John Wayne, plays Big Jim McLain who is trying to uncover a Communist conspiracy in Hawaii. He has a romance with a girl who may have been influenced by Communists. The movie makes no apologies for its political stance of backing the HUAC, stating in a voice over that the committee : â€œUndaunted by the vicious campaign of slander launched against them as a whole and as individuals, they have staunchly continued their investigation, pursuing their stated beliefs that anyone who continued to be a Communist after 1945 is guilty of high treason.
The movie, which I think is as heavy handed in its propaganda as Triumph of the Will, Gone with the Wind and Birth of a Nation, is extremely interesting as a period piece. The movie was more commercial than most anti-Communist films of the 1950s, grossing close to 3 million dollars in the U.S. alone. How a movie this bad, could do that well, is a testament to the political and sociological climate of 1952 America.
A review on the CNN website says that
"That Wayne's character, Jim McLain, shared initials with Sen. Joseph McCarthy is considered no coincidence. Wayne has said he believed the film helped the election of the Senator for his second term in 1952. And though it's hard to believe that anyone would swallow the sentiment of a film like this one, laughable now in its heavy-handedness, it is chilling to consider how many lives were destroyed by the shrill propaganda of films like "Big Jim McLain," when Cold War hysteria suspended America's disbelief on and off the screen.*
Don't see Big Jim McLain for its cinematic value. Look at it as a mirror of the times. The fear of Communism was a powerful, driving force in 1952 America.