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This very interesting and disturbing TV film was based not on the Jonestown cult massacre but on the exploits of "The Two". This male and female pair of deluded UFO contactees roamed America in the 70's enlisting converts. I read articles about them then in major magazines such as TIME. They then disappeared and I wondered what had become of them. They resurfaced in the mid-90's as "Bo & Peep" the leaders of the suicidal Heaven's Gate cult. They believed they were in contact with a spaceship that was coming to Earth to collect them and was following in the wake of the Hale Bop comet. I think this TV movie takes an accurate and chilling look into the world of religious delusion, kooks, cults and the "outsider" mentality. I stumbled upon it late one night and it hooked me and has stayed with me. Highly recommended.
This movie was actually based on the Heaven's Gate cult that up and committed mass suicide in San Diego in 1997. The characters played by Pointer and Forsythe are based on Ti and Do, leaders of the UFO cult. Although the movie is profoundly hokey, it's a pretty chilling thing to watch when you realize that it's based on a genuine cult and sort of illustrates exactly what their plans were 15 years before they decided to act on them.
I got the chance to watch this twice on an obscure cable channel.
Otherwise it's very difficult to get hold of (it didn't appear on IMDb
for a number of years).
It's by turns quite dated and cheesy, and oddly creepy and atmospheric. We never do really find out what's going on. In that sense, it's quite close to "Picnic at Hanging Rock". Two cult leaders start indoctrinating people, and one by one they start disappearing. The lesson here, perhaps is about giving yourself over to the unknown, particularly when you don't know what its intentions are.
Basically this film is a reaction to the various UFO sects that have sprung up over the years (especially in the decade or so before the film) - Heaven's Gate, Raelians, Share International ("Maitreya"), George Adamski, the Aetherius Society etc, and also some of the tragedies resulting from New Religious Movements in general, e.g. the Jonestown Massacre, the Manson Gang etc. As it turned out, the film demonstrates a real concern, as there have been many more such tragedies since then. It's also about the souring of the hippie/New Age ideal, about peace and love distorted and gone horribly wrong.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember this thing. We see the two strangers, they summon people,
friendly and cult-like, into tents, then everyone vanishes. Where did
they go? Where the two people really from outer space? Now I'm hearing
this oddity was based on the cult that killed themselves, Heaven's Gate
in the '90s or whenever it was. Or indirectly based on them, obviously.
This then gives way to why would Hollywood talent produce such an odd concoction as this, as if it were challenging people's open-mindedness.
Why not do that with plain old Christian views? But we can't have that, can we? That would be ripe for jokes.
And this isn't? Overall, this movie offered no insight into beliefs in aliens or anything else.
It was as dated as Wonder Woman effects. For some reason I recall watching it as we would V or something.
Watch it if you like bad sci fi from the eighties, which can have its place, but it's unfortunate place in history makes you question the decisions they make in Hollywood all the more.
This has to be one of the oddest TV-movies of all time. Not only is it a
blatant allegory (some might even say exploitation) of the horrible
Jonestown Tragedy of the year before, but it has all the earmarks of a
vicious propaganda piece against religious cults (considering most of them,
this may be a good thing). The Jonestown connection is strong and very
(isolation, brainwashing, followers comprising a cultural cross-section,
deception, mind control, etc). The cult followers are even called "The
People of Tomorrow," in a brash allusion to "The People's Temple." There
scenes that are truly disturbing, like when an old man walks through a what
appears to be a field full of corpses (an image right out of the New York
Times front page the day after the Jim Jones/Leo Ryan massacre). Turns out
the folks were only hypnotized, but the effect is jarring and chilling all
the same. There are some effective animated sequences, and an unusually
large cast for a TV Movie of the Week. John Forsythe and Priscilla Pointer
are kind of goofy in their white-and-silver space suits, looking alot like
Martin Landau and Barbara Bain from SPACE:1999. Vic Tayback (remember
ALICE?) plays a nosy reporter who's trying to find the secret behind the
cult, but he mostly just sits around and looks at everyone funny. Sonny
who also produced, plays a Madison Avenue jerk who comes along for unclear
reasons. (Fox was the beloved host of Channel 5's long-running kidshow,
WONDERAMA.) Robert Englund (aka Freddy Kruger) has a meaty, early role as a
skeptical deputy sheriff. Apparently, this bizarre TV film (made
1979 but not shown until 1982) also served as the pilot for a
NBC-TV series called FOLLOW ME IF YOU DARE. This would have been one
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