Fearmakers (1958) is the second collaboration between Jacques Tourneur and actor Dana Andrews. The first being the great horror classic Curse of the Demon. Fearmakers takes on another demon from 1958, another unseen menace: Communism! And eerily portends the state of American politics today.
The plot in a nutshell, is that Andrews is a POW coming back to work at the PR company he founded, only to find that its just crawling with communists! In fact, everyone that dear Dana meets is a Communist. From the blathering old man on the plane, to a blousey blond running the boarding house, even a nerdy Mel Torme, are all trying to push the communist agendas and destroy America from within.
A Commie nuclear physicist nearly bores Dana Andrews to death
The movie is pretty campy. It looks and feels like a long television episode of a 50’s drama, i.e, Perry Mason. Dana Andrews barely registers an emotion on his face; and his voice is a long drone, to the point where viewers joining me for this Sunday night noir where dozing off for the first half.
However, the theme of the movie is amazingly timely; almost frighteningly so… The message is heavy handed, delivered in long, long speeches. (The plane ride with the old man clocks in at 7 minutes, lunch with a senator nearly ten!) We, the audience, are warned over and over, that if the same methods that are used to sell soda and cigarettes are used to sell politicians than the American way is doomed. Especially if “the Communists” start putting out false information to change the public minds about political candidates.
Mel tries to see through his coke bottle glasses
As Dana Andrew’s character says, “Most people from main street to Madison avenue will go with the majority…” Is this Karl Rove’s favorite movie? The character of the senator warns about ‘professionally packaged groups lobbying congress with big money behind them to change the laws and distorting the voice of the people’. The Communists are trying to get the U.S to stop making nuclear bombs so they will become a weak nation, so that North Korea can take us over… or something like that.
Fearmakers is not a good film by any means, but I’d highly recommend it for its camp moments and historical value. It feels like filmmaker Jacques Tourneur was trying to warn us about the culture of the media/public relations today. If you tell people a lie enough times they’ll believe it, get enough people to believe it then you have everyone else going along with the majority. Trust no one… not even Mel Torme!