“Apparently, Senator, you believe that anyone who disagrees with your point of view is a Communist.”
Senator Joe McCarthy shows his true colors while standing on trial against the U.S. Army.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Courtroom Drama
- Downward Spiral
- Political Corruption
Response to Peary’s Review:
Emile De Antonio took more than 180 hours of television footage from the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings and crafted this fascinating glimpse at the crash and burn of America’s most infamous “Commie witch hunter”. As Peary notes, de Antonio offers us the “perversely satisfying” opportunity to “watch [Senator Joe] McCarthy sweat and squirm” while “being railroaded by military and political big shots” — all, notably, without the “voice of God” narration so common in documentaries at the time. Though there are some dry patches in the film (especially while various participants in the trial read all the way through certain documents), this is more than made up for by countless too-good-to-be-true moments of drama and hilarity. Especially compelling is Boston lawyer Joseph Welch, who sits “in a slouch with hand on chin and wearing a bow tie”; indeed, Welch displayed such genuine presence during the hearings that he was drafted by Otto Preminger to star as the judge in his courtroom drama Anatomy of a Murder (1959). De Antonio rightfully recognized that the true drama of the case lay not in its ostensible subject (whether McCarthy and his counsel, Roy Cohn, granted special favors to Pvt. G. David Schine), but in McCarthy’s spectacularly pigheaded behavior — the beginning of his final fall from grace. Point of Order remains a potent time capsule of this infamous event, and demonstrates de Antonio’s genius for crafting pre-existing footage into incisive political barbs. See also de Antonio’s Millhouse: A White House Comedy (1967) and In the Year of the Pig (1968).
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Welch making his famous statement to McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
- A fascinating time-capsule glimpse at one of the most famous court trials in American history
Yes. This remains a pivotal film in documentary history.