Big Jim McLain


In the post-war Hawaii, House Un-American Activities Committee investigators Jim McLain and Mal Baxter hunt down Communists.

ACTORS :  John Wayne, Nancy Olson, James Arness 


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Big Jim McLain, U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee investigators Jim McLain and Mal Baxter attempt to break up a ring of Communist Party troublemakers in Hawaii (ignoring somewhat, as do their superiors in the Congress, that membership in the Communist Party was, at the time, legal in the U.S.)

Best scene

Big Jim McLain, Early in the film Wayne and Arness take the US Navy “picket boat” out to Battleship Row and the superstructure of the USS Arizona, long before the familiar white memorial was built. This little side trip provides a continuity. The 50’s fear of Communism was seen, in that era, as being informed by the experience of the attack at Pearl Harbor 11 years before. Folks then knew from bitter, bloody experience, that evil in the world existed, and they were trying to thwart the new evil. It may appear ham-handed to us today, but, in the context of the times, finding the enemy through investigative techniques probably appeared preferable to another sneak attack. Having read the above comments, I also appreciate the way the writers heaped praise on the local, Hawaiian, police.

worth seeing just for Arness’ performance

I like this movie, but must admit it’s rather cheesy. It’s not that I disliked the plot of having John Wayne playing an FBI man bent on smashing communism–it certainly is unique and very much like the real life Wayne. No, what makes this movie so campy is James Arness’ incredibly silly performance. Unlike Wayne, who seems rather restrained and cerebral in comparison, Arness responds to every commie the same way Mike Tyson responds to Evander Holyfield’s ear! He goes nuts and beats the crap out of all of them, so there’s not much dialog. He roughly responds to every potential enemy with “you commies make me so mad,…”–then WHAM, BAM, POW!!! Civil liberties aside, it’s quite thrilling to watch him in action!

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