Reverend Jim Jones, the priest of an independent church in the South American country Guyana, orders his followers to commit suicide. But not all of them follow him blindly and begin to think on their own.
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René Cardona Jr.
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René Cardona Jr.
Featuring never-before-seen footage, this documentary delivers a startling new look at the Peoples Temple, headed by preacher Jim Jones who, in 1978, led more than 900 members to Guyana, where he orchestrated a mass suicide via tainted punch.
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This horrific dramatization of the Guyana tragedy traces the steps of Reverend Jim Jones, a highly charismatic, but profoundly paranoid clergyman, who after years of evangelism and good deeds, begins his own church in the mid-western United States. When Jim Jones becomes increasingly obsessed with the belief that the CIA is "a wicked enemy" who is out to get him, he emigrates with his congregation to Guyana, where he plans to create a utopia. But Jim Jones' utopia consists of a society where he demands his followers turn their minds, bodies and possessions over to him, one that is rife with orgies, physical violence, mental torture, and sexual abuse of children and adults. Ultimately, Jim Jones' paranoia reaches a fevered pitch that culminates in him taking savage action against his own congregation. Written by
VCI Home Video
Rene Cardona Jnr's attempt to re-create the, at the time, topical Jim Jones cult that resulted in the mass suicide of almost a thousand followers. Stuart Whitman plays the megalomaniacal cult leader, deviant, zealot and polygamist with an open licence and while he probably looks more like Roy Orbison than Jim Jones, it's not a bad imitation based on what I know of the Jones persona.
Bradford Dillman plays Jones' doctor-in-staff who administers (reluctantly) the fatal dose, Gene Barry is the doomed American diplomat trying to disassemble the oppressive community and a host of former Hollywood heavyweights (Cotten, DeCarlo, Ireland) fill out the ranks. Good to see Cardona's preferred local talent Hugo Stiglitz on board along with beauties Jennifer Ashley and Erika Carlsson (the trio reunited from "Tintorera"). While not to trivialise the subject, you know you're watching an exploitation movie when those guys are in the cast.
Fatally overlong, the long-awaited climax doesn't prove to be worth the wait (knowing the conclusion doesn't help, but there's no attempt at suspense) and while the cast is appealing, the film doesn't do the subject matter justice. Obviously this is made for a particular audience so if you want to see the more deferential treatment, then the "Guyana Tragedy" (1980) is probably your picture. I'm faithful to the Rene Cardona Jnr factory, and while this is perhaps his least-impressive 'western' work, it still contains some of his trademark excess.
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