by Ron Shirtz
Recently by Ron Shirtz: Poor
a small independent film produced in 1981 by Kieth Merril. The movie
suffered limited distribution and play time, allegedly
due to fear by theater owners incurring unwanted attention by the
IRS. It quickly faded into obscurity into local video stores. It
was re-released for a short run in DVD in 2005, and currently is
out of print.
The plot centers
on the IRS applying aggressive auditing methods against Harry Johnson
(Edward Herrmann) and his Aunt Beverly Payneís (Geraldine Page)
to extract back taxes for spurious reasons. At the beginning, Harry
is portrayed as a nice guy with naïve faith in the American
justice system. When the IRS freezes his bank account and confiscates
his auntís large, ramshackle mansion, his aunt Beverly succumbs
to a heart attack in court and dies. Enraged, Harry transforms from
a nebbish sheeple to an avenging agitator. He declares a one-man
war on the IRS. His nemesis is the local IRS director, Ernie Scelera
(David Ogden Stiers).
choice dialogue I transcribed from the movie, regarding property
rights, due process, and unbridled power welded by governmental
hours of getting the run-around with indifferent IRS flunkies, a
frustrated Harry Johnson forces his way into the IRS Director Sceleraís
I sorry to barge in on you like this, but something is happeningÖ"
to his secretary: "Call security."
Iíve been waiting three hoursÖ"
waves his hand for him to be quiet: "I know who you are
Johnson. You where here before."
to speak, but is cut off.
Mr. Johnson, are what we pay for a civilized society. It is the
duty of every citizen to properly report and fully pay his fair
share of that responsibility. Now the measures this office takes
are legal, fair and necessary."
Harry and start to usher him out. "Thereís some mistake
there is a mistake, Mr. Johnson, your cooperation in the Beverly
Payne matter will be very beneficial. Your problems are still little
Beverlyís death, Harry goes to her house. He discovers it padlocked
with an official notice declaring its confiscation by the US government.
Harry finds IRS director Scelera on the front porch.
very sorry about Beverly Payne. I really am."
killing her enough for you people? "
you blame us, I know. But itís not our fault, Johnson. Beverly Payne
frustrated the system. So the system fought back with every" pauses Look
Johnson, people who ram their heads against a wall eventually die.
Privilege of freedom, I guess."
the padlock and chains securing his aunts house confiscated by the
IRS; "This is the privilege of freedom, huh?!"
Harry rips the confiscation notice off the house door.
be stupid! People like Beverly Payne destroy themselves! I came
to offer you a compromise."
This is my property!"
property was illegally transferred in anticipation of debt! Look,
either way it belongs to us."
are wrong! You are wrong!"
do you think this county is about Johnson? Itís about housing, itís
about Education, Defense, Welfare, Medicare, Highways, Social Security
itís about taxes Johnson! She she was a fool!"
Scelera to leave.
the fool, Johnson; Iím the United States Treasury. What are
Ė ". Harry becomes speechless. His face turns red with anger.
He grabs a pipe and chases IRS Director Scelera of the porch.
parting words as he walks away:"You canít beat the United
States government, Johnson. Not in a million years. The taxes will
be paid. We get it one-way. We get it another. But we will get it.
Pauses. Oh by the way, Johnson. Youíre trespassing
scenes later, IRS Director Scelera gives a news conference at a
internal revenue service is the most single import part of the united
States government. There are two million people who file no income
tax returns. So far they have gone unprosecuted, but weĎre going
to change that. The Constitution simply didnít contemplate the requirements
of our contemporary society. Taxes are a part of life and they will
power of the IRS is necessary to insure collections. Some people
insist on fighting against the system. But they only destroy themselves.
Never have we been in complete control of tax affairs than we are
now. We intend to keep moving in that direction. We still have a
few small problems."
eccentric aunt owned a large collection of surplus military items.
Among them is a fully functional WW2 US half track. Harry drives
it to the newscast, and crashes the armored half track into studio.
Exiting the vehicle, Harry places himself in front of the on-air
news camera and speaks to the viewing audience;
have something to say! I declare war on the Internal Revenue
Service of the United States! Iím challenging the right of the IRS
to assess, harass, intimidate, and seize the properties of citizens
without due process! Iím challenging the right of the IRS
to destroy people. People like Beverly Payne. God gave us life,
gave us liberty. At the same time, I sayÖÖto those of you people
trying to keep those same liberties alive, I declare war on the
IRS and all the little men because theyíre tyrants! We Americans
have risen up before tyranny before. And we will rise up again.
In the words of another patriot, Ďwe will gain the inevitable triumph,
so help us God! ĎItís time somebody did something."
in half track and makes his escape back to his Auntís house. Following
a prolonged siege by local and federal authorities, Harry holds
Director Scelera hostage and announces his demands:
"Get back, back! Heís a madman!
no madman. I admit Iím a little angry. Iíve never been more sane,
or seen things more clearly, or understood things so well."
thought you wanted to make a deal?"
want an honest hearing"
got it. I give you my word. I promise."
promise? What are you talking about? Who are you to promise
me anything? Are you a judge? You tried to prosecute me.
Are you going to judge me now too? I want them points
to the TV cameras Ė to judge."
ridiculous, thatís impossible! Thatís illegal!....."
is it!?! A trial by my peers is guaranteed to me by the Constitution!
Is the IRS more important than that?
the IRS above the Constitution of the United States, Mr. Scelera?
pause as the nearby media, National Guard troops, and law enforcement
ponder Harryís statement.
case of Harry Johnson versus the Internal Revenue Service. You can
all see the governmentís case Ė Iím looking right down the barrel
of it. My case is so simple it frightens people like them. With
all their might and all their machinery, rules and confusion, they
never bother with the one fact thatís so simple. Who told them they
could tax us? Who gave them the power to tax us? Did you? I didnít.
Iím not at
war with this country. Iím not particularly against taxes. But when
Mr. Scelera, and his people, thinks they have the right to come
in here and seize my property without due process of law, well something,
somethingís the matterÖ.If I was accused of murder, Iíd have more
legal rights than I would know what to do with. But when the IRS
audits you, they make you think you donít have any rights at all.
They make their own laws. They administer them, they enforce them,
and they prosecute them, and they judge themÖ..All that power in
one place, boy. Hitler wouldíve loved the IRS. So would Napoleon
and Caesar. They would understand it Ė I donít! Government doesnít
have any right to do anything we donít give it. And they are supposed
to protect us from what the IRS is doing Ė in the name of government!
Thatís what this is all about. Thatís all."
I wonít spoil
the ending with more details, except to say the final showdown results
in a conflagration eerily foreshadowing the Waco disaster that would
occur 12 years later.
With the growing
national debt and the expanding Federal government, the message
in Harryís War is still relevant today. Kieth Merril should take
comfort that his little known independent gem was just too far ahead
of its time.
Shirtz [send him mail] is
a transplanted Californian teaching Graphic Communications in Northern
(Not "Upstate") New York. His hobbies include arranging deck chairs
on sinking ships, tilting at windmills, and being fashionably late.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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