OUR STORY OPENS with the explosion and sinking of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898, initiating the Spanish-American War. In spite of his Quaker parents’ mild objections, 16-year-old Smedley D. Butler tries unsuccessfully to join the army by lying about his age. But thanks to his Congressman father’s patronage, he obtains a commission in the then obscure U.S. Marine Corps. In his first posting, the green Lieutenant Butler encounters a mysterious Cuban rebel with a tiny teardrop tattoo at the corner of one eye, whom we meet again at the end of the story. Under the tutelage of Captain Goodrell, Smedley leads marines against Spanish soldiers, killing several.
After Spain’s surrender, Smedley learns that he has been promoted to First Lieutenant and recalled to the service. Seems not everyone in the Philippine Islands is happy about the United States taking over from the Spanish. Smedley leads marines in a bloody slaughter of poorly armed and led Filipino rebels. A mysterious Filipino fails to kill Smedley, unbeknownst to Smedley himself. While Smedley’s marines are busy killing Chinese rebels and soldiers, a Chinese assassin tries and fails to kill the unaware Smedley. He learns an important lesson when Major Waller chews him out when he asks for a rest break for his exhausted marines.
In Puerto Rico, a vindictive admiral charges Smedley and his marines with dangerous and onerous tasks.
Smedley falls seriously ill with a fever. Congressman Butler reads the riot act to the Secretary of the Navy for the Navy’s disregard for Captain Smedley Butler’s medical needs. Smedley meets Ethel. They marry and tour the world on their honeymoon. Smedley, his protégé Lt. Vandergrift, and a thousand marines foil a Nicaraguan rebel army takeover of his train when he personally disarms the rebel general. Ill from another fever, he leads the Marine charge that overwhelms a key rebel fort, slaughtering the defenders. Smedley writes a letter of remorse to his parents and just misses another assassination attempt.
Smedley is sent on a risky spy mission into Mexico City, in preparation for the seven-month occupation of Veracruz. A Mexican assassin almost kills Smedley but for a rifle-malfunction. In 1915, Major Smedley Butler arrives in Haiti to put down a rebellion. He leads his men in the storming and destruction of an important rebel stronghold. For this action, he receives his second Congressional Medal of Honor and cheers from corporate CEOs. The first Congressional Medal of Honor was for the Veracruz intervention, an award he tried to refuse. Smedley organizes the security for the island, and puts his engineering and management skills to good use by improving Haitian hygiene and infrastructure. In a native hut, a rebel witch pierces the abdomen of a Smedley doll with a long hatpin. Instantly, the distant Smedley complains of abdominal pain.
Toward the end of World War I, outspoken Colonel Smedley is furious when he learns that the brass doesn’t trust him enough to send him to the front lines in France. Instead, he is promoted to brigadier general, the youngest ever, and sent to Europe. En route he survives a bout of the Spanish Flu. In France, he commands a large military camp, a filthy, dismal place, until Smedley, using unorthodox methods, turns it into a shining example of American efficiency and cleanliness. For this accomplishment, Smedley is appointed Commandant of the newly established Marine Headquarters at Quantico, Virginia. In 1925, Smedley is asked to take a temporary leave from the Corps and help the new mayor of Philadelphia clean the city of crime and corruption. Smedley, a staunch Prohibitionist, takes his job a little too seriously and manages to piss everyone off. Surviving another would-be assassin as well as a gangland drive-by shooting, he returns to Quantico, depressed, broke, and vowing to never take another human life.
Smedley is sent to command the Marine base in San Diego, California. He reports the drunken behavior of Colonel Williams, his former subordinate in Haiti, initiating a court-martial. For this he is ostracized. He becomes Technical Adviser to MGM while they film a Lon Chaney movie at the San Diego base. The Chinese civil war brings Smedley to China once more. For improving the infrastructure and rebuilding an important bridge, the locals bestow great honors on Smedley.
Back at Quantico, Smedley decides to become a lecturer. At one speaking event, Smedley denounces the American manipulation of the Nicaraguan and Haitian governments. Furious, the Secretary of the Navy censures and humiliates Smedley. On this account, Smedley is passed over for Marine Commandant. He is devastated. In a subsequent public speech, he casually insults Italian fascist dictator Mussolini. Washington threatens Smedley with court-martial, unless he offers a public apology. In 1931, Smedley resigns from the Marine Corps. He visits the Bonus Marchers, all war veterans and their families, camped out in Washington D.C. He encourages them to stand strong and peaceful, until they receive the bonuses they were promised.
Mysterious investors conspire to form a fascist organization of a million veterans, and to fool Smedley into leading it in a coup against the Roosevelt government. When Smedley finds out the details, he exposes the plotters, who deny everything. Eventually, President Franklin Roosevelt, formerly a strong supporter of Smedley’s, receives reports of Smedley’s public campaign against war, capitalism, and the Roosevelt administration. He orders his publicist to spread the word that General Butler is to be regarded as an unpatriotic crackpot.
On his talks, Smedley sells copies of his new book, War is a Racket. He announces his affiliation with the Socialist Party and subscribes to the paper “Socialist Appeal.” He dies at the age of 59 of pancreatic cancer. At his large, outdoor funeral, all of his failed assassins are present. They weep. The Cuban rebel from Smedley’s first posting is there as well, mourning with the others.
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OUR STORY OPENS when Pearl Cleaver, a young housewife in South Carolina, stabs her abusive husband in the eye with a knitting needle and flees to the coast. At the same time, George, a black slave, escapes from a plantation after beating his overseer unconsciousness. He and Pearl meet and make friends outside a grog shop frequented by sailors and pirates. They enter and, after they demonstrate their mettle against some bullies, are recruited by Captain Eddie and his pirate mates.
One year later, Pearl has earned the rank of Gunnery Captain on the Happy Dog, a three-masted, square-rigged, twenty-gun post ship that flies a skull-and-crossbones flag as it sails through Caribbean waters. George has been promoted to First Mate by Captain Eddie, who leads the Revenge, a 36-gun frigate of the British Navy, on a merry chase. The Happy Dog suddenly ambushes the frigate, commanded by Captain Blackburn. Pearl and her gun crew shoot the frigate’s rigging to pieces, allowing the Happy Dog to escape. Enraged, Blackburn vows revenge. The international crew of the Happy Dog entertain themselves with song, dance, and salty language. Joyce, the Captain’s wife, is jealous of Pearl. The ship puts in at Devil’s Bay for provisions. On a short walk with Eddie, Joyce sniffs a curious black flower. Back on board and under sail, while the officers decide where next to prowl for treasure, Joyce’s head explodes. A hideous many-legged creature springs from her bloody neck and scurries down a hatchway into the hold.
Mysteriously, the sails go slack and the ship sits motionless in the water, far from any shore. After three days of mourning, Captain Eddie leads an armed party of ship’s officers into the hold to kill the monster, which by that time has grown into a black man-sized demon. The monster stabs Eddie and bites off his head.
Topside, officers and crew are in a state of complete panic. Even First Mate George is so shaken, he’s helpless. Only Pearl keeps her head. She has to threaten Frenchie, her gunnery assistant, to keep him and others from escaping in the longboat. Pearl vows to retrieve the captain’s body for a proper burial. With a small armed party, she does just that, but loses a crew member to the monster in the process. Since the monster inhabits the deepest hold where the water and supplies are stored, they have no choice but to hunt it down and kill it. That night the monster terrorizes the crew, which prompts Frenchie to challenge Pearl’s leadership. She backs him down in a fight with cutlasses. She arms and leads the entire crew as they scour the ship fore and aft. They finally use smoke to force the monster off the ship and into the becalmed ocean.
The monster swims out of musket-shot, taunts the crew, and waits for dark. Pearl uses one of the ship’s heavy guns to blast the monster to pieces, at the same moment that Morgana, the ship’s quartermaster, performs voodoo on it. The shape-shifting monster then inhabits a heavy cannon that Frenchie forgot to immobilize. A sudden storm turns the sea into a boiling cauldron, transforming the loose cannon into a malevolent animal that chases and threatens to kill anyone who gets in its way. It rules the gun deck, crashing against the wooden hull and threatening to sink the ship. The irascible cook loses a foot to the monster. Pearl and Frenchie finally manage to stop and immobilize it. After a short trial, Frenchie is forgiven and Pearl is elected Ship’s Captain. She chooses George as her First Mate.
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OUR STORY OPENS 10,000 years ago in Anatolia during a regular full moon fertility festival sponsored by nomadic forager-hunter clans. Val, 20, and her younger brother Droo, sedentary farmers of the Digger Clan, are guests. After a wild night of sex and an exciting hunt the next day, they return to Friendship Valley and resume root farming. Some months later, Val suffers her third miscarriage as a result of her arduous work in the field. She runs off to live with the nomads, leaving her home and clan. There, she makes friends and learns many new skills. After a few years, a massive drought devastates the region. Val returns to the valley to find that starvation, murder, and cannibalism are commonplace. The wheat and barley farmers are the only tribal clans with stored food. Jok, 30, male, hero of the Wheat Clan, becomes the de facto chief of the whole Tribe.
Jok takes a liking to Val, making her his favorite lover. The rains return and the farming community thrives once again. Val gives birth to Jok’s son “Sol.” Jok identifies with Sol and sees his son as the heir to his wealth and power. Thus, Val acquires high status in the tribe. Greed and favoritism take hold however. When an unwise decision to cultivate a dangerous field leads to several deaths, many farmers revolt against Chief Jok’s authority. Val takes up their just demands, to distribute the stored wheat and barley evenly among all individuals, and to democratize all decisions regarding the tribe, like it was before. Jok and the elite leadership decide to divide the farmers down the middle, to better control them. Men will receive more food and privileges than women. Many women protest. Val and the protesters are severely beaten into submission. Val and Sol become Jok’s “property.” More tribal greed leads to a brief “war” with a neighboring tribe. Val, along with all women and field workers, are forced by the threat of violence to accept their lower status in the tribe. In spite of that,
More tribal greed leads to a brief “war” with a neighboring tribe. Val, along with all women and field workers, are forced by the threat of violence to accept their lower status in the tribe. In spite of that, Val displays her skills in math and painting. Being Jok’s consort, she has plenty of leisure time to create a beautiful pictorial history of her Friendship Tribe, for which she and Chief Jok receive high praise from tribal members.
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OUR STORY OPENS in 1865 during the final days of the American Civil War. Hatchet Jack West’s Confederate infantry squad is ambushed by a Union patrol led by Willie DeVoss. Willie smashes Jack in the face with the butt of his rifle and leaves him for dead. Six years later, Jack, a Texan cowboy working in Omaha, feels remorse over his participation in a war that defended the institution of slavery. He discovers the exciting developments in France regarding the Paris Commune. Willie, a professional gambler, shoots and kills a young, wealthy New Yorker in a poker game and flees to Omaha where his uncle lives. Two private detectives hired by the dead man’s father pick up his trail. In a saloon, Jack recognizes Willie and smashes his face with a beer mug. They fight, but become fast friends. They take the new Intercontinental Train to San Francisco to join Jack’s sister Helen, but find she and her husband Paladino have moved on to Los Angeles. Jack and Willie share the southbound stage with O’Shea, a fomenter of Chinese hatred, and Sam, a Chinese-American. The detectives follow.
In lawless Los Angeles of 1871, Jack and Willie help Helen with her new business, a steakhouse and saloon. They meet Paladino, her employees, Jose and Pierre, and Jack’s Uncle Henry, a publisher of a daily newspaper. John introduces Willie and Jack to his uncle, Doctor Wang, and Wang’s daughter, Mei-Li. Wang advises Willie to organize baseball in Los Angeles as an outlet for his post-war trauma. Jack and Mei-Li connect romantically. Willie receives word that the detectives are after him. He, Jack, and Jose ambush the detectives and kill them. Paladino sacrifices himself in the process. On the same night, O’Shea leads a lynch mob that murders nineteen Chinese Immigrants in the heart of the city. Jack and Willie join a posse to hunt down the perpetrators. Sam executes O’Shea privately. The steakhouse/saloon becomes a big success. Willie and Helen become an item. Jack writes a fake account of the death of the detectives and Willie. Uncle Henry prints it and sends the single issue with the detectives’ badges to the detective agency in New York, in order to close the case. A pickup baseball game attracts a large crowd of spectators, and ends in a noisy argument over a disputed call at home plate.
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OUR STORY OPENS when a little girl, Maryam, returns a lost puppy to a grateful little boy, Yosef bar Havel.
Years later, teenager Yosef leads his younger brother Shelomoh and some friends on several errands of malicious mischief in and around their hilltop village and adjacent city of Sepphoris. Yosef is angry at being told what to do “all the time,” and strikes out at whatever bothers him. His parents are totally frustrated with him. Living in Sepphoris, teenager Maryam causes her own parents headaches by refusing all suitors as undesirable for marriage. They decide to send her for the summer to live with relatives in the village. Yosef and Maryam meet by chance and fall in love. But since their families maintain an old and bitter feud, each is forbidden from ever contacting the other. The Roman army sweeps through the province in response to a rebellion. They destroy Sepphoris along with Maryam’s immediate family. The Romans are about to do the same to the village until Yosef’s foolish bravery appears to back them off. As a result, villagers hail Yosef as “Our Savior.” The village headman Eleazar informs Yosef that if he makes everything right with all the neighbors and family members he has wronged, he might have a chance of winning the favor of Maryam’s family. Yosef’s subsequent and hilarious labors impress everyone. He and Maryam become engaged.
Envious and unhappy, Shelomoh is blamed for the accidental death of Shem, his secret lover and Maryam’s cousin. The engagement is broken off in no uncertain terms. Maryam buys poison for herself. Yosef considers “suicide by soldier.” A Greek soothsayer tells superstitious Maryam about a plan to make everything all right. Members of both families work to rebuild the bakery in Sepphoris that Maryam’s family had owned and operated before they were murdered. Maryam’s wheat-farming family in the village begins to make money again. They are thrilled with Yosef. The engagement is restored. Maryam and her family and friends enter the home of Yosef and his family. One hundred villagers feast and celebrate the marriage of Yosef and Maryam. Late that night, Maryam informs Yosef that she is pregnant with their son, whom she will name “Yeshua.”
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OUR STORY OPENS in 218 BCE, with the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca overseeing a morning massacre of a Gallic army, whose failed purpose was to prevent his army from crossing the Alps and entering Roman Italy. That afternoon, a huge Roman army led by two brothers, Publius and Gnaeus Cornelius, arrive in Marseille too late to stop the invasion. Publius’ cocky teenage son, Scipio, and his best friend Decimus, both military Tribunes, believe themselves far more modern and clever than their elders. The two generals decide to send half the army to Spain with Gnaeus, to cut off supplies and reinforcements for Carthage, while Publius will race back to Italy with the rest of the army, Scipio and Decimus in tow.
Hannibal sits on his horse at the top of an Alpine pass, staring down into Roman Italy. He recalls the implacable hatred for Rome instilled in him and his two brothers by their father. Hannibal loses half of his army during the treacherous winter descent, as he predicted. They finally reach a green valley in Northern Italy and make camp. They count their losses and recruit a local Gallic tribe who bears a grudge against Rome. The Carthaginians then make a bloody example of the Gauls of the city of Turin, who refused to render assistance. They send the Gallic leader’s head in a box to Rome, causing widespread panic with the senators and people. The war hawks overrule the moderates in the Senate and decide to fight Hannibal with a total mobilization of forces. Hannibal’s soldiers drill while a dozen Gallic tribes pay their respects to him and offer their loyalty and assistance. Publius leads his army to the River Ticinus, makes camp, and prepares for battle. Young Scipio brags that he will be the one to capture Hannibal and lead him back to Rome in chains.
The two armies of mostly cavalry face each other on a flat plain. Due to Hannibal’s tactical genius and poor Roman intel, his forces overwhelm the Romans. During the melee, Publius is wounded in the leg. Fallen from his mount and at the mercy of the enemy, Scipio races to his aid and saves his father’s life. Now, Gallic tribes flock in droves to the winner’s camp to offer friendship and assistance. Many Gallic allies desert the Roman camp. Publius stops Scipio and Decimus from executing their incompetent Chief of Intelligence. They leave their camp in haste. The Carthaginian detachment charged with catching them loots the Roman camp instead. Hannibal orders the officer responsible to be executed “by elephant.”
The famous Roman general Tiberius, followed by his two young tribunes Marius and Cato, strides into the Roman Senate to thunderous applause. He promises to lead his army north and kill Hannibal. Scipio and Decimus sit in their campaign tent on the River Trebia, discussing Greek philosophy, wine, and women. Cato and Marius enter. They despise Greek influence. Discussion soon turns to mutual antagonism and family insults. Lifelong enmity between Scipio and Cato is born. Publius and Tiberius discuss the coming battle. Publius wants to fight Hannibal in the spring. Tiberius wants to fight him immediately. Hannibal holds an evening war council and goes over his ingenious plans for the coming battle. In the morning, winter cold forces the feverish Publius to stay in his warm bed. He orders Scipio and Decimus to stay with him. They protest loudly but are forced to obey orders, as the Carthaginians attack the Roman camp. Hannibal leads the overconfident Tiberius and his raw legions right into his trap and annihilates them. Hannibal’s camp loudly celebrates their stunning victory. He promises to conquer all of Italy. Safe in a walled city,
Roman officers eat together in a dining hall. Scipio calls Cato a loser. Cato calls Scipio a coward. They get into a fistfight. The room erupts in a donnybrook. Cato falls unconscious. His comrades charge Scipio with murder.
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OUR STORY OPENS in the verdant basin of the African Sahara of 50kya. A young woman named Red Hawk and her younger half-brother and best friend EverReady, bring food back to the home cave. Next morning, the Wolf Clan travels to Big Bear Canyon, a monthly rendezvous site. Friendly wolves follow from a discreet distance. During the Full Moon Festival, ovulating females seek out the most viral males from other clans while the rest enjoy three days and nights of campfires, feasting, stories, music, dancing, foraging, hunting, making art and handicrafts, childcare, socializing, and of course, sex. Returning from a hunt, Red Hawk saves the camp from a dangerous cave bear. The next day, Grandmother Wolf’s goiter condition dramatically worsens. Believing she is dying, the Wolf Clan panics. Red Hawk, EverReady, and six relatives prepare to search for a famous mountain shaman, who, it is said, has the cure.
The searchers trek through prehistoric jungle, woodland, and savanna, past water obstacles and dangerous animals. Wolves follow them. A pride of saber-toothed cats stalks all of them. The searchers find the shaman and her smallish Crow Clan. The shaman promises help in the morning. They celebrate with food, sex, alcohol, and hallucinogens. The searchers retire to their guest quarters. The saber-toothed cats kill one wolf and chase off the rest. They slaughter the sleeping and besotted members of the Crow Clan. Scarface, the alpha-male saber-tooth, disembowels the shaman and feeds on her corpse. The next day, a red-tailed hawk leads Red Hawk and the others to a forest shrine. On top is a pouch that contains a small piece of dried seaweed and a crude map. The searchers follow the map down to the Mediterranean coast and gather seaweed with the aid and friendship of a Neanderthal clan. Together, they battle and defeat the vengeful saber-toothed cats, except for two. On the searchers’ return journey, they must kill the alpha-female and escape an attack of army ants. Just as they arrive back at the Wolf Clan’s cave, Scarface ambushes and chases Red Hawk through the forest. With some assistance from wolves, she leads him on a merry chase until she lures him over and into a staked pit. At that point, the searchers discover to their chagrin and ultimate mirth that Grandmother’s goiter has disappeared due to her recent penchant for eating fish.
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OUR STORY OPENS late at night in the backwater town of Riberalta, Bolivia. In a small newspaper office, Raul, Chief Editor, sits alone at his desk typing as fast as he can, giggling to himself the whole while.
Reggie Biggerstaff, 25, a native of Pasadena, California, has left the USA to live in Riberalta where he can escape the confines of Prohibition, free to drink as much alcohol as he wants without government interference. He scrapes by as a gambler, a smuggler, and occasional tourist guide.
On a Chicago street corner, Miss Millicent Stanford-Johnson, 25, President of the West Chicago Chapter of the American Temperance League, hands out leaflets to workers, inviting them to a Temperance meeting. At the meeting, she warns that the threatened 18th Amendment overturning Prohibition will ruin the working class. She reads a small item in a local newspaper about a tree in Bolivia whose seeds reportedly turn water to whiskey. She and her Uncle Ezekiel, a gruff war veteran, vow to travel there, find that tree, and destroy it before it destroys the whole world. A Chicago crime boss shows a newspaper photo of Millicent and Ezekiel boarding a ship for Bolivia to Frankie “Toothpick” Garcetti and Knuckles Costello, two of his henchmen, and orders them to follow the pair, stop them, and bring the seeds back to Chicago so he can go legit after alcohol is legalized. On the ocean liner late at night, the two hoodlums casually toss a man who annoys them overboard to his death.
In a hot, noisy cantina, Reggie plays poker with his best friend, Chico Garcia, and other men. After checking in at the newspaper office, Millicent marches into the cantina and finds tour guide Reggie defending himself with sarcasm from a threatened arrest by Sergeant Pedro for “unauthorized gambling.” She pays his fine. In Reggie’s room, she tries to hire Reggie as a guide, having been told that he is the only person who can lead her to the Whiskey Tree. Reggie and Millicent are physically attracted to each other, but soon discover they can’t stand each other. He refuses, saying the tree is a hoax. She is not the sort to take “no” for an answer. Later, she applies her feminine charms and raises her offer. Reggie reluctantly agrees and agrees to her requirement: No drinking! Next morning they leave down river on Chico’s father’s boat with Chico at the helm. Big trouble brews when Millicent starts to empty Chico’s bottles of whiskey into the river. The four argue about alcohol and politics all the way to Blackwater Station.
Once there, Reggie invites two Indian friends, Red Moon and her brother Everready, along on the adventure. The six explorers set off from Blackwater into the jungle, encountering swarms of aggressive flies, ants, and bees, muddy swamps, alligators, piranha, hornets, gangs of tarantulas, troops of furious monkeys, debilitating heat and humidity, sudden rain squalls, and large jaguar paw prints that precede them along the trail. Chico gripes and complains constantly during the whole trip. He hates the jungle. Meanwhile, Frankie and Knuckles, having just arrived in Riberalta, obtain a copy of the “treasure map” and hire a speedboat and guide to take them to Blackwater Station. Around the campfire, Reggie starts to win Millicent over with her favorite snack, roasted peanuts, a food native to Bolivia. Chico shares a bottle of whiskey with Reggie, ruining Reggie’s chances. Ezekiel and Red Moon share a pipe of something. With the rest of the camp asleep, Millicent wakes to the snarling face of a jaguar on the other side of her mosquito net. Reggie suddenly appears, shoots his pistol a few times in the air, and scares off the jaguar. In the morning, Millicent decides that Reggie is her hero, her Tarzan.
Frankie and Knuckles, unluckiest of men, have hired a guide who arranges a jungle ambush with a few associates. Robbed of all their food and other supplies, they are savagely bitten by ants. Further on, sweating and laboring in suits and ties, and after a battle with hornets, One of Frankie’s pants legs is ripped away by an alligator. Frankie and Knuckles must climb a tree to escape army ants. Their suffering is non-stop now.
Millicent sits next to Reggie and shares her cheese. To impress her, Reggie refuses Chico’s offer of a drink. They cross a shallow lake, fighting off some very large snakes. Reggie’s crew finally reaches the place of the “Whiskey Tree” and are informed by the laughing natives that the tree is a hoax. At the full moon fertility festival that night, Red Moon and Ezekiel become an item. Millicent gets drunk on chicha. She and Reggie become an item. They talk about establishing a restaurant back in Riberalta.
Frankie and Knuckles struggle with a constrictor in the shallow lake, and decide to go around the lake—but in the wrong direction. They are captured by a tribe of Amazonian women, who keep them as studs and pets, feeding them delicious exotic foods, giving them massages and all the sex and booze they can handle. The mugs believe they are in heaven. Later, the shrunken heads of Frankie and Knuckles dangle on a string in the window of an Amazon’s hut. Reggie, Millicent, and the others fix up a new restaurant in Riberalta. Around a large dinner table, everybody toasts the announcement of Millicent’s pregnancy, and the grand opening of their restaurant which they name “Peanuts.”
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OUR STORY OPENS four years into the Great Depression, when coal driver Farrell Dobbs, 26, meets Grant, one of the famous—and infamous—Dunne brothers. They agree that their wages are too low to support their families. Grant persuades Farrell to attend a union meeting. With the support of Bill Brown, President of Teamsters Local 574, and over the opposition of the union’s business agent Cliff Hall, the Board of Directors agrees to admit Farrell and Grant to membership, and to hold a membership-wide meeting to draw up a battle plan for the union. In a rancorous confrontation with Minneapolis coal bosses, Bill Brown demands union recognition, collective bargaining, a closed shop, a livable wage, shorter hours, premium pay for overtime, improved working conditions, and job protection through a seniority system. He is hooted out of the room.
Over a meal of rice and beans, Farrell tells his wife Marvel about Cliff Hall’s successful effort to forbid a strike. The couple reckon that a huge meeting of all coal workers in the city will be the next step.
Encouraged, the union membership votes to strike. All coal traffic, in the dead of winter, is shut down citywide the next day. Under pressure, the bosses promise to give in to the demands. The members vote to return to work, although warned by Miles Dunne not to trust the bosses or the government. Miles invites Farrell to a private meeting of fellow communists. Farrell is impressed and begins his study of Marxist theory. He is asked to be part of the strike organizing committee. At the next membership meeting, Farrell encourages the union to organize the entire trucking industry in Minneapolis. He and another union member infiltrate an angry meeting of the Citizens Alliance, the ruling class of the city. The bosses vow to defeat the union. Meanwhile at the Teamsters International Headquarters in Indianapolis, President Tobin is furious that a “bunch of Trotskyist troublemakers” have taken over Local 574 without his permission.
Farrell attends a meeting of the local branch of the “Communist League of America,” led mainly by the Dunne brothers and a tough Swede named “Skogie.” The branch, backed by the CLA national headquarters in New York, announce their enthusiastic backing of the upcoming strike. Skilled workers and farmers from the entire region come together to prepare an impressive strike headquarters. All trucks entering the city without a special union pass are refused entry. All trucking companies are picketed and shut down. The Citizens Alliance is outraged. They pressure the mayor and police department to crack unionists’ heads, which only serves to mobilize thousands of fence-sitters as strike supporters. Violent confrontations between cops with their hired thugs and striking workers multiply. Unionists, tired of being beaten, fashion their own home-made defensive weapons. Strikers beat and chase the cops from the main square. Nationally, newsreels in theaters show the cops getting the worst of it, to cheering audiences. The union now owns the streets of the city. The bosses beg for a meeting.
The ”meeting” turns out to be a trap, narrowly escaped by the union leadership. Due to heavy activity, the executive committee appoints the three Dunne brothers, Skogie, and Farrell as full-time staff. The Citizens Committee decides to pressure employers to not cooperate with the union. Marvel and Clara Dunne organize the newly-formed Women’s Auxiliary for fund-raising and other assistance for the strikers. A huge strike rally is held one evening. Both Tobin and the Citizens Alliance are outraged that the CLA plays such a central role. The union publishes and distributes its own newsletter, “The Organizer.” Under pressure to “restore law and order,” the cops descend on a sizable labor action with shotguns. Many are injured, one killed. The police try to invade strike HQ but are chased off. A huge march down the main street honors the driver who was martyred.
The CLA cautions against arming strikers with guns. The membership reluctantly agrees. Farrell uncovers a police agent provocateur, who is soon sent packing. Governor Olson calls out the National Guard and thinks to end the strike, referring the matter to a federal mediator. The military occupies strike HQ and arrests several leaders. Strikers continue to enforce the citywide walkout anyway. Forty-thousand attend a boisterous outdoor strike meeting. The National Committee of the CLA urges the strike committee to soldier on, in spite of financial hardships. Governor Olson receives a phone call from President Roosevelt, who insists that the union be recognized, since an election is coming up and his ally Olson with the Farm-Labor Party will lose votes if his state capital is still under martial law. Troops are withdrawn. The bosses give up. Truckers return to work and vote for Teamsters Local 574 to represent them. At a massive outdoor post-strike meeting, Farrell announces “We won!” to thunderous applause.
In a brief scene in the middle of end credits, the leaders of the Citizens Alliance discuss further dastardly plans to try to defeat the union.
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Minneapolis, MN 1933
OUR STORY OPENS in a lady’s bedroom. The captain’s wife is making passionate love with Simplicius, 20, good looking, charming but cynical, and deadly with a sword. The captain in full military uniform walks in unexpectedly. Simplicius dresses while he fast-talks the captain, who then wrestles Simplicius almost out the open window. The captain falls instead two stories to his death. Simplicius flees. Yeager, 40, the local provost marshal, sits across from the captain’s widow and interrogates her. He accuses her of adultery. Tortured and threatened, she agrees to walk through town with them and help identify Simplicius. They find Simplicius in a tavern surrounded by friends, who help block and delay his pursuers. He escapes out the back, steals two apples from a fruit stand, and presents them to a grateful Ursula at her place. He decides he’d better get out of Prague quick for his health.
On the way out of town, he stops his horse to look at the Chancery building. Two high-ranking representatives of the Catholic Hapsburg Emperor and their clerk are tossed by Protestant politicians from a third story window and land in the back of a horse-drawn wagon filled with human and animal waste. Simplicius saves the clerk, Fabricus, from a bloodthirsty Protestant mob. On the road to Vienna, they rob two hateful Protestant pastors of their money and horses, and send them off naked. Simplicius confesses he doesn’t know anything about religion or politics. They reach an inn where, after a nice meal, Simplicius charms the waitress Lotte into bed. Next day, they finally reach Vienna. Both stand before the furious Emperor Matthias and his brother, Prince Ferdinand, and deliver the disturbing news. War is declared. In gratitude, Simplicius and Fabricus are appointed Imperial officers.
Catholic Yeager and his deputies must flee Protestant Prague for their lives. They end up in Vienna, where Simplicius and Fabricus are stationed as infantry officers. During a siege, Simplicius volunteers to lead troops through a breach in the wall, thus conquering the town. Yeager and crew brutally execute a deserter. In the midst of Simplicius’ hero celebration, a boastful and insulting cavalry officer and Simplicius agree to fight a duel. Next morning, the horse soldier charges the musketeer Simplicius, who uses his gun like a club, to bash the horse in the nose. The cavalry officer falls off his mount and dies, pierced in the heart by his own sword.
As he receives a medal from the Colonel on the parade ground, Yeager recognizes Simplicius. Yeager chases and finally corners Simplicius and orders him under arrest. They duel. Simplicius stabs Yeager in the shoulder and escapes once more. Drusilla, 25, hides him in her shop from his pursuers. She and her sister Livilla are secret Satan-worshipping witches who hate all authority. That night, Simplicius enjoys the sexual favors of seven female witches. Drusilla convinces Simplicius to stay with her a while till it’s safe to leave the city. Next day, they smoke cannabis in a secret room, behind a trick bookcase. Yeager meets Livilla in their shop. Snooping around, he wanders in front of the secret door, behind which Simplicius and Drusilla have extinguished the pipe and stand armed and ready. Yeager asks Livilla about the funny smell.
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OUR STORY OPENS in the Jerusalem Temple, 66 CE, with the public assassination of the High Priest by the Zealot Yochanan. What follows are scenes of turmoil and rebellion. The Army of Judea defeats the Romans in bloody battle. During a subsequent government meeting, popular Yosef ben Mattityahu is appointed commander of Jewish forces in Galilee. Yochanan and his followers hate Yosef and oppose him unsuccessfully. The Emperor Nero charges General Vespasian, 57, with the duty of stopping the Jewish rebellion, beginning in Galilee. Vespasian’s son Titus, 30, trains in Egypt with a Roman legion. He and his best friend Drusus receive a summons from the general ordering him to bring his legion to Galilee.
Yodfat, a walled Galilean town of ten thousand, sits atop a hill surrounded on three sides by deep ravines. A saddleback on one side is the only approach to the main gate. Commander Yosef and retinue arrive in Yodfat and, after a warm welcome and a brief prayer, immediately prepare the town for a brutal Roman siege. Yochanan challenges Yosef for leadership. A fight between their followers stops at the news of the approach of Roman cavalry. A tense parley at the gate between Yosef and Vespasian ends abruptly when Yochanan, from the top of the wall, kills a Roman soldier with an arrow. Yosef relieves stress by secretly making love with Leah, Yochanan’s sister.
Titus and Drusus help troops dig trenches surrounding the hilltop and are harassed in the dark by Jewish fighters. Next day, the first Roman ladder assault is savagely repulsed by Jewish defenders atop the walls. Roman ally King Herod Agrippa arrives with his army and Berenice, 40, his beautiful sister. Meanwhile, Yochanan discovers that Yosef and Leah are lovers, and he is furious. To placate him, Yosef assigns Yochanan and his fighters to guard a quarter of the town and its wall. Titus and Drusus lead another failed ladder assault on the walls. Vespasian orders the construction of a ramp, and sends Drusus to the port city to speed up the delivery of siege equipment. Leah and other women attend the sick and injured in the infirmary. Yosef leads a detachment out of the gate and destroys the beginnings of a ramp. Drusus arrives with the siege train. Vespasian is not happy seeing Titus sitting and laughing with Berenice, while the ramp lies in smoking ruins. A second attempt to build the ramp meets with more success, with heavy casualties for the Jews. Yosef’s warriors build that section of the wall even higher in response. While resigning themselves to a long and possibly unsuccessful siege, Berenice, a “mere woman,” informs Vespasian that Yodfat has no spring, only rainwater captured in cisterns. Roman confidence grows.
The Romans, watching from their camp, are dismayed to see smiling Jews hanging their wet washing over the walls to dry in the summer sun. Yosef proposes that he leave Yodfat to gather more forces for its relief. Fearing for their safety, the citizens won’t allow it. Yochanan and two comrades escape in the night. The town suffers continual and dangerous bombardment of boulders from Roman catapults. In early morning darkness, Yosef leads a large detachment of Jewish soldiers to destroy the ramp and much of the Roman camp. Romans build another ramp. With the first use the ram against the wall, a Jew drops a huge boulder that smashes the ram’s head. The second attempt to ram the wall is foiled when the Jews lower puffy sacks filled with cloth and feathers along the wall to soften the blows. Romans bring long poles with hooked blades attached to the ends, which they use to cut the sacks loose. The Jews toss burning pitch on the soldiers and ramp, leaving it a smoking mess. Furious, Vespasian promises to utterly destroy Yodfat and its inhabitants, whatever it takes.
The town structures are nearly all demolished. The defenders are growing panicky from the constant bombardment by Roman artillery. Titus uses the news of a slight arrow wound to Vespasian’s foot to rally the troops and launch a massive attack on the walls with ladders, backed by peltasts. Once again, the Jews pour scalding hot oil on the soldiers and light everything and everybody on fire. The Governor of Egypt offers the Romans aid. Nevertheless, Emperor Nero is very unhappy with the delay. Yosef leads survivors in a prayer meeting, while the new ramp reaches almost the height of the wall. A deserter informs the Romans that guards often sleep in pre-dawn hours. In the dark, Titus and Drusus lead a detachment up a scaling ladder. They climb onto the battlements and pull their daggers. One nearby defender awakes and opens his eyes.
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A recurring opener: Scientists carefully unwrap and read from an ancient scroll.
OUR STORY BEGINS in the village of Nazareth in 6CE, as visitor Ari, 12, and his cousins push Yacov, 9, to the ground. Yacov’s big brother, Yeshua, 10, athletic, charismatic, sees this and knocks Ari down. When Roman soldiers lead a neighbor family away in chains, they chase the soldiers out of their village with rocks and insults. All is forgiven between the boys. The next morning, Ari comes with Yeshua and Yacov as they bring supplies to their friend Amos who lives in a leper colony. The brothers show no fear around lepers. In the assembly hall, the congregation and their religious leader Yitro celebrate Yeshua’s athletic and intellectual achievements. Afterward, Yitro reads a recent prophesy about the coming of the Messiah.
Seven years later, Yeshua, 17, and Yacov pray on a hilltop before practicing martial arts with other male family members. The brothers and their shady Uncle Shelomoh help their father at a building site in the capital city of Sepphoris. Yosef suddenly recognizes his long lost sister-in-law Sarah, Yeshua’s aunt. After fruitlessly bargaining with her two slave masters for her freedom, Yeshua's father Yosef devises a plan to ambush the slavers on the road and free Sarah. Yeshua kills one with his wooden staff. Shelomoh gleefully slits the other’s throat with a knife. Sarah is brought to Nazareth and reunites with her sister, Yeshua's mother, Maryam,, but her identity must be kept a secret. In Sepphoris, Yosef and his sons do some carpentry work for a wealthy Roman lady who treats them like dirt. Sarah, ruined by years of slavery, just wants to die.
Yosef leaves his wife's warm bed early one morning and joins with Yeshua, Yacov and their mule loaded with carpentry tools. They walk to Sepphoris and a work site. In the pre-dawn city, they chance upon two Roman soldiers bullying and threatening a youth caught tagging a store front. When Yosef inquires, one soldier plunges his sword into Yosef's belly, killing him. The two soldiers chuckle and walk away. A meeting of the extended family decides to go through legal channels first. They get nowhere. After the funeral, Grandfather Havel charges Shelomoh, Yeshua, and Yacov with the task of exacting revenge. The three follow the two drunken soldiers out of a pub very late at night and ambush them. They dump the two corpses in a long public vat of urine in front of a fullery, and desecrate them.
In their home in Sepphoris, Roman-hater Shelomoh and his business-minded wife Oprah infuriate his father and mother, Havel and Marta, by declaring they will not accompany the family any longer on pilgrimages to the corrupt Temple in Jerusalem. Yeshua helps organize the village of Nazareth for the long walk to Jerusalem for Passover. All Jews must pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year. When they arrive, Yeshua’s family stays with Uncle Binyamin’s family nearby. In the central marketplace, Yeshua sits with his older friend, Nathan the jeweler. Here Yeshua falls madly for Yochana, 15, under the glare of her wealthy, snobby mother Hypatia and her hateful brother Obadiah, 18.
Grandfather Havel commands a very reluctant Yeshua to accompany him, Binyamin, religious Uncle Aaron and farmer Uncle Amal into the Temple. They have to pay their taxes. Yeshua hates all the evidence of Roman subjugation in and about the Temple, but agrees. All the male family members go together. While waiting in the expansive courtyard, Yeshua challenges a revered religious leader in front of his disciples, regarding the blatant commercialization of the Temple and the religion. When threatened, he throws a Tyrian Shekel at the head of a large disciple, dropping him to his knees. A donnybrook ensues. A mob calls for Yeshua to be stoned to death. Havel and the other relatives hustle Yeshua out of the Temple just in time.
OUR STORY OPENS in the Spring of 1918 in a German bunker in France, moments before the final German offensive of World War I begins. A squad of soldiers breakfasts together. Hans, the thoughtful one, is cheerful and encouraging on the outside, but his hands shake. He and his three best friends, all from Berlin, prepare in their own way: Bruno the iconoclastic reader studies a subversive book; Siegfried the patriotic artist doodles on a scratchpad; and moody Heinrich plays with one of his throwing knives. Finally, over the top they go, achieving a temporary victory against the enemy. Very soon, however, the four comrades are captured and interned in a POW camp in France, where they must take precautions against an outbreak of the Spanish Flu.
Miriam and her best friend Sophie, both 18, learn that the war is over. Miriam’s reads a newspaper of the KPD (Kommunist Party of Deutschland) proclaiming the new Soviet Republic of Germany. She has a chance encounter with the famous revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, who encourages her to join the KPD. Gretel, 33, sits in her bedroom in Bavaria crying over the death of her soldier husband. Witnessed by her teenage son Milo, she erupts in screaming fury, destroying every object in the room except the photo of her war hero husband.
On account of his art, Siegfried is released from detention early. Despondent, he returns to his family farm near Berlin, where he seriously considers suicide. On the long journey back, Hans, Bruno, and Heinrich dread what might await them on their return. After their farewells at the train station, Bruno robs and murders a wealthy gay comrade he has previously blackmailed. He gives the money to his loving mother, greets his prostitute sister, and nearly kills his drunken, abusive stepfather. Hans returns home to his sister Lotte and their ailing mother. He hides his hands and tells lies about how easy everything was, so they won’t worry. Heinrich, the reluctant “war hero,” reluctantly comes downstairs to eat with his middle class family, all supporters of the new socialist (SPD) government, where he meets their guest Sophie, Miriam’s friend. They strike up a friendship.
Siegfried joins the Freikorps, a right-wing militia of veterans, as they execute workers accused of being “kommunists and traitors.” Depressed Heinrich is refused permission to purchase opium at a Chinese herbal pharmacy and almost murders the doctor’s son in a rage. Bruno plays poker at a KPD clubhouse. Miriam, appalled and disgusted, watches him bully everyone.
In 1923 Berlin, Miriam on a streetcorner sells KPD newspapers highly critical of the SPD government. Hans and Siegfried working in construction decry the outrageous inflation ruining their wages and decide to rob a jewelry store and burglarize a wealthy house. Hitler leads Brownshirts in his failed “Munich Putsch.” Before they are dispersed by the police, Gretel runs out and gives Hitler a kiss on the cheek. Afterward, she talks to her imaginary husband, just before entering the local fascist headquarters.
In 1924, Milo, who wears the swastika, and four thugs ambush and beat Hans and Lotte, putting her in the hospital. Bruno visits with flowers. Bruno persuades Hans to come to a KPD meeting. This is where Hans meets Miriam. She takes Hans to her place. They talk and fall in love. They disagree about Bruno, however. Hans, Bruno, and other communists invade fascist HQ and beat up the Nazis, including Milo. While Siegfried the struggling painter and Hans work together on a construction project, Milo identifies Hans to Gretel, who also takes note of Siegfried. Hans and outspoken Miriam arrive at Heinrich’s place for dinner. Sophie sits with Heinrich and Bruno sits with barmaid Flora. Siegfried sits with Gretel who has recruited him to fascist ideology. Political differences become heated. Miriam, a Jew, hates Gretel. Bruno and Siegfried come to blows, while Gretel flirts openly with all the men. A week later, Hans and Miriam arrive at their apartment which has been trashed by fascists. Hans and Miriam commit to fighting fascism.
In 1927 a huge street protest by KPD, SPD, and Centrists takes place against unemployment and for working class rights. Bruno shows up with Helmut, not knowing Helmut’s a Nazi infiltrator. Hans, Heinrich, and Bruno wonder where their pal Siegfried is. In a KPD meeting. Stalin has proclaimed the SPD and the half of the working class it represents to be “social fascists.” Bruno, Helmut, and the majority agree. Hans, Miriam, and a few others of the Left Opposition who disagree are ejected from the meeting and the Party. Hans is physically barred from the KPD clubhouse by Bruno and Helmut.
Sophie who has a government job worries about Heinrich’s drug addiction and knife play around their small daughter. In response to the Wall Street Crash of 1929, huge crowds of KPD and SPD protestors clash in the streets. Siegfried leads a gang of Nazis who invade the KPD clubhouse. He shoots Bruno in the shoulder. Bruno runs out into the street. Milo jumps out of Gretel’s car, chases after Bruno, and is killed in traffic. Joseph Goebbels comforts Gretel at the graveside. Privately, she promises her dead husband she will have revenge.
Miriam receives a letter from her cousin, an aide to the exiled Leon Trotsky, encouraging them to schedule and promote meetings that seek to unite KPD and SPD workers against the fascist threat. Bruno and Rex strongarm a store owner for KPD protection money. Siegfried leads a Nazi street demonstration, followed soon after by a national vote. Hans and Miriam recruit workers to a meeting that promotes anti-fascist unity. Nazis threaten them and are violently defended by throngs of workers. Gretel climbs into a two-story building and aims a sniper’s rifle at Bruno as he exits his apartment. At the last second, she kills his mother instead. When she aims at Bruno, the rifle jams. Bruno climbs the stairs and finds a photo of Milo, while Rex meets Gretel at the back of the building. She shoots him dead and escapes. Helmut the Nazi infiltrator is discovered and beaten to death by Bruno and his Stalinist thugs, who almost catch Gretel and Siegfried at the train station on their escape to Bavaria.
In 1931, signs of poverty and discontent are everywhere evident, titanic street battles between Nazis, Socialists, Stalinists, and cops. Hans, Sophie, and Miriam try to convince the top Socialist leader to unite with the KPD against the Nazis. When he refuses, Miriam’s sharp tongue burns that bridge. Hans is despondent over the Nazi’s electoral win. Miriam suggests a meeting with the KPD bigwig. Hans and Heinrich corner him in a restroom stall and “enlighten” him. They barely escape the restaurant with their lives.
In a street battle, the Stalinists beat the crap out of the Nazis. Hitler’ party begins to lose popularity just before the 1932 election. A Berlin meeting of desperate capitalists decides to appoint Hitler Chancellor as soon as possible, to prevent the working class from possibly uniting and carrying through a socialist revolution. Knowing this, Hans and Miriam decide to join Trotsky in exile and continue the struggle. They barely escape Gretel and her fascist friends at the train station. Bruno is killed by Gretel’s firing squad. Sophie, the Socialist bureaucrat, is arrested, hooded, and hauled off by the police. Gretel, Siegfried, and several Brownshirts corner her husband Heinrich. He throws a knife into Gretel’s mouth while she’s threatening him. Siegfried and his Nazi thugs beat Heinrich to death.
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