Interesting Notes: The screenplay, by Vincent Fotre, is a marvel of economy and efficiency. When Fotre was a young contract writer for Warner Brothers, the story concept assigned to him was simple: Show what would happen to a typical American town if the Communists took over. The resulting script became one of the most infamous educational films ever made. Fotre recalled, in an interview with the L.A. Daily News, "Jack Warner was very gung-ho in that area (anti-Communism). He wanted the message spelled out in very blunt terms. He wanted us to hit 'em over the head with it."
Official Peter Brown Fan Site
Directed by George WaGGner
Written by Vincent Fotre
Jack Webb as the host
Jack Kelly as Jerry Donavan
Jeanne Cooper as Helen Donavan
Peter Brown as Bill Martin
Patricia Woodell as Linda
Phil Carey as Maj. Barnett
Andrew Duggan as the judge
Peter Breck as Russian officer
Robert Conrad as Pete
Mike Road as the prosecutor
Cast Notes: This was a surprisingly successful group of actors for a training film. It's a veritable Who's Who of Warner Brothers television stars. Every credited male actor in this film eventually starred in two or more series and each had at least one western: Jack Kelly in Maverick, Peter Brown in Lawman and Laredo, Peter Breck in Black Saddle and the Big Valley, Andrew Duggan in Lancer, Robert Conrad in Wild, Wild, West and Mike Road in Buckskin.
Jack Webb and Jack Warner joined forces to make this anti-Communist propaganda film. It had a budget and a cast that was unheard of for a government educational film of its era. Indeed, not too many made-for-government shorts before or since have been featured in Daily Variety (as Freedom and You, later retitled Red Nightmare by the studio to give it more "punch"). Variety also noted that Mr. Warner was a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve.
Red Nightmare opens on a seemingly all-American town complete with American cars, soda fountains and freedoms but surrounded by barbed wire barricades and Russian soldiers. Jack Webb tells us "it may be assumed that such a town does exist, shrouded in secrecy and protected by utmost security, deep behind the Iron Curtain." According to Webb, it is used to train Russian students in "espionage as a science" and "propaganda as an art" in order to destroy American freedoms.
Webb then launches into our main story, that of a typical complacent American, Jerry Donovan. We see him blowing off a meeting of his Civil Defense committee because his favorite television show is on and declining to attend a PTA meeting because it's his bowling night. He gets irritated when his wife reminds him he missed his last Reserve meeting.
Jerry goes to bed that night feeling out of sorts. The next morning, he awakes in a Red Nightmare. He can't make a phone call without a permit, his wife and children are automatons and Bill is a Communist soldier who transports Linda to a farm collective in order to free her "from the lingering bourgeois influence of family life."
Jerry is tried and convicted of crimes against the state for complaining of lack of warrants, churches being replaced with displays of Communist inventions (like the telephone), work quotas set by a commissar, his children being sent to a state school to make up for his failure to indoctrinate them, etc. Jerry's wife and Bill, among others, testify against him.
Just as he is executed, Jerry awakens from his Red Nightmare with a new appreciation and dedication to the defense of American freedoms. And as an added bonus, Bill and Linda have decided to wait to get married until after Bill completes his hitch in the service.
Peter Brown enters our story as Bill Martin, the boyfriend of Jerry's daughter Linda. Jerry is happy to see Bill as long as they talk football, which is hampered by Bill's cow-eyed attention to Linda. He's less thrilled when they announce their engagement. He thinks they're too young and unprepared for the responsibility of marriage.
Patricia Woodell was the first Bobbie Jo Bradley on Petticoat Junction. Although she was never in a western series, she married Gary Clarke, the costar of The Virginian and Hondo. Jeanne Cooper (Corbin Bernsen's mother) was in only one prime time series, the short-lived Bracken's World, but she was a highly successful character actor whose roles included appearances on Lawman, Laredo, Maverick, the Big Valley and Lancer. She also had a long-running part on the daytime drama The Young and the Restless (where Peter Brown also spent some time).
Presented by the Department of Defense
Directorate for Armed Forces Information and Education
We decided to list this film as the name by which most people would recognize it. Red Nightmare is actually an adaptation of the Armed Forces Information Film (AFIF) 120, Freedom and You. Although it was made for the Department of Defense, it was shown on American television on Jack Webb's GE True in 1962. In 1965, the film was released as an educational film to American high schools under the Red Nightmare title.
Many of our NiteOwl baby boomers remember seeing this film in school as part of the standard curriculum in civics, history, etc. It's now also known as The Commies Are Coming! The Commies Are Coming! and has become something of a cult (and unintentional) comedy classic.
When Rhino Entertainment released the film on video in 1985, it again underwent a name change for the sake of appeal. The new "over the top" handle, The Commies Are Coming! The Commies Are Coming!, suggests that Rhino intended to promote the film as silly and campy. While the "lesson" of Red Nightmare may no longer apply, it is certainly impressive that the work still has the power to shock with its sheer preposterousness.