The film is a Cold War-era drama short subject starring Jack Kelly and Jeanne Cooper. Red Nightmare was directed by George Waggner (The Wolf Man) and narrated by Jack Webb. Though made for the Department of Defense, it was shown on American television on Jack Webb’s GE True in 1962.
A man takes his American freedoms for granted, until he wakes up one morning to find out that the United States Government has been replaced with a Communist system. The basis for this short film, narrated by Jack Webb, is the alleged Soviet re-creation of US communities for the purpose of training infiltrators, spies, and moles.
The film begins in what looks like a typical American town. The camera moves back to reveal barbed wire, barricades, and soldiers in Soviet Army uniforms. Narrator Jack Webb informs us that there are several places behind the Iron Curtain used for training Soviet espionage and sabotage forces prior to infiltrating America.
Webb introduces us to a typical American family of father Jerry (Jack Kelly), wife Helen (Jeanne Cooper), and daughter Linda (Patricia Woodell, the original Bobbie Jo on Petticoat Junction) Donovan. Her boyfriend Bill Martin (Peter Brown) has been invited to dinner but while Jerry lectures Bill on football plays, Bill only has eyes for Linda. All is not well, as Jerry’s missing his PTA meeting to go bowling, and his intention to miss his Army Reserve training does not go over well with Helen. Linda and Bill inform Jerry and Helen they wish to get married but Jerry is angered and says they are too young, but he would have no objection if they waited five years after university.
Jack Webb explains how safe Jerry is in his world, but when Jerry goes to sleep, Webb looks grim and tells the audience Jerry is going to have a Red Nightmare.
Jerry awakes to find meetings in the public square about infiltrating America to bring down Capitalism. He returns home to find his daughter going to a farm collective escorted by Bill, who is now in Russian Army uniform. Helen informs Jerry that he will have to address the PTA on the glories of communism, which Jerry refuses to do, but his wife says he has no choice. At work, Jerry’s foreman (Robert Conrad) tells him that he has not met his quota and must work through the lunch break to meet it. On Sunday morning, Jerry wakes to find his two youngest children being sent to a State Communist school against his wishes. Jerry insists on the children going to Sunday School, and takes them to their church that has been turned into a museum glorifying the Soviet Union, including many inventions made by Americans which the Soviets claim to have invented. Jerry knocks the exhibits over, and is arrested by troops led by a Commissar (Peter Breck).
Jerry is brought to trial at a Soviet tribunal (Judge, Andrew Duggan; prosecutor, Mike Road), where there is no jury nor a defense attorney. Jerry demands to know what he is charged with, but the rights Americans take for granted are long gone. After condemning testimony from several witnesses, including his own wife, Jerry is convicted and sentenced to death. When he is strapped into the execution chair, Jerry makes a speech about the Soviet people awakening one day to overthrow communism, before he gets a bullet in the head from the Commissar (the killing is offscreen).
Jerry wakes up to his freedoms and apologizes to Bill and Linda. Bill says that Jerry had a point about waiting to get married and he and Linda will do so after he finishes his enlistment in the United States Army.
By Produced by Armed Forces Information Films, directed by George Waggner. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons