If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horsemen Do? (1971): United States – directed by Ron Ormond
Not rated by the MPAA – contains violence, dead children, warnings against Sin and Communism
There are certain films that are so inexplicable that their mere existence is cause for appreciation and enjoyment. Films like Troll 2 [review here] are feature length examples of this phenomenon, and are utterly enjoyable in their ineptitude. Much of the running time is spent wondering how on earth such plot, acting, special effects and writing could ever be combined on the same piece of celluloid.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a wonderful and mysterious amalgam as the one presented in If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? The film is intended to be a stern warning for all Christians in America, and non-Christians, of the natural consequences if they continue their sinful ways: Communism will overrun the country and murder your children. The director is Ron Ormond, whose film The Monster and the Stripper is another perfect example of the inexplicable film. Unfortunately, as a fiction feature length film that combines hunting a giant monster with dreadfully boring scenes of strippers and dancers semi-stripping and semi-dancing, The Monster and the Stripper was less than amazing.
The same cannot be said for If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? This film is a slam-bang combination of incredibly dreadful enactments of future events and fire-breathing pulpit pounding, all packed into a brief 52 minutes. It is based on the teachings of one Rev. Estus W. Pirkle, a man in Tennessee who in 1971 was seriously concerned about the moral state of America and the overt threats Communist Russia and Cuba represented. An opening credits screen lists four Baptist churches in Nashville as being responsible for the film, and as a Christian movie it contains the most dead children I have ever seen in a film.
There are two timelines in the film, and they seem unconcerned with crossing each other’s paths. On one hand is the esteemed Rev. Pirkle himself, preaching to a white suburban congregation one Sunday morning. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine him in Jim Jones’ place as evidenced by Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple [review here]. Pirkle preaches that American is doomed within 24 months if they do not experience a revival, stop wearing miniskirts, stop dancing, and stop being sinful.
To enhance his point is young Judy (Judy Creech). She arrives late for church, driven by a young hooligan in a leather jacket. She asks if he wants to join, and he responds that he’s “a lover, not a Christian.” Judy’s skirt is short and it is clear that she’s been out dancing, which Pirkle warns is a gateway to adulterous affairs and extramarital activities. The devil’s doorway, if you will.
But it is not the devil who is the bad guy in this Christian film. It is the evil communists, who will taken advantage of American’s lax moral standards to overrun the country and eliminate those who still believe in Jesus. As Pirkle preaches to a concerned congregation (and an increasingly convicted Judy) there are numerous enactments of the horrors he foresees. Most of these are presented as unrelated vignettes, each showing a different angle of the Communist’s evil plan for America. A number of them have uniformed Communist soldiers running down paths and harassing the young, pure American Christians. The title itself is a warning that if Christian American cannot even withstand the influences of the footmen of evil (dancing, miniskirts), then how can they withstand an onslaught by the horsemen of the Apocalypse (the Communists)?
To make his point painfully clear, a large number of the enactments involve children being murdered by Communists. These are the most wonderful and insane scenes, solely because someone, at some point in time, thought they would be effective. At one point church-goers are lined up outside the church and gunned down in a fusillade of bad acting. The children are most at risk (won’t someone please think of the children?), and the dangers they face are shown time and again. Children are shown shot dead, laid across the altar in a church. One child is shown vomiting as a result of spikes being driven into his ears. This is the fate of children who refuse to become atheists in a Communist regime .
The clearest example of this is a scene where a Communist leader from Cuba (played by a church-goer with a terrible accent) tells the children that there is no Jesus. If he existed he would bring them candy, but there is no candy. But Fidel exists, and should be worshipped! And see, here is the candy that he can create! Another child who refuses to fall under the horsemen’s spell is repeatedly dropped onto a pitchfork, in a scene that is howlingly funny in its faux-graphic depiction, and again the thought that anyone thought it would be an appropriate way to illustrate a point. A final sequence shows a child decapitated by a Communist, and his head tossed into a field. This scene is one of the single most mind-blowing sequences I have ever seen on film.
It is unfathomable to think that a church (or a group of churches) would think that the best way to inspire moral living and prevent a Communist infestation would be to create such a film, filled with violence and bloodshed against children. Little of the footage is graphic, thanks to incredibly low production values and deteriorating film stock, but the mere concept of it is disturbing enough. It is incredible, too, that such a group would create what is essentially hate propaganda against Communists. I understand that the threat in the 1970’s was viable, but the extent to which Ormond and the other filmmakers tread is incredibly bigoted, close minded, and terrifying. I would not be surprised to see films like this distributed in the caves of Afghanistan or Pakistan, handed to budding militants to “educate” them about the threat of Western influence.
It is sad to think that this film was made by people who called themselves Christians. It is an embarrassment for all moderate Christians who truly understand Christ’s message. Fortunately, the entire film is so laughably violent, over-the-top, and ridiculously serious that it makes for a singular and unique viewing experience. Those looking for a truly inexplicable film, one whose very existences boggles the mind, can do no better than If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horsemen Do?