07 April, 2009


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It Can't Happen Here is a semi-satirical political novel by Sinclair Lewis published in 1935. It features newspaperman Doremus Jessup struggling against the fascist regime of President Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip, who resembles Gerald B. Winrod, the Kansas evangelist whose far-right views earned him the nickname "The Jayhawk Nazi". It serves as a warning that political movements akin to Nazism can come to power in countries such as the United States when people blindly support their leaders.

In 1936, Lewis and John C. Moffitt wrote a play version, also titled It Can't Happen Here,[1] which is still produced. The stage version premiered on October 27, 1936 in several U.S. cities simultaneously, in productions sponsored by the Federal Theater Project.

A 1968 television movie, Shadow on the Land (alternate title: United States: It Can't Happen Here) was produced by Screen Gems as a pilot for a series loosely based on this book. [2] At the time it was decried by critics (such as TV Guide's Cleveland Amory) as preposterous, since Americans would never allow the events and situations in the film to occur.[citation needed]

Inspired by the book, director–producer Kenneth Johnson wrote an adaptation titled Storm Warnings, in 1982. The script was presented to NBC, for production as a television mini-series, but the NBC executives rejected the initial version, claiming it was too 'cerebral' for the average American viewer. To make the script more marketable, the American fascists were re-cast as anthropophagic extraterrestrials, taking the story into the realm of science fiction. The new, re-cast story was the mini-series V, which premiered on May 3, 1983.[3]

Shadow on the Land (1968) (TV)

Richard C. Sarafian
Sinclair Lewis (novel)
Nedrick Young (writer)
View company contact information for Shadow on the Land on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
4 December 1968 (USA) more
Action | Sci-Fi | Drama more
Patriotic freedom fighters struggle against a fascist dictatorship in a near-future USA. full summary | add synopsis
Plot Keywords:
Unsold TV Series Pilot | Alternative History | Totalitarian Government | Political | Resistance Fighter
Definitely a scary prediction of the Bush Regime's goals more
(Cast overview, first billed only)
Jackie Cooper ... Lt. Col. Andy Davis
John Forsythe ... Gen. Wendell Bruce
Gene Hackman ... Rev. Thomas Davis
Carol Lynley ... Abigail 'Abby' Tyler
Marc Strange ... Maj. Shepherd McCloud
Janice Rule ... Capt. Everett
Michael Margotta ... Timothy Willing
Bill Walker ... Arnold
Scott Thomas ... Felting
Myron Healey ... Gen. Hempstead
Frederic Downs ... Drucker
Jonathan Lippe ... Lt. Allen
Mickey Sholdar ... Paul
Ronnie Eckstine ... David
Sandy Kevin ... Ben
Create a character page for: ?
Additional Details
Also Known As:
United States: It Can't Happen Here (USA) (alternative title)
Parents Guide:
Add content advisory for parents
100 min
Color (Pathécolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 more
Sound Mix:
Screen Gems more
Fun Stuff
As the camera tracks with protagonist, a bookstore in the background displays copies of only one book: "My Struggle" by "The Leader", which is English for "Mein Kampf" by "Der Fuehrer" (Adolf Hitler). more
Maj. Shepherd McCloud: I want to introduce you to a corpse. more

Home of the Free, 17 December 2001
Author: Mark-129 from Essex County, NJ USA

A rarely shown TV movie and series pilot that I have not seen in decades. All I remember is the film revolves around the takeover of the U.S. by a totalitarian authority and the efforts of an underground movement trying to ferment resistance. The film opens with a violent attack on a military base by the underground, leading to one of the most startling results I have seen on television. It was meant to shock the audience, and it did.
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More timely now than in 68, 14 April 2004
Author: weedwarrior51 from Western Washington

This is a movie that needs to be seen by everyone now. A fascist dictatorship takes over the country in an "election" when everyone is scared by events. No longer called the president, he is now "The Leader" (which is what Der Fuhrer means) and has taken emergency powers voted in by a panicked Congress (a la' The PATRIOT ACT) and has created a Gestapo called the Internal Security Force (Homeland Security). People can't pass from one part of the country to another without an internal passport, a la' the old Soviet Union (and the proposed national ID cards now). A small resistance called the Society of Man learns from a patriotic Air Force colonel that the INF is going to launch terrorist attacks to blame on the resistance to take even more control and erode public support for the Society of Man. No wander this movie is never shown on tv and isn't available on VHS or DVD. People would recognize the parallels to todays situation.
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Definitely a scary prediction of the Bush Regime's goals, 14 September 2004
Author: davidemartin from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I saw the movie the two times it ran way back when. At the time, I thought it was a neat parallel world tale and an interesting alternate take on espionage flicks. The notion of a conservative, openly fascistic takeover of the US, shredding the Constitution, and preserving its rule by an internal security force capable of creating hoaxes to turn the public against outsiders.... well, at the time, it sure looked like scifi!

Sadly, we now know better. The film is a chilling, Nostradamus-like tale about Bush/Cheney, Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, and all the rest of the evil that has been foisted upon America these past three years. The climax of the film, in which Internal Security agents plan to commit an atrocity and blame it on the underground, is disturbingly close to something Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Ridge might plan. After all, an "al Quaeda" terrorist attack, "successfully foiled" by Homeland Security forces, would be a powerful propaganda stunt to ensure Bush's election.
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One of the gems that never made a series., 26 February 2005
Author: onelincoln20 from Buena Park, California

A rarely seen gem that hasn't been broadcast in Los Angeles since 1987!! Luckily I grabbed a VHS copy. The plot follows a group of freedom fighters called the Society of Man in their struggle against a fascist government that takes control of the U.S. Fine acting from all the principles, including a young Gene Hackman. It asks a lot of questions about political laziness and expediency. Note: the airport scene at LAX; it almost mirrors the chaos that goes on now with the TSA and their security! Remember this was filmed in 1968! Also the scene at the concentration camp with the freedom fighters and the American Flag is awe inspiring. I wish this film would be released on DVD.
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Sony on the Land, 19 January 2005
Author: Peter Maranci from Woonsocket RI, USA

Chalk me up as another view who saw this movie decades ago, and never forgot it. The parallels to the Bush regime are haunting.

Unfortunately I have it on good authority that this movie will NOT be released on DVD unless an independent company is willing to take it on, a la Shout Factory! and SCTV.

The problem is that SotL probably isn't well known enough. The potential sales are too low. On the plus side, the master film DOES still exist...and there has definitely been an increase in interest lately, thanks to Mssrs. Bush & Cheney.

It has been a long time, but I still remember the final scene, when the flag was raised...the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. What a powerful moment!

A remake would be pretty mind-blowing, don't you think?

I'm rating it a "9", because it has been so long since I saw it. There's a lot that I don't remember.
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\A Tale Forty Years Too Early, 31 October 2006
Author: terryrayhiller from United States

When it aired, "Shadow on the Land"'s premise was barely credible: an unexplained national emergency so terrifies the country that Congress grants the President virtually unlimited emergency powers, which he promptly uses to establish a national security agency charged with hunting down the nation's external and internal "enemies." Soon the country is awash in curfews, traveling papers, checkpoints and managed news. Dissent is unpatriotic and quashed in the name of security and national harmony. In response, a small underground emerges dedicated to revealing the corruption and our loss of freedoms.

Run as a TV movie, "Shadow on the Land" should have done better than it did, and might have made an interesting series had it received better viewer response. Unfortunately, its cautionary message of a fearful America willing to surrender basic freedoms seemed preposterous. Not helping was a fairly plodding script, generally heavy-handed characterizations and an absence of any sense of impending menace or danger.

Still, "Shadow" featured such dependable lead actors as Jackie Cooper, John Forsythe, Gene Hackman, Carol Lynley, Marc Strange and Janice Rule, supported by a strong cast of future character actors including Scott Thomas, Bill Walker and Ken Swofford. All the actors -- Cooper and Hackman especially -- gave solid performances despite the script, which must have seemed something of a fantasy to everyone involved.

While many of the casting decisions were predicable, there was one truly inspired piece of casting that set the show apart: John Forsythe as General Wendell Bruce, head of West Coast security and the resident villain. Setting his likable "Bachelor Father" (1957-1962) persona on its head, Forsythe created a disturbingly complex and believable nemesis: intelligent, dedicated to his duty, sophisticated, articulate and likable, with a ready smile and well-tailored suits. It was truly chilling to watch him, and helped build a case for the type of people who might someday convince us they were only there to "protect" us.

Given the current political and social climate, "Shadow on the Land" was clearly a show forty years ahead of its time . an unusually cautionary tale raised in a television era still dominated by fare such as "Beverley Hillbillies," "Batman," "Death Valley Days: and "Hawaii Five-O." Someone ought to find it in the archives, dust it off, and either run it or redo it; I think we'd be far more willing to believe its vision of America than we were in 1968.

Still, given that same climate, one has to wonder if the show could be done today. The premise strikes far too close to home, and patriotism isn't what it used to be. We've clearly demonstrated that as a people we are now perfectly willing to sacrifice a little freedom for security and safety, just as were the citizens of "Shadow."

On a final minor note, one has to wonder if our Homeland Security folks realize that their eagle logo bears a haunting similarity to "Shadow"'s homeland security agency emblem. If we don't learn from history . even fictional ones . we are somehow doomed to repeat it.
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A Cautionary Tale, 7 March 2006
Author: maddutchy from United States

I saw this movie when it first played on TV. For those who read this who were not conscious in the late '60s it may seem confusing. It was a time of unrest and doubt. People were constantly asked to "trust the government". The makers of the film obviously wanted to remind us to always regard with skepticism those who seek power in order to 'protect us'. Its message was timely then and applies equally to now.

I do not attach its message to any particular political party or persons in office. That would be to make it a matter of partisanship. The film deserves better. Like D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance" it is a movie for all time for freedom loving people. I hope that it comes out on DVD someday. If it does, it should be shown in every classroom in America along with "Intolerance".

Right after the Towers fell on 9/11, I thought of this movie. I hoped that 9/11 would not become our "Reichstag Fire". If you don't know what the "Reichstag Fire" was, LOOK IT UP! Anyone who values Liberty should be aware of that term. By the way, it is used in the movie. Time will tell if 9/11 will be our "Reichstag Fire".

The performances in Shadow On The Land were of high quality and the writing was good. It wasn't the best movie ever made but it did its job well and is worth seeing and sharing. The message is what is important.
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At Least you can see the Shadow, 10 September 2005
Author: charlesblank from United States

The Movie is an excellent story of the emergence of a fascist dictatorship in the U.S.But a greater threat is an covert,evolving surveillance state and a birth of a joint political,military,intelligence,&corporate infrastructure over all areas of America;where a overt police state is a magnet for resistance forces.This group could rule the country without overthrowing the gov't and still maintain due process & civil rights because they control and observe the bureaucracy and agencies of all the government.An public police state would create great resistance while this system is so hidden and dispersed that you would have to spent years clearing out the supporters and any attacks on "suspected" sites would make the underground look like terrorists.To understand about this theory- read " Friendly Fascism".This book scare me to death .
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I only saw it once....., 27 October 2004
Author: remingtonresearch-1 from United States

I saw this movie when I was about twelve and it made a profound impression on me. Coming from a conservative Republican family, it got my wheels and gears turning so that when Watergate happened, I saw the parallels.

In reading the comments, I wondered about a couple of things. While I saw it more than 35 years ago, I remember that the resistance group was called the "Brotherhood of Man" or something similar. Also, the facility that they attacked was a power plant or vital production facility.

I'd be grateful for any insight on these questions, and I too wish it that were available on DVD or VHS.
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Excellent TV movie, 22 December 2003

Author: david holingue from Chicago, IL USA

This is a 1968 made for TV movie which was aired only a few times. It is an excellent science fiction- future history movie with the premise that America has descended into a dictatorship because Americans have voluntarily given up their freeedoms in the face of an outside threat. Now that threat has been eliminated, the people in power seek to keep their power... They are opposed by a secret underground called The Sons of Liberty.

I wish this was available to buy in DVD!

Good for history buffs, 24 July 1999
Author: Michael Grabman from Indianapolis, Indiana

This movie is a great movie for those people who love alternate history. The acting is well done, but many of the sets look as if it were filmed on a closed factory. I hope that someday it will appear on video. If you do like this type of movie then you must read "The Devils Advocate" by Taylor Caldwell it too is about a military dictatorship in the 1960's US.
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A prescient movie, 14 March 2008
Author: Falkenberg2006 from United States

When this film came out, it was decried by both critics and science fiction fans as being preposterous because in America such an event could never happen.

Now the conspiracy theorists say that our current President is ready to have events occur which will bring this movie to a realization.

I have always been surprised that this movie has never come out on tape or DVD as a warning that it COULD happen here.

The movie is flawed in many ways, but having to show id at airports, being screened at airports, on roads, at bus & train stations was unthinkable 40 years ago, yet it has occurred.

Sinclair Lewis was right. We did not learn from his book or take heed the warning of this film.

Politicians once they have power will do anything to keep it, even usurp the Constitution which they have sworn to protect and defend.
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What was fiction then is ????, 9 August 2007
Author: (dnyknot@verizon.net) from United States

I too saw this movie , twice , I was living in Berkely Ca. and was about 20 years old . At the time James Rector had just been killed by the police , we had riots in the street , the weathermen , Black Panthers ,SDS and others , these were our call to unite it never happened , at least not on a scale that the movie suggest . It was almost real ,I remember watching this with my father , both times being the far thinker he was , it made him shiver it was that real . What has happened to this movie , does the government control the movie industry ? .

I wonder if finding a copy of the book is possible ( Sinclair Lewis ) or has that too been banned in the name of Freedom . Soon I will leave this country and go live in another , I know it matters not , all government's are corrupt , or perhaps live in a small town in the mountains . This movie forever changed my life and made me aware of how corrupt and immoral the US really has become.

Will Rogers or mother Teresa never watched this movie .

Any one with a copy please contact me , so I can show my grandchildren that we were warned .

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A very memorable film, 5 February 2006
Author: bcwatson from United States

I too saw this when I was a teenager (I'm almost 49 now). I only saw it once, but I remember enough of it very well. The idea that through apathy or lack of controls, our government could be hijacked from us left a lasting impression on me as a young teen. I remember the resistance movement, the concentration camp, the flag at the end... Now, I'm telling everyone about it in light of the events unfolding in our nation today. People need to pay attention to what's going on... If anyone can provide me with a copy of this movie in any condition, on any media (VHS, DVD, .mpg file) let me know please. Does anyone find it "weird" that you can't find a copy of this anywhere to buy? Not on Amazon or on Ebay?

Very insightful, considering that we are starting to live it, 1 June 2002
Author: Harvey H. Harris from Los Angeles, CA. 90066-3919

I saw this movie on the ABC network movie on Friday night. I was just out of high school. I had always been interested in becoming futurist. Read many books and articles on how our futures will be if we are not mindful. This movie was so in time with the times. Even now if it were should it would makes us so aware of our freedoms and how much we take them as a matter of fact. It had a documentary feel to it. Marc Strange had a troubled feel of a man doing a job that it hated and saw it as being wrong. The powers that be had cut the links that make it answerable to it's citizens. I statement from the "Killers Elite:There is no government any where in the world that gives a damn about the people that it is suppose to service" This movie written before big government got married to high tech is a look into where we are on our way. It was a warning that I have never fail to me mindful of. I highly recommend, hippies where not just trouble makes they saw something that others didn't. If you get a chance rent it, study it, compare it to now, and remember always be mindful.
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Hauntingly close to today, 30 July 2003
Author: Jane G. Beckman (jilara) from San Jose, CA

This film deals with the aftermath of the U.S. being placed under the control of the ISF, the "Internal Security Forces" in the wake of cleverly staged "terrorist" attacks. All it needs is a few more "terrorist" attacks, and the U.S. will be placed under control of a dictatorship , who will root out and destroy the terrorists. Freedom is already lost. All it needs is a few more actions to give total control by the ruling junta. The mission of the freedom fighters is to stop the attempted sabotage of a power plant by the agents of the government. Watch it and get chills.
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A Prophetic Made for TV Movie, 26 January 2006
Author: Indigo00 from Oregon, USA

This is a prophetic made for TV movie (first shown in 1968), particularly in light of current events in the US (2006).

It is basically about a rebel group fighting a fascist government that has taken over the US. The airport scenes are a bit eerie now and the creation of the new federal police force as authorized in the Patriot Act sure looks like the Internal Security Force in the movie.

No wonder this movie as not seen the light of day in years...If you want your paranoia level to go up, watch this movie and think about todays events...

I AM LOOKING FOR A COPY OF THIS MOVIE. Email me at Indigo00@comcast.net.
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The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance, 10 December 2004
Author: temlakos from United States

This film ought to remind everyone that freedom is never a thing to take for granted. I saw this film just once all the way through, and have never forgotten it.


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posted by u2r2h at Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Blogger Darrel said...

Saw this movie when it showed on primetime t.v. - it impressed me then as an addition to "1984" and Big Brother. Hadn't thought about it again until 911 came about and then the absolute reality
of the similarity hit me. I would like to have a copy of the tape or d.v.d..... as I'm sure a lot of people would. I think it should be aired again.

Sat Sep 26, 03:50:00 pm UTC  

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