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The Parallax View (1974)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Parallax View (1974)

In Alan J. Pakula's post-Watergate political conspiracy film that paralleled the JFK assassination to some degree and was made during the Watergate era - with the tagline "As American as Apple Pie":

  • the opening assassination sequence, when prominent US Senator Charles Carroll (Bill Joyce) from California (and aspiring Presidential candidate) was delivering a speech ("I've been called too independent for my own good") in a room atop Seattle's Space Needle on Independence Day - and was gunned down; there appeared to be two red-jacketed waiters with guns, both employed to help cater the event, involved in the murder; one of them (who seemed to be set up) closer to the podium was chased to the roof, where he was wrestled by three men and rolled off to his death, while the second waiter - the real assassin (Bill McKinney) further back was unnoticed; among the many witnesses to the assassination was TV newswoman Lee Carter (Paula Prentiss)
Senator Carroll Before Assassination
The Real Killer: The 2nd Waiter (Bill McKinney)
  • after the murder, a government commission, the Carroll Commission, investigated the case for four months and held nine weeks of hearings; it declared the killing the work of a "lone gunman" - who was identified as waiter Thomas Richard Linder (Chuck Waters), with "no evidence of any wider conspiracy, no evidence whatsoever"
Joe Frady (Warren Beatty)
Lee Carter (Paula Prentiss)
Carter Dead
  • three years later, newswoman Lee Carter visited her colleague - rogue investigative newspaper reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) who was also there the day of the assassination, and was often accused of "creative irresponsibility" - making news rather than just reporting it; Carter expressed fears that six of the witnesses to Carroll's death (out of eighteen) had suspiciously died in accidents; she was terrified that she was next: "Somebody's trying to kill me...These people were killed. And whoever killed them is going to try to kill me"; soon after, Carter was dead - of a suspicious drug overdose
  • the tense sequence when Frady visited the town of Salmontail where one of the witnesses, Judge Arthur Bridges, had died of a fishing accident there; Frady found himself threatened by Sheriff L.D. Wicker (Kelly Thordsen) who attempted to drown him at a dam by opening the dam's floodgates while holding a gun on Frady fishing in the water; the tables were turned and the Sheriff was the one to drown; in the Sheriff's house in a drawer, Frady found evidence that the Sheriff had been recruited by the shadowy Parallax Corporation in Los Angeles
  • the scene of Frady conferring with Senator Carroll's former aide Austin Tucker (William Daniels), who believed there was a conspiracy; during the visit, a bomb blast exploded the aide's boat - Tucker was killed, while Frady was believed dead; going undercover ("I'm dead and I wanna stay that way for a while"), he assumed an alias name ("Richard Paley"), and was contacted for recruitment to Parallax by Jack Younger (Walter McGinn)
  • Frady's obsessive pursuit of a possible conspiracy about political assassination ("Who's ever behind this is in the business of recruiting assassins") and his recruitment into the organization as a disaffected political assassin - with unforeseen consequences
  • the memorable six-minute sequence in the middle of this film - a 'brainwashing' montage-collage of non-verbal images (juxtaposed with white-on-black words such as "Love," "Mother," "Father," "Me," "Home," "Country," "God," "Enemy," and "Happiness") that functioned as a psychological test for Frady by the shadowy Parallax Corporation; words were repeated, the tempo increased, and the images became more violent
  • Frady's gradual awareness that he was being framed and set up by the company to take the fall for another similar assassination - this time the murder of Senator George Hammond (Jim Davis) in a convention hall during a dress rehearsal for a political rally, with a planted shotgun; Hammond was shot as he drove himself in a cart away from the podium; at Frady's feet was a planted, unused gun, and as he fled from the scene, people saw him and assumed that he was the assassin: "There he is!"
  • when Frady ran for the door exit, he was gunned down by a blast from a shotgun pointed at him by the real unseen assassin (Bill McKinney) - the same Parallax assassin responsible for the attempted murder of Senator Cunningham, and the murders of Senator Carroll, Bill Rintels, Senator Hammond - and probably many others
  • the ultimate official conclusion of The Hammond Commission (as it did at the film's opening), after an investigation of six months and 11 weeks of hearings - Frady was blamed for killing both Senators Carroll and Hammond

Death of the Framed "Killer" at the Space Needle

Report of the Carroll Commission

Sheriff's Attempted Drowning of Joe Frady in Salmontail

The Parallax Institute in Los Angeles

Boat Blast Killing Austin Tucker

Brainwashing Montage

Bill Rintels' Killer - the Parallax Assassin

Murder of Sen. Hammond in Convention Hall - Blamed on Frady

Planted Shotgun

The Gunblast That Killed Frady


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