I only saw this once also in my early teens, but it never left me, because Michael Parks was good and creepy as the "Messiah" of his little cult. Really, kind of a precursor to the real-life Jim Jones situation. One could see exactly how someone who knew better might fall into his clutches--- he's nice and supportive one minute, seductive the next (very edgy for a network made-for-prime-time-TV in those days!) The other other controversial part was Ellen's family's employment of a deprogrammer (based on a real one), as they were called, to basically pull a reverse brainwashing that didn't look nearly as enjoyable as the Michael Parks character's brand of conversion. In real life, there were lawsuits and questions of First Amendment and Freedom of Religion rights involved. Nowadays, the "cults" seem far more sinister, with their full potential for destruction revealed by Jonestown and others, and the current accusations of abuses by Scientology, etc. However, deprogrammers, for what they were worth, seem to have gone by the wayside long since, as far as "rescuing" and "curing" cultists go. Seems like their methods were co-opted by those Scientologists! I would love to see this old movie again, to discover whether it's still as good as I remember.
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