermon to a sleepy-looking collection of God-fearin' Chris'chuns. As Judy, the miniskirt-clad town hussy, sneaks in late ("Gotta keep up appearances." she says outside to her troublesome-looking boyfriend), Pirkle warns the congregation about the dangers of television, music, saturday morning cartoons, and other sinful things that divert Americans' attention from the Lawd Jayzus Criast. Do you realize, he says, that colleges, high schools, and even elementary schools are encouraging kids to have premaritual sex? We then see a staged real-life clip of a scruffy-looking young hippie teacher in what could be your own children's school. Claiming that sex before marriage is a necessity in today's times, he then declares that today's discussion will be "the seven erotic zones of passion in every woman." Drive-in theaters, in Pirkle's opinion, also contribute to America's lack of morals, and dancing is just as wrong as it's always been. "What's started on the dance floor is expected to end in a car or motel room!" Judy rolls her eyes at Pirkle's condemnations of all things fun and enjoyable, until the reverend reveals just where he is going with all this - if Americans don't stop indulging in these sinful distractions and turn back to Jesus in a big way, God will lift his protective shield from our country, leaving it wide open to an invasion by bloodthirsty communists!

That's right, communists. Now, keep in mind that this movie was made in 1971. The paranoid era of McCarthy had ended, and the Vietnam war, the sexual revolution and the hippie movements were reaching their respective conclusions. Nevertheless, If Footmen presents us with a world of blonde-haired blue-eyed folk straight out of a Duck and Cover educational short who are powerless to stop the demonic Russkies. When the communists take over (which Pirkle insists will happen in exactly 24 months unless American's get their asses back in church) they will ransack homes, kidnap children, torture, main, rape and pillage. People will be put to work 363 days a year for 16 hours a day, only to be allowed two days off a year, and those days are reserved for praising the Marxist way of life. Those who deny communism and retain their faith in Jesus will be tortured and killed in the most elaborate fashions. One such "documented re-enactment" features a man tied up and suspended from a tree, while his kids lower him down onto pitchforks stuck in the ground. It's never really explained how communists could overpower the American government with no weapons or any kind of equipment at their disposal, save for some horses and a flat-bed Ford pickup truck for rounding up children, but they are a cunning bunch. They will dispose of adults quickly and get right to work on the soft, impressionable minds of children. Another dramatized example of commie tactics shows us a Soviet officer with a a put-on accent not unlike The Count from Sesame Street before a classroom of schoolkids. He tells them to pray to their Jesus Christ and ask him for some candy, and when the youngsters' prayers are non-miraculously un-anwsered, another officer comes in and dumps a big sack of sugary treats on the desk, a gift from the glorious Fidel Castro. As you can see, brothers and sisters, America doesn't stand a chance.

It's pretty hard not to compare Ormond to the infamous Ed Wood while watching this film. Both directors' movies have an equal level of ineptness at writing and directing, as well as extremely heavy-handed messages,, coupled with the unintentional hilarity from the notion that anyone, filmmaker or audience, would take their movies seriously. While If Footmen doesn't have the charm of Wood's classics, it outdoes them in leaps and bounds with its heavy-handedness, and the aforementioned seriousness backfiring with gaffaw-filled results. While putting a group of capitalist stooges to work in a cornfield, the communists seize a little boy and shove a sharpened bamboo stick in his ear until it comes out the other, cackling "We will peirce your you cannot hear....the word of God!" Such a wound you would think ought to be fatal, but fortunatley for Junior, he survives, though he does get a little dizzy and throws up his breakfast. Another such tyke refuses to step on a picture of Jesus, resulting in him getting his noggin chopped off and tossed into a field like a kickball by a laughing Soviet officer.

Towards the end, we are taken back to Pirkle's church, and Judy, having sat through his sermon, begins to have flashbacks to some sins that she's committed (such as sitting in a grimy-looking cafe with some dude, drinking beer out of a styrofoam cup) and how her Jabba the Hutt-like momma implored her to read the scripture, or she'd be the death of her. As it turns out, she was right: Judy's ma suffered a fatal heart attack as a result of her daughter's sinfulness, and Judy, realizing this, breaks down into tears and parks her knees at the front altar, begging forgiveness for what she's done. As she weeps and prays, she remembers the day of her mother's funeral, when she knelt over the woman's talking (!) carcass and Reverend Pirkle told her she was forgiven. It's a bizarrely appropriate end to what is probably the wackiest piece of Christian scare-filmmaking ever created.

Sadly, the film is only available in bootleg form, as the estate of Reverend Pirkle refuses to let this movie, along with its follow-up The Burning Hell, on home video. An unofficial DVD is available from Five Minutes to Live, and though I can't vouch for its quality, it'd be hard pressed to look any worse than the tape my friend sent me. The Burning Hell actually has an official website, and leases VHS and 16mm copies of the movie out at very high prices, for evangelical purposes only. You could probably find a boot of that one somewhere, too.

And, speaking of manipulative Christian propaganda pieces, I've found another enjoyable nugget of goodness for readers of this blog (namely those who think they would enjoy If Horsemen based on the above review)....a Benny Hill-ified short version of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. For those of you unfamiliar with Hill, he's a celebrated British comedian specializing in cheeky, chubby-faced, dirty-old-man humor, whose sketch comedy show during the 70's and 80's often featured short films of Hill's comedy antics sped up and set to goofy music. Almost anything can be funny with these alterations are made to it, and this video proves it. Not for the squeamish or those easily offended by violence, torture, and blasphemy.


Blogger jgodsey said...

Biblespolitation! I knew there had to be a word for films like Marjoe!! - mols

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