Original release date: June 14th, 1974
Running time: 102 minutes
Director: Alan J. Pakula
Writer: David Giler, Lorenzo Semple Jr, Robert Towne, Loren Singer (novel)
Cast: Warren Beatty, Paula Prentiss, Hume Cronyn, William Daniels, Anthony Zerbe
Throughout history we’ve seen so many prominent figures become victims to assassinations including Civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. who was killed on April 4th, 1968 by James Earl Ray, and John Lennon who was shot in the back four times by Mark David Chapman on December 8th, 1980.
Within the span of 100 years four American presidents – Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy – were killed at the hands of assassins. While reading these official accounts I always come to the same conclusion; that what’s being told is never really the full story. The strongest case for this is without a doubt Kennedy’s assassination. The Warren Commission set up by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate Kennedy’s murder, much like the 9/11 Commission Report 40 years later, would be rightly criticised for its ridiculous errors, blatant omissions and nonsensical conclusion.
The real task of investigating would fall to citizens; writers, journalists, storytellers and filmmakers who would then be seen as conspiracy theorists for trying to uncover the some of the truth in their work.
The Parallax View is a film directed by Alan J. Pakula and is considered as the second in his Paranoia Trilogy, sitting in between Klute (1971) and All the President’s Men (1976). Its story centres on newspaper reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty). He’s the former boyfriend and colleague of television newswoman Lee Carter (Paula Prentiss) who three years previously had witnessed the public assassination of presidential candidate Senator Charles Carroll (Bill Joyce) at the Seattle Space Needle.
This happens at the very beginning of the film and we see a waiter armed with a revolver being chased and falling off the tower to his death while a second gunman leaves the scene of the crime without being noticed.
After this tense introduction we then learn that a special commission, set up to investigate the senator’s murder, comes to the unlikely conclusion that the gunman acted alone. The story then picks with Lee visiting Joe and telling him her suspicion that there’s more to it that the official report is claiming and that that six of the witnesses to the assassination have died – and she fears she’ll be next. Of course she’s next, and her death – ruled as a drug overdose – is what incites Joe to take her story seriously and continue investigating her leads.
During his investigation, Joe finds out about the Parallax Corporation and that they recruit political assassins, but he also has to watch every step he makes. A sheriff tries to kill him by trapping him in a dam when the floodgates open and later on while interviewing the senator’s former aide, Austin Tucker (William Daniels), on his boat, a bomb explodes.
With everyone believing he’s dead, Joe then poses as a Parallax recruit to gain access to their training base in Los Angeles. It’s here he watches a slide show mixing positive images with negative actions. It’s a long sequence where we’re shown endless images meant to subliminally affect the intended viewer, much like the sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971). Yet with everything he’s uncovering, whomever he tells it makes no difference as they end up being killed.
What Joe doesn’t realise until it’s too late is that he’s playing right into the company’s plan to make their patsy and help put and end to conspiracy theories surrounding the senator’s murder.
The Parallax View, with its intriguing storyline, expert direction by Pakula and outstanding performance by Beatty as the inquisitive reporter, is a film that’s a gem to experience. They don’t make them like this anymore. The scenes take their time to play out, allowing for the atmosphere and tension to reach boiling point and arrive at a climax that leaves us with our jaw hanging open.
Aside from the entertainment factor it’s also a film that sheds some light on how political assassinations might’ve gone down in the past. It’s not the first time I’ve heard about such shady companies that deal exclusively with assassinations and even staged terrorists attacks. It’s also not the first time we’ve seen a Commission set up to subvert witness testimonies and obscure the facts, which leaves us to ask one last question; “Who’s really telling the conspiracy theory?”
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .