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The Fearmakers (1958) HD online

The Fearmakers (1958) HD online
Language: English
Category: Movie / Crime / Drama / / Thriller
Original Title: The Fearmakers
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Writers: Elliot West,Chris Appley
Released: 1958
Duration: 1h 25min
Video type: Movie
Alan Eaton is a Korean War veteran and ex-POW who returns to the USA after his release from captivity. Back in Washington, DC he tries to re-adjust to civilian life by returning to work. He co-owns a public relations-opinion research firm together with his business partner Clark Baker. However, he is shocked to learn that Clark Baker died in a hit-and-run accident the previous year. Also, Clark Baker, who had power-of-attorney during Alan's absence, had sold the firm to one of the employees, Jim McGinnis. Alan explains to Jim McGinnis that Clark Baker only had power of attorney to run the business, not to sell it without Alan's consent. McGinnis implies that Alan was duly informed ahead of time via letters sent to him while he was a POW in Korea. Feigning compassion, McGinnis offers Alan a job because their clients respect and trust the Eaton name. Alan Eaton asks for time to consider the offer. He then visits his old friend, Senator Walder, who voices his suspicions regarding the ...
Complete credited cast:
Dana Andrews Dana Andrews - Alan Eaton
Dick Foran Dick Foran - Jim McGinnis
Marilee Earle Marilee Earle - Lorraine Dennis
Veda Ann Borg Veda Ann Borg - Vivian Loder
Kelly Thordsen Kelly Thordsen - Harold 'Hal' Loder
Roy Gordon Roy Gordon - Sen. Walder
Joel Marston Joel Marston - Rodney Hillyer
Dennis Moore Dennis Moore - Army Doctor
Oliver Blake Oliver Blake - Dr. Gregory Jessup
Janet Brandt Janet Brandt - Walder's Secretary
Fran Andrade Fran Andrade - TWA Stewardess
Mel Tormé Mel Tormé - Barney Bond
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Robert Fortier Robert Fortier - Col. Buchane (scenes deleted)

Reviews: [24]

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    In the late 1950s, The Fearmakers was a late entry in the Red Scare cycle. By the late 1960s it would have looked like a bizarre and ancient relic. Now in the 21st century, the film looks almost prophetic--if you can overlook the fact that it's basically a pro-nuclear war film. What gives the film resonance for a contemporary audience is its accurate portrayal of 'public relations', polling and advertising, and their ability to sway public opinion. In the 1950s this thesis no doubt took a back seat to the usual Commie-bashing, but now--in the era of push polls, straw polls, and exit polls-- it looks frighteningly accurate. Dana Andrews is excellent as usual. Sadly he is paired up with Marilee Earle as his love interest, and Ms. Earle gives a wooden performance of truly Redwoodian proportions. This was the last film of her brief career.
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    This low-budget 50's thriller has a treatment standard for its time, but the premise is fascinating. Dana Andrews plays Alan Eaton, a veteran of the Korean War who comes home (after years of being brainwashed as a POW.) When he returns to his Public Relations firm in Washington, DC, he is surprised to find it has been sold by his former partner, who later died; his own name has been retained only for the goodwill value he had generated. Soon after, he comes to suspect that the firm no longer uses polls and surveys to shape its PR campaigns, it conducts its surveys in accordance with a hidden agenda and shapes the data to meet its own demands. By the end of the film, the entire conspiracy (and its plot to get a man elected Governor) is exposed. Americans are free to believe everything they read, once again.

    Everything about the movie is just what one would expect from an inexpensive thriller from the era, and that's not bad at all. Probably the most appealing character is played by Mel Torme (Andrews is much too surly - and for good reason - to capture audience sympathy), a number-cruncher who remains oblivious to the moral implications of the data he is massaging for his employers. His best moment comes when he picks EXACTLY the wrong moment to strike up a conversation with Marilee Earle; the audience knows she can't possibly tear her attention away from a task she has been sent to perform, but we all know how it feels to want to break through another person's preoccupation.

    Thematically, the film bites off more than it is prepared to chew. The premise (that some distinct group may control a substantial part of the information we Americans receive every day) is both disturbing and plausible. We do our best to make sure that no single source can exert too much power over information, but we can never be sure just how much of the data we believe to be factual, is actually cooked up by people with an agenda. Exposing one conspiracy (as seen in The Fearmakers) does not stamp out all such conspiracies at once, and the film offers no hint of assurance that the public will be any wiser, the next time information is manipulated. One may extrapolate that there is a terrible danger in trusting ANY source of information, but no solution is suggested.

    A minor disappointment comes from another important topic that is introduced at the beginning and then thrown away: Eaton's brainwashing. He has apparently been subjected to gruelling torture and mind control in the recent past, but it has no effect at all on his behavior except to make him grumpy and subject to sudden headaches. Basically, this is used as a plot device which allows the bad guys to get the upper hand at times, but nothing in the story really turns on it. Perhaps after seeing The Manchurian Candidate, one's expectations are set too high; certainly one can't fault the scriptwriters, as the novel had not yet been published.

    The most unfortunate aspect of the movie is that a 1950's happy ending is predetermined. By the 1970's, filmmakers would be comfortable creating conspiracy stories with darker endings, and today it is difficult for viewers to accept a movie in which a problem like this one is completely solved. By current standards, the last few minutes of The Fearmakers are dreamlike and childish...and perhaps this explains some of the film's charm. I'd love to see a remake of the movie, set once again in the 50's, nearly identical right up to the end, and then have Alan Eaton wake up to discover that the conspiracy has NOT been neatly wrapped up at all. It's enjoyable to imagine a finale in which he runs, Kevin McCarthy-like through Washington DC, grabbing away people's newspapers and shouting "Where do they get their facts? Where do they get their numbers?" Who knows? Seems like they're making a lot of remakes these days, and this one would be do-able with a small budget...
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    Despite the fact that it's a B movie,"The Fearmakers" from 1958 is absolutely fascinating to watch today. Directed by Jacques Tourneur, it stars Dana Andrews, Dick Foran, more well-known for westerns, and -- get ready - Mel Torme! And he was good! Andrews plays Alan Eaton, a public relations firm co-owner who fought in Korea and spent time in the enemy camp being tortured. Now back home, he suffers from headaches and blackouts occasionally. When he arrives at his old company, he finds out that his partner died and that the power of attorney he gave his partner was used to sell the business out from under him to Jim McGinnis (Dick Foran). McGinnis offers Alan a consultant job, and he is encouraged to take it by a Senator friend, who suspects shady business in the firm and wants Alan to check it out.

    Here's the shady business. The firm is suspected of using skewed polling data to make certain politicians look good. Alan has plenty to say about the way questions are asked in polls, and to whom, and he also has some things to say about lobbyists. Anyway, he needs to get his hands on the cards that apparently list the people polled or how they were chosen. He's also suspicious of his partner's "accident" and wants to gather information about that.

    Of course, today we call these shady people campaign managers, marketing people, Karl Rove -- I sat through the conversation about special interests and polling and thought I had entered the Twilight zone. I had -- it was 1958, and this guy had ethics that don't exist today since the types of things being referred to are acceptable.

    This film seems short for the material, and there are too many coincidences in the script to make it not totally believable. Andrews does a good job, but by this point had hit the skids - gone were the big 20th Century Fox films, possibly due to his alcoholism. Though he continued to act, he became a very wealthy real estate man and began speaking for the National Alcoholism Council in the '70s. He also served as President of the Screen Actors Guild. Dick Foran is appropriately slimy, and Mel Torme is excellent as an assistant who knows too much.

    Very interesting movie to view given today's political workings.
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    The Fearmakers stands as one of the stragglers in the Red-Scare cycle, which ran from the late 1940s pretty much until 1962, when John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate blew it to smithereens. (The studios, running scared, churned them out but the public shunned them in droves.) This one benefits from the talents of director Jacques Tourneur (The Cat People, Out of the Past) and noir icon Dana Andrews; it also features a young Mel Torme as a pusillanimous lackey who relies too much on stage business (mopping his brow, fiddling with his glasses). The movie is somewhat elevated, too, by working with themes that resonate today: How polls and focus groups can be manipulated by well-heeled special interest lobbies -- how, in fact, they can be made to say absolutely anything. Here, it's the disarmament movement, viewed of course as nothing more than a Commie plot. Inevitably, The Fearmakers degenerates into stereotypes as simple as Veda Ann Borg's big round puss.
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    The real irony, when viewing this film, is the way it views those who lobby for special interests in Washington (and the "marketing" of candidates, skewing polling data to achieve the desired results whether the sampling or data is fair or not) has become the norm in our own era. Hence, the villain in this film is pretty much doing the same sort of thing a Karl Rove does now, but we've just changed our perspective on it. The film purports a high tone of moral outrage at political practices which completely dominate our own time.

    That to me is the most fascinating thing about this film (which is well-made in a clearly B-picture sort of way: not too many sets, a conspicuously minor set of actors except for Dana Andrews--though I agree with others posting here that Mel Torme's performance is a standout--and a certain unadventurousness in the visuals and pacing, despite Tourneur's presence at the helm). By watching the film, we are made aware just how much we've come to accept certain the vast "untruthfulness" or immorality of the way politicians are marketed and elected. It's as though all of the things deplored in this film have completely become "business as usual" in our time, seemingly because the desire to operate this way in politics has survived tenaciously despite the occasional railing against it the way this film does. These days you might hear objections from alternate news sources or fringe publications to this type of deceptive political lobbying and marketing, but other than that it's clearly our daily contemporary political reality being objected to so strenuously 45 years ago in THE FEARMAKERS. While the film unfolds tightly and economically enough, it does suffer from a certain "pat-ness" concerning the plot coincidences concerning the doctor character Andrews meets on the plane at the beginning of the film. That whole subplot unfolds too easily within the overall story, as though the already claustrophobically tiny world of the characters of this movie couldn't possibly expand enough for some randomness or ambiguity between it's small ensemble of characters. Is there no-one in Washington who isn't in some way related to this plot? If memory serves, I don't believe there is ever a line spoken by anyone in this film who is not in some way part of the web of characters involved somehow for or against the unfolding scam, even though we are in cabs, in hotels, in a boarding house, on a plane, and in the city of Washington, throughout.

    Still, it's worth the time invested, and presents a curiously brusque performance by Andrews. His character is supposed to be tired and unstable after his ordeal in Korea, and yet it's difficult to know whether the occasionally zombie-like performance of Andrews in this film is entirely intentional. The actor himself seems fatigued and lethargic at times-- is that all for the sake of the character? But there are enough little twists and surprises in this film to hold our interest, and if the film feels at time like an extended episode of the old Perry Mason TV series, that's not necessarily a bad thing if you like that sort of presentation (as I admittedly do).

    I'd also agree with others here that this is a film ripe for a remake, although there is no doubt it would be a COMPLETELY different movie, with a completely different moral sense.
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    The Fearmakers (1958)

    "The Fearmakers" has the makings of a classic but also the meat of an "important" movie in its themes, which are complex. As a kind of background is the fact that returning Korean War POW Dana Andrews had been brainwashed and abused by his captors and so had an unstable mind. This theme is handled in a whole slew of movies, including a finely tuned Richard Widmark film "Time Limit" (directed by Karl Malden of all people, in 1957) and of course the now legendary "Manchurian Candidate" (starring Frank Sinatra in 1962). And in this film we have the semi-auteur director Jacques Tourneur pulling it together.

    But this is just the start. The larger plot has to do with the burgeoning lobbyist scene in Washington D.C. in the 1950s, and with the growing polling and public relations field with all the implications of social brainwashing. There are insertions of anti-nuclear pacifism and the connection of smoking and "malignancies." And above all there is a naive population implied at every turn. It's as if the movie is a wake up call to the audience, that your elected officials in Washington can't be blindly trusted, that pollsters are not always honest, that the world is an insidious and nasty place even though the Eisenhower 1950s might have you think otherwise.

    This is a nice updating of the film noir type, a decade after the classic genre's real peak. Here the returning G.I. has to go alone against a society very different than those in noirs of 1948, and the soldier's Korean War experience was very different from the usual WWII backdrop of earlier films. He turns to a woman for help, and to a reporter, so at least those are clichés we don't mind revisiting, but there is no murder afoot, no detective gumshoeing around, and very little dark and brooding photography.

    Why has this fallen so far under the radar? It not only gets a low composite rating on this site, but doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry. My guess is that the movie talks too much. The character Andrews plays is having to explain things in words, either persuading someone to help him or accusing someone he thinks is up to no good. For me this wasn't such a big deal. I didn't expect an action film, and I didn't even expect a riveting film noir. With Tourneur in charge, I just expected something interesting, and it is very very interesting. I think anyone trying to grasp the Korean War experience, or anyone who wants to understand (and not just love) film noir as a "cycle" of films, has to give this a shot.

    And Dana Andrews is his usual first rate restrained lovable self, with a decent supporting cast and some very good writing to back him up. The photographer is Sam Leavitt, who did a number classic, visually arresting films from this period: "Man with the Golden Arm," "Defiant Ones," "Cape Fear," "Anatomy of a Murder," etc. You get the idea. And Tourneur might be turning to small production companies for work (this was a one-movie company called Pacemaker), but that doesn't mean the film looks or feels shoddy. Not a bit. It's just the state of the industry in the late 1950s, a low point in many ways. And here's one that slipped through the net.
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    Dana Andrews is quite congenial playing a former Army Captain, returning to Washington, D.C. after being held two years in a Chinese prison camp, discovering that the public relations firm he and his business partner founded has been sold to a reprehensible lout who peddles in prejudice and poison. Plainly-drawn, low-budget melodrama with then-topical undercurrents of Communism and anti-semitism does have an interesting group of characters, but it could stand a bit of levity to lighten its load. There's an early scene in a plane with Andrews and a talkative scientist that is never fully explained, and the one main female character (a secretary played by the curious Marilee Earle) is disheartening--she's there to lend a hand and feign a romance, yet the role itself is an unsurprising cliché. Director Jacques Tourneur is crafty at times, but mostly heavy-handed; he sets up a heated finale, but then muffs it with square-jawed heroics and patriotic gestures. More mystery and gloss was required. **1/2 from ****
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    I happened on this film by accident one afternoon and was quietly surprised. I am a fan of film noir and thought this film would be along those lines. And it was a bit in that fashion.( "The Killers" starring Burt Lancaster is one of my favorite examples of the film noir genre).

    But mostly this movie is centered on Washington D.C. in the late 1950's, and the beginnings of what today is considered lobbying. How the movie reflects our capitol today is almost eerie, with our poll takers and vested interests. Downright prophetic in its nature, I found the correlations between that era and today striking. Witness the beginnings of how you're votes are bought. Disturbing to say the least.

    I gave the film a "7" rating, because although the movie is worth a look,it is a bit "dated" and does have some "cheese" in the acting.
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    Dana Andrews was taken prisoner during the Korean War and finally arrives home after being away for many years. But now he has periodic dizzy spells as a result of his brutal captivity. When he goes to Washington to meet his old business partner at a public relations office, he learns that his partner is dead and the business was sold out from under him to a guy that is obviously a jerk. After storming out of the office, Andrews meets with an old friend, a Senator, and learns that his old firm is doing a lot to distort truth and influence opinion--as they are a probable front group. Oddly, they never say "communist", but it's obvious that's what they intend. So, in order to expose this evil plot, Andrews returns and makes nice with the jerk and joins the firm.

    Generally, it's a pretty good curio of the time and it is one of the few chances you'll get to see Mel Tormé in an important role (though, oddly, he gets very low billing despite all his screen time). As always Andrews is very good, but towards the very end of the film the writers make a bad gaff--making the otherwise decent film really clichéd. This is when Andrews catches the baddies and is holding a gun on them. Just then, of all times, he gets a blinding headache and drops his gun!!! Come off it, this is just ridiculous and sets up an unnecessary final chase scene.

    Also, it's rather funny that the things the firm is doing to illegitimately influence public opinion and Congress are EXACTLY the same things many organizations do regularly today!! One example in the film is how they ask loaded questions that make it appear the public feels one way when they don't--something we see on news shows all the time today! Overall, it's not a great film but interesting enough to make it a little better than just a time passer, though fans of Andrews (like me) will probably enjoy it.
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    Just watched this on TCM. A problem I've always had w/Dana Andrews is his self-righteousness, but this 'red scare' film does raise concerns that are far more appropriate today regarding how pollsters & PR firms manipulate/create news & opinion versus measuring it. However in this film, the media (Washington Post reporter) & an 'old school' senator (you know, the ones that used to have a conscience & scruples) are the good guys. Nowadays, that just isn't very realistic as the media, political parties, representatives & lobbiests are all part of the Washington propaganda machine, only interested in retaining & growing on their own power base. But I digress. Look for Mel Torme in ridiculous Coke-bottle glasses. Also, DC-philes will enjoy all of the familiar landmarks with far cooler cars surrounding the city. Overall, not a waste of time. I give it a '6'.
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    This film is a condemnation of public relations at its worst. As one character says, "taking public opinion is useful; making public opinion is dangerous". This seems to call forth the idea of "engineering consent", an idea that Edward Bernays first published in 1947.

    We also have the concepts of "pre-written law" and "fake front groups with high-sounding titles". With that, we see a strong parallel between Communist infiltration and modern-day political movements. And the groups could be left or right-leaning. There is much talk today (2013) of ALEC writing bills and groups like Americans For Prosperity that are little more than a tool of Charles and David Koch.

    The film calls out the danger of misleading polls, and the difference between advertising and politics. What was seen as a danger in this film is now standard practice fifty years later. A candidate is "sold" to the American people and polls rarely get to the heart of any matter. Like the discussion in the film about "Jews" and "labor unions", the lobbyists and advertisers know how to target narrow segments of the population...

    Jacques Tourneur biographer Chris Fujiwara says Tourneur's later films, including this one, "fall short of the standard of his prior work." He says Tourneur himself "thought the film was a failure". To say this is a challenge. From the point of view of directing and cinematography, this might not reach the level of "Cat People" or "Night of the Demon". But the message is so powerful that the direction almost becomes secondary.

    Could this be a forgotten gem in need of a new release?
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    Just think, in 1951, handsome Dana Andrews looked great in the Korean War flick, I Want You. Some seven years later, maybe because of a jet-set lifestyle, or excess drinking and smoking, or just a fast life of hard living, Dana Andrews looked really old and worn out in this second rate Cold War "thriller."

    Like Alan Ladd, Tyronne Power, and countless other stars, Andrews literally lost his "looks" by his early 40s. This is not to say his acting wasn't up to his former greatness. Of course this film looked like it was made on a shoe-string budget. The script was over-the-top, and it's clearly out-dated today. The Fearmakers is a fear to watch. Rent the classic, The Best Years of Our Life, to see the vintage Dana Andrews.
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    Overlooked when first released among the mass of Red Scare pictures, in retrospect, it was ingenious (not to mention prescient) to treat this theme in the form of a corporate thriller. That said, Dick Foran's ruthless villain-in-a-suit is kind of weak (given the title), especially since he is flanked by such stereotypes as burly thug and fidgety geek (effectively played by crooner Mel Torme')!

    On the other hand, Tourneur regular Dana Andrews (for whom he had just starred in the occult masterpiece NIGHT OF THE DEMON [1957]) is in good form as the distraught Korean War veteran met with betrayal and hostility when trying to return to his job as an honest pollster. Aiding him is an elderly statesman, a crusading journalist (who actually does very little to further his cause!) and Foran's sweet-natured secretary (who obviously feels, and then falls, for our hero). Though not exactly a noir, the pervading mood of this one is quite similar (in fact, it proved to be the director's last in that style) in view of the double-crosses, the investigation, the beatings and the seediness of some of its settings.

    As a sop to the superiority of the American Way (and the integrity of decent folk), the climax takes place beside Washington's famed Lincoln memorial – with Andrews felling Foran via a series of karate chops (perhaps a nod to BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK [1955]). This, however, rather suggests that the former ultimately benefited from his tenure as a P.O.W. in the hands of the Chinese (incidentally, the film came out a good four years before THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE [1962])! Ultimately, therefore, once one gets past the disappointment that this is not going to deliver on the promise of brainwashing episodes displayed in the opening credits, this emerges an above average thriller nevertheless.
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    The Fearmakers is one of the last films directed by Jacques Tourneur. He made it soon after completing his Night of a Demon which also starred Dana Andrews in the title role and which now is considered a horror classic and by many even his masterpiece. Unfortunately such words don't apply to The Fearmakers, which had most certainly marked beginning of Tourneur's decline. The film is based on a book by Darwin Teilhet, which was published in 1945.

    The main character Allen Eaton (Dana Andrews) is a Korean War veteran who has recently returned from Korea where he had been a prisoner of war for the last two years. When back in U.S., he learns that one of his best friends was killed not a long time ago under unclear circumstances. He naturally wants to find out about the reasons for his death as much as he can. Meanwhile he finds a job at a poll agency and very soon discovers that the poll results are being manipulated with the intent of causing a disturbance and fear among the population as well as twisting public's opinion concerning certain important political figures. Soon he finds his life in danger when he discovers that what he is in contact with is a powerful underground organization operating in the U.S., which is apparently responsible for his friend's death as well.

    The Fearmakers might be called a typical 1950s Cold War period movie and a kind of predecessor of 1962 The Manchurian Candidate. But unlike John Frankenheimer's masterpiece, The Fearmakers has almost nothing remarkable about it neither in terms of the story nor in terms of acting. See The Manchurian Candidate instead. 5/10
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    ***SPOILERS*** After spending two years in a Communist Chinese POW camp Korean War Vet Capt. Alan Eaton, Dana Andrews, is back home trying to pick up the pieces of his life that he left back in Korea. Not fully recovered from the brainwashing that he received at the hands of the Communist Chinese Eaton gets an even bigger shock when he finds out that his PR firm, Eaton & Baker ass. in now in the hands of Jim McGinnis, Dick Foran. Eaton also finds out, as if he needed any more surprises, that his partner Clark Baker was killed in a hit and run accident the day after he signed away the firm to McGInnis!

    Trying to get a hold of himself Eaton soon realizes that what's happening at his former PR firm is a bit underhanded when he's not allowed to see how it's conducting surveys on what concerns the Amercan public. McGinnis uses those surveys to get politicians elected by pushing them on TV radio and the newspapers with reports that he purposely had slanted in their favor. Earlier Eaton got a glimpse of what's going on when he was approached on a flight to Washington D.C by a mysterious Doc. Jessup. Claiming to be a major peace activist Dr. Jessup invites Eaton to join his group and it's later that he finds that he's actually connected with Jim McGinnis and his peace group is a communist front!

    It becomes very apparent that McGinnis is using the former Baker & Eaton PR firm to undermined the US government by pushing communist ideas and communist supported politicians on an unsuspecting American public. It also becomes very apparent to Eaton after talking to reporter Rodney Hillyer, Joel Marston, that his partner Clark Baker wasn't killed in a car accident but murdered by McGinnis when he refused to go along with him in making McGinnis a partner in his firm.

    The film's very complicated plot has Eaton get together with Sen. Walden, Roy Gordon, to expose McGinnis and his fellow travelers Hal & Vivian Loder, Kelly Thordse & Veda Ann Borg, together with Barney Bond, Mel Torme, as working for the communists and have their whole racket put out of business and them behind bars. The evidence that Eaton would need to put McGinnis on ice is the secret set of master cards, that McGinnis keeps under lock and key, that would prove that his surveys aren't on the up and up. It here that Eaton recruits McGinnis' personal secretary Lorraine Dennis, Marille Earle, to help him break into his office and get the important master cards but what Eaton has to find out is if Lorraine won't turn him in to her boss and have Eaton suffer the same fate that his partner Baker did.

    Somewhat better then your average "Red Scare" type of movies released by Hollywood during the hight of the Cold War "The Fearmakers" has for once those working for the communist cause doing it for nothing more then capitalistic reasons; the mighty buck. McGinnis and his gang are not at all interested in what communism is and what good it can do for the people but only in the money that the communists, obviously the Soviet Union, will pay them for their services.

    Theirs also an added treat in "The Fearmakers" with singer Mel Torme, who doesn't sing a note in the film, as the nerdy Barney Bond who's secretly as well as insanely in love with Lorraine. Berney later in trying to save Lorrine, as well as Eaton, from McGinnis' hoods who plan to stage an accident for her gets himself shot and later, as he's dying, informs Sen.Walden by phone to what McGinnis is planing to do having the D.C police come to both Lorraine & Eaton's rescue. Totally unnecessary final scene with Eaton having it out with a fleeing McGinnis at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial knocking him unconscious and downs the stairs. All this happens with some dozen cops who could have easily apprehended and arrested McGinnis, who had no were to run anyway, standing around and doing nothing but watching the fight!
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    Of the three motion pictures actor Dana Andrews starred in under the direction of Noir-Horror guru Jacques Tourneur, we'll cover two, made a year apart: CURSE OF THE DEMON and THE FEARMAKERS... So let's begin with the most obscure, and perhaps it's for a reason...

    Very rare a film go after the "Peace at any price" groups even and especially the 1950's when not a (for example and unrelated to this particular movie) science-fiction flick played out without a hidden or not so subtle message against nuclear weapons - and FEARMAKERS is a reverse sermon in a vacuum, beginning with a low-budget, rushed version of patriotism about as obvious as Michael Rennie leaving Earth following his Martian State of the Union Address...

    But enough of all that... FEAR is no space movie or a Film Noir despite one of that genre's signature leading men from LAURA, FALLEN ANGEL, BOOMERANG, DAISY KENYON, WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS, and especially OUT OF THE PAST director Jacques Tourneur, who Andrews requested after the surprise success and worthy turnout of their first collaboration (reviewed below) the year before, CURSE OF THE DEMON...

    Our heroic when tortured after being captured in Korea war-vet Andrews has a horrible fake-looking beard in the prologue - and thereafter flashbacks - and it's nice to see him all cleaned up and suited, back home, processed by the Army as sane (despite reoccurring dizzy spells), ready to dive back into work - his own business: A somewhat complicated operation that has a big surprise waiting, and it's no party...

    At first viewing the plot runs in talky circles and depending on prior knowledge of the "Public Relations Business" of Public Opinion Polls, Consumer Analyses, Industrial Research, Census and Surveys, it really needs some paying attention to...

    The movie does almost entirely through dialogue what Noir handles with guns and shadows, alleyways and romantic entanglements: After finding out that, while imprisoned overseas, his business partner died in a car accident right after selling the company to a man so obviously crooked he'd need a spinal shoehorn to stand erect, Andrews spends the rest of the picture figuring things out: When he gets word at a restaurant that his new boss may have something to hide, it takes two conversations with two different men - both very similar except one really gets the ball rolling, involving a possible murder...

    The pace picks up later as the plot clears, and it's not Andrews, looking much healthier and somewhat back to his 1940's dapper style than most of his other 50's B-Pictures, nor is it moon-faced beauty Marilee Earle as secretary/inside-gal Vivian that truly makes this flawed yet entertaining programmer shine...

    Musician Mel Torme as office dweeb Barney Bond completely owns his scenes, which happen to be the most intriguing as they involve either Dick Foran as the gentleman heavy, or Vivian, or both - with Andrews playing a kind of parenthetical cat and mouse in-between, knowing the business better than anyone and realizing those otherwise kindhearted D.C. idealists are being used as pawns ("useful idiots"), selling their own in-pocket politician through the manipulation of public opinion...

    Thus, Mel Torme's Barney knows almost as much as Andrews, and far more than Foran (aided by a big thug henchman), who uses the put-upon, spectacle-wearing underling to weasel back information - but what makes Torme's character stand-out also sets him over the edge, and in that, he eventually "chews up the scenery" yet in a wonderful b-movie fashion...

    The dwarfish geek lusts for Dana's smitten Girl Friday, while feeling sorry for himself, with a shaky gun at one point, and don't expect a bombastic climax: FEARMAKERS, unlike most of Tourneur's more atmospheric, multi-layered ventures, is basically a Cold War Thriller's desk job. But how the papers are shuffled, as described smoothly by Andrews, is the key in this obscure vehicle that's much better the second or third time around.
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    Any anti-communist film is guaranteed to bring forth accusations of promoting or defending the 'red scare'. These accusations invariably come from historical illiterates.

    These deep thinking leftist critics are so well informed that they do not even know that the release of the Venona Papers largely vindicated the McCarthy investigations. These sneering historical illiterates need to learn about large-scale communist aggression that the West was facing at the time. For example, the communists insurgencies in Greece and Malaya, both backed by the Soviets. Then there was the takeover of Eastern Europe followed by imprisonment, torture and execution of opponents. Then there was the 1948 Berlin Blockade, the Korean War, the Berlin uprising in 1953 and the 1956 Hungarian uprising that the Soviets ruthlessly crushed.

    The Cold War was anything but cold and was the creation of an aggressive Soviet Union. Before any more mal-educated leftists decide to start sneering at anti-communist movies perhaps they will tell us why they choose to ignore the 100,000,000, people that communist regimes murdered. ("The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression", Harvard University Press,1999). Read this book and you might start thinking that anti-communist movies were not too far out after all and that the left's cry of 'red scare' is as phony as a $3 bill, and every freedom-loving person had every reason to fear communism.

    Like all movies "The Fearmakers' has its flaws. However, its portrayal of communism is nothing to be ashamed of nor is it something that deserves mockery.
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    Some interested declassified history and commentary about the Fearmakers:

    Director John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate was the best but not the first to explore the issue of U.S. POWs in the 1950-3 Korean War. During the war, Americans had been stunned when many U.S. prisoners collaborated with their communist captors; issued false confessions to germ warfare; and even, in 21 cases, chose to stay behind in China rather than return home. What happened during the war and when the prisoners returned inspired its own sub-genre of Cold War Noir. How realistic were The Manchurian Candidate and these other firms -- and today's hit show Homeland? Click the poster to the right to find out.

    Check out some of the best, or at least most interesting, Korean War POW movies below. Click on the posters below for more info and view the trailers (you need flash).

    Don't miss the Bill Dumas documentary on unreturned Korean War POWs.

    And for perhaps the best actors in Korean War POW movies, see the bottom of this page.
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    net rider

    Not enough can be said about the de-evolution of the packaging of our politicians and expectations of our news media.

    The societal rumblings of big brother control and the awareness of the effect and success of Edward Bernays book of blueprints to "guide" the people...Propaganda (1928)...began to surface in the 1950's and then sank as fast as Jimmy Carter's presidency.

    This post Mccarthy era movie is gallantry trying to stay on that noble course, but the subject matter is too complex for this type of production to do anything but reduce the rhetoric to a great effort of B-Movie making.

    There is so much here just waiting to be exorcised and exposed, and it is exasperating today to understand that this is an embryonic idea that was born of an ideal and died of an apathetic populace that got the government and the media they deserve.

    You will find few films filled with as much fulfilled prophecy as this.
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    Wow! What a disappointment. Caught it on TV, and the combination of the theme and Tourneur promised so much. But it turned out to be a clumsy, boring, heavy, theatrical flick. I think the main problem is that the film drowns us with words – the dialogs are too long and pretentious, and the uninspired Mise en scene makes the all experience quite unbearable. From an historical point of view, it's interesting to place this picture seven years or so before the Manchurian Candidate, so these 85 minutes weren't exactly wasted; but had I known it's such a torture, I would not watch it for a million bucks. I also did not like the way the nerd working in the office was treated – such a sallow caricature! All of the sudden he is in love with the girl, and of course he has to sacrifice himself in the end. I also did not understand if the hero was brain washed during the war, and if so, what significance does it have? Anyway, it is sad to see a filmmaker as tourneur producing such a banal picture, which could have been made by quite any B-Movies director of the time. I understand it is considered one of his worst films – I can only second that view.
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    Dana Andrews plays a returning Korean War POW who learns that his public polling partnership was sold out from under him during his captivity. During the course of the film, he comes to realize how his partner was murdered by Communist sympathizers who turn the the firm into a public relations lobbying firm for subversive left-wing causes. We see the intricate web of scientists, intellectuals and fellow travelers who use K Street lobbyists for their plans for destroying America's defenses.

    This 1958 film exposes how public relation and lobbying firms manipulate public opinion to meet their aims and how a gullible public can be coerced. Fifty years later, this was successfully executed to perfection during the 2008 Presidential campaign.

    This film is ripe for a remake, although sadly the fifth columnists portrayed in this film, now firmly control Hollywood and would spin a tale about Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, FOX News and other fair and balanced voices.
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    Dana Andrews, Marilee Earle, and Mel Tormé are the main attractions. I don't know how anyone can play scenes with the great Mr. Tormé. I would crack up! Mr. Andrews, Ms. Earle, and the others are incredibly awful in this film. I don't have any idea what's going on with Andrews' physical condition; but, he seems healthier as the film goes on.

    As a "cold war drama," this movie fails. The plot and performances are ludicrous. BUT, as an unintended comedy, the movie succeeds. I found it moderately funny.

    I'm not sure what kind of political message this film is trying to make - but, it adds to the hilarity. I can't rate it highly, because I'm sure the filmmakers' intentions were quite different than my reception.

    ** The Fearmakers (1958) Jacques Tourneur ~ Dana Andrews, Marilee Earle, Mel Tormé
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    The Fearmakers is a bland film. I didn't really enjoy this movie. I couldn't get involved in the story because I couldn't get interested or attached to any of the charters involved. The dialogue wasn't anything special and was bland as well. The only thing I really found interesting was how it was shot, the camera work isn't bad and I thought the it was editited well. But this couldn't help that it didn't have the best story and the people involved in the story were forgettable and from the beginning I found myself not interested in the cold war story line or how the main charter was going to fix it in the investigation of the newly run business. That is how The Fearmakers earned a 5/10.
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    Joe McCarthy may have been censored by his Senate colleagues four years earlier and may have been dead a year, but his spirit lives on in The Fearmakers. That's a pity because the film actually did have some interesting things to say about the advertising industry and high priced lobbyists and most of all the manipulation of polls to get the desired results.

    Dana Andrews has come home from Korea where he was captured and subjected to some patented Communist brainwashing techniques. Still suffering from symptoms of their torture methods, Andrews is still hoping to resume his career in a small Washington, DC based public relations firm. But when he returns he discovers his partner dead and Dick Foran taken over and expanding operations quite a bit. His clients include some shady lobbyists and some Communist fellow travelers pushing peace at any price.

    At the suggestion of an investigating US Senator, Andrews goes in to get the goods on Foran. It's very possible his partner may have been murdered.

    Mel Torme is in this film in a straight dramatic role, totally unrecognizable in horn rimmed glasses and a mustache. Torme plays Foran's computer nerd though he shows he's got some urges that demonstrate computers aren't all he's interested in.

    Without the heavy right wing ideological bent The Fearmakers does have some interesting things to say. If the producers had only left that out.