Hostile Misfit

Considering the confluence of real world events leading to Parallax View’s release, it’s reasonable to deduce an overarching conspiracy. Within years came JFK’s and MLK’s assassinations alongside Watergate. No wonder then Parallax View suggests a hidden corporation, luring in killers to privatize murder.

Conspiracies now exist in an internet cesspool, so Parallax View’s heroic journalist seems unlikely as a protagonist for today’s fringe ideas. But, post-Watergate, Warren Beatty’s Joseph Frady was logical. He’s an outsider, a rebel, but unwilling to just let a story go, even years on from a political candidate’s murder. Parallax View derives an unnerving, tense uncertainty in each scene, brilliant in its use of shadow to visually represent a class of people who do indeed exist in darkness, controlling government and people alike.

Parallax View uses an exhilarating patience

It’s an odd collection of words, but Parallax View uses an exhilarating patience. It has action – a fantastic car chase especially, then an explosion at sea – but simmers for much of its runtime. On board a plane destined to explode, the editing isn’t frantic as Frady tries to alert the pilots. Instead, it’s almost reductive, too calm, and from that, successful.

Parallax View is cautious as to not alert political feelings. The first victim is notably an Independent Congressman, and a broadcaster notes his centered policies. In Parallax View’s world, the relevancy doesn’t lie in a specific party, or merely government. Infiltration into social structures happen even to small town police departments. Absurd to believe any institution at this scale stays hidden, but in this film’s timeline, it’s sensible.

Consider too the masterful title, inset with the journalism angle, always considering another potential truth. While alarmist and even feeding some awful desires among those who need some greater reason for a tumultuous world, there’s little doubt it’s effective. Carefully, Parallax View begins and ends with a Congressional hearing, ominously surrounded by total darkness, as they announce bland findings about two assassinations. Then, potently, note no questions are allowed. The tactic to spin falsehoods first, to let them simmer, makes unraveling the lies more difficult.

Unlikely as Parallax View’s authenticity is, Frady’s ability – no, willingness is a better world – to keep going is a testament to those who do go so far. Fact, inevitably, becomes known because such people don’t let up. Parallax View’s message isn’t that an underground assassin’s society exists, but rather, an aggressive pursuit to expose them will, eventually, verify their plot.


Displaying an accurate, thick ’70s era grain structure, Criterion’s Blu-ray sports a flawless source print. Minus any compression, it’s a transparent transfer. That keeps the stellar mastering unobstructed. Exquisite sharpness props up detail, spectacular in resolving Seattle’s skyline from afar. Images from the city streets preserve the city as it was. Facial detail looks sublime in close, even behind grain spikes.

Brilliant color saturation gives primaries zip and life. Immediately at the start, a parade procession involves incredible red uniforms, vivid but not overwhelming. That continues throughout, a slight – super slight – digital grading visible on occasion. Still, that doesn’t knock down the hue’s intensity.

Losing none of its luster through the years, superb in both contrast and black levels. Strong shadows introduce a minor crush in darker scenes, marginally problematic, and limited in how much shadow detail falls. Gordon Willis’ cinematography purposefully uses smart schemes to keep things hidden in darkness. Brightness emboldens things, hefty and intense.


From a PCM track, the results reveal their age through a general scratchiness. More than tolerable and natural, Parallax View is free from static or popping at least. Thin fidelity keeps range pinched expectedly. A perfectly content vintage audio mix, kept as is.


Alex Cox offers an introduction for 15-minutes, discussing themes and story links to the real world. That’s followed by a 1974 conversation with Alan J. Pakula, running 18-minutes, with another Pakula chat from the mid-90s that almost makes six minutes. Cinematographer Gordon Willis is heard for 18-minutes, then Jon Boorstin for nearly 15-minutes.

The Parallax View
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras


Patiently exposing a too-far reaching conspiracy, Parallax View depicts an uncertain time through what’s now an unlikely hero.

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