January 29 movie: I Was a Communist for the FBI. This was more what I had in mind. So over the top it was hilarious. The title says it all: Frank Lovejoy stars as an FBI agent working undercover as a member of the Communist party.
In this movie there are communists lurking under every rock. They twirl their handlebar moustaches, steeple their hands and murmur "Excellent" while plotting the overthrow of the US government. The Communist Party in the US is presented as being about the same as the Stalinist regime. Party members spy on each other constantly. When one party member objects to a violent tactic, another (an older woman) shrieks at her for being disloyal. And the party assassinates anyone who tries to quit.
According to the movie, the civil rights movement was a front for communists. In fact, the party leader explains that it's a fundraising tactic: they incite race riots, hopefully the rioting blacks kill somebody white, then when they get arrested the communists raise money for the "defense fund," except the communists keep the money. (Warning, this scene includes offensive terms for blacks.) Labor unions are also a front for communists, and in one scene, the communists start a riot at a strike, using lead pipes wrapped in Yiddish newspapers to beat the factory representatives, so the Jewish community will be blamed. Also, the communists have an army of schoolteachers infiltrating public schools. The teachers identify idealistic children and target them for indoctrination.
Everyone knows Lovejoy is a communist and he is universally reviled. His son disowns him, his brother beats him up at their mother's funeral, his neighbor tells him to stay away from the neighbor's son. Robert Osborne said that this movie was intended to placate HUAC, and the climactic scene, where Lovejoy finally gets to denounce the communists and vindicate himself, takes place at a HUAC hearing. After the hearing his son begs forgiveness for not trusting him, and he says he was proud of his son's intolerance. "Even when you hated me, I loved you for it." Just as with My Son John, there's no room in this world for differing points of view. You're either with us or against us, and anyone who's the tiniest bit liberal is either the dupe of communists, or being indoctrinated to become one.
The weird thing is that the movie accuses communists of cynically exploiting workers and minorities. But that's what the movie is doing. When the movie suggests that the civil rights and labor union movements were entirely driven by communist plots, it reduces the people in those movements to simpleminded puppets, unable to act on their own behalf.
I'm not an expert on this period of history, but I understand that the "red menace" wasn't invented out of whole cloth; there was a communist presence in the US, and some part of it had ties to the Soviet Union. And this movie is so far-fetched, so ludicrous, it makes that history seem less plausible.