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Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Agency (released in 1980) - Starring Robert Mitchum, Lee Majors, Saul Rubinek and Valerie Perrine

Also known as Mind Games, The Agency is a 1980 Canadian political thriller. It is directed by George Kaczender. The film finds inspiration from the novel by Paul Gottlieb. It was shot on location in Canada. Lee Majors plays Phillip Morgan (a copywriter in an advertising firm - Porter & Stripe). An anonymous millionaire – Ted Quinn (played by Robert Mitchum) buys out the firm, and flushes out old blood with new, not meaning to reduce the head count at the firm, as just as many are hired, that too of the sort who aren’t the ad-mad type, they’re in fact operatives for furthering political beliefs.
The film deals with the controversial subject of the unprincipled usage of the media by political and corporate barons to achieve their own end. Morgan realizes that Quinn is using the firm to line his own pockets by selling just about any product - from formula for kids to drain cleaners! All the while, it is Ted’s vitiated goal to actually ‘sell’ politicians’ images and warped dreams to consumers by lacing the advertisements with subliminal messages. As the audiences respond to these ads, not only would they increase corporate sales, but also give a boost to the evil designs of politicians and power brokers who remain unelected.
When a commercial writer Sam Goldstein (played by Saul Rubinek) and Morgan’s friend confides in the latter that something seems amiss, and in fact the firm is being misused - Phillip thinks he’s just being a little paranoid. However, Sam’s untimely and mysterious death change Morgan’s mind - he gets hold of an audio that the man recorded before he died. This discovery makes him a man on the run throughout the length of the film as Morgan is hunted high and low by Quinn’s men.

The basis for the film is its controversial premise that advertisers use subliminal messages to induce consumers to buy their products - this is an idea that social critic and journalist Vance Packard alludes to in his book The Hidden Persuaders. Quinn is hoping that the subliminal messages he’s planting will sway the viewers’ choice towards the politician he favors - a pro Nazi, anti–Semitic type who, if he gets elected as President of the US, will lead the way to a glorious future, or so Ted is inclined to believe. Apparently, Quinn is an old hand at this sort of thing - having helped out a fellow in Arizona get to the US Senate. With the help of his love interest Brenda (played by Valerie Perrine), a doctor, Phillip Morgan is able to unearth that a message which was placed under a deodorant commercial, was responsible for this key upset in the elections. The man Quinn is totally without scruples as he has stooped to vitiating kiddy commercials as we, with the intention of catching ’em young!
Now this sort of thing was actually capturing the public’s imagination back in the ’80s, the mid and late Seventies were already questioning the sway advertising held over viewer and as result - consumer choices. However potent the subject matter of the film, the film itself was a near -disaster - boring for the most part of it, the movie is a soufflĂ© gone flat! And of course, the entire matter of effectiveness of this kind of subliminal advertising has been questioned a lot in the last couple of decades to the extent that much of it no longer happens.

The Agency (released in 1980) - Starring Robert Mitchum, Lee Majors, Saul Rubinek and Valerie Perrine

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