Cult Film Corner: The Parallax View

Opening in Seattle in the shadow of the Space Needle, an idealistic and individual US senator celebrates the fourth of July with the public and possibly announcing a campaign for the presidency. About to give his speech atop the tower, the senator is brutally assassinated by one of the waiters, who appears to be working in tandem with another. One quietly makes his way from the scene, while the waiter who pulled the trigger manages to evade capture and takes a running jump off the side of the building. A committee decrees that the assassination was the act of a lone gunman, an obsessed nut, and closes the case.

Three years later, Lee Carter (Paula Prentiss) a paranoid and clearly terrified TV reporter who witnessed the killing firsthand, turns up at her at Joe Frady’s (Warren Beatty) apartment. Joe was also there that fateful day and is also a journalist for a Seattle-based paper. Carter says that somebody is trying to kill her and shows Frady evidence of six other people dying since the assassination. He dismisses her and sends her on her way. The next day she’s in the morgue having died of a drug overdose.

Frady takes up the investigation and his first port of call is a small village where a judge had drowned while fishing. The local police force don’t take kindly to his questions and try to kill him. Joe escapes, and snooping around the police officer’s house, he discovers some forms for the Parallax Corporation…

 The Parallax View was released in 1974 at the very height of the Watergate scandal and is very clearly a film of those tumultuous times, coming hot off the decade that saw the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, the third of which the film clearly echoes in the opening. The Parallax View is the second part of director Alan J. Pakula’s Political Paranoia trilogy, the first being 1971’s Klute and the third being 1976’s All The President’s Men (which dealt directly with the Watergate affair), and it follows a journalist’s investigation into the Parallax Corporation, a shady organisation that seemingly deals in political assassinations.

The Parallax View is a very enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. It’s a very taut thriller that never bores. Of particular delight is a scene is set on a plane where there may or may not be a bomb. Joe has to come up with an ingenious way of warning the cabin crew without drawing attention to himself. It’s butt-clenchingly tense. Warren Beatty is brilliant as Frady in the central role, not giving in easily to paranoia but remaining strong, and of course he’s always charming. The film is beautifully and inventively shot too and is never anything less than a joy to look at. Just look at this five minute or so bravura montage sequence in the middle of the picture.

It’s funny, but after this viewing of this film I realised the contradictory nature of the conspiracy believer. Always reluctant to believe that an assassination could be performed by the lone gunman, they back the crusade of the single person fighting to uncover and expose the conspiracy. A film that made me think. Remember when Hollywood made those? No, me neither.

More Reviews:

Troll Hunter

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger

Tron

The Girl With Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Hackers

WarGames

Super 8

Cowboys And Aliens

Swamp Thing

X-Men First Class

The Human Centipede

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

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