‘Attack Angels’ — “Charlie’s Angels”

[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073972/]

Char­lie’s Angels inves­ti­gates a hos­tile takeover of a com­pa­ny that involves the sus­pi­cious deaths of sev­er­al com­pa­ny board mem­bers. Kel­ly (Jaclyn Smith) and Kris (Cheryl Ladd) are sent under­cov­er to the com­pa­ny to inves­ti­gate while Julie Rogers (Tanya Roberts) attempts to infil­trate Rear­don Asso­ciates, which had sup­plied many of the com­pa­ny’s staff. What they find is a con­spir­a­cy com­bin­ing hyp­no­sis and murder

Descrip­tion: Rear­don Asso­ciates, a pro­fes­sion­al employ­ment and staffing agency, is a front for a crim­i­nal enter­prise which hyp­no­tizes and pro­grams its female employ­ees into com­mit­ting espi­onage, mur­der and sui­cide. The head of the com­pa­ny, John Rear­don (Eric Brae­den) was employed by unscrupu­lous financers to mur­der the board mem­bers to help pro­mote a hos­tile takeover of the com­pa­ny. At his com­mand, the board mem­bers were mur­dered by the hyp­no­tized staff mem­bers, who would seem­ing­ly to any­thing for him.

To demon­strate his pow­er over his employ­ees to his employ­ers, Rear­don first orders the three women ser­vants (employ­ees) at his lit­tle par­ty for his employ­ers to for­get every­thing they see and hear that evening, which they blithe­ly agree to; then, tak­ing a lit can­dle, he holds it before one of the women, instruct­ing her to pass her hand over it. The flame is cold, she is told, as the flick­er­ing can­dle flame com­pletes the post-hyp­not­ic sug­ges­tion that puts her into a deep trance. She is then told to open the win­dow, which is guard­ed with a lethal elec­tric charge, which she would have done had not one of the employ­ers fret­ful­ly stopped the demonstration.

Julie’s infil­tra­tion is dis­cov­ered when she says she was an old friend of one of the agen­cies’ late employ­ees, which was part of the fake back­ground pre­pared for the employ­ee. She is put through a series of sec­re­tar­i­al exams: the last is a typ­ing test, where she is seat­ed in a fea­ture­less white room with two strobe lights sur­round­ing her. The words of the test she hears from Rear­don are actu­al­ly the induc­tion, as she is told to breathe deeply, to think only of the words, to fol­low the lights, to relax more and more.

She falls into a trance, then is led deep­er in trance using the same can­dle flame fix­a­tion (which appears to be a trade­mark: it gets used again lat­er, too, as a post-hyp­not­ic sug­ges­tion to have the employ­ees repeat the induc­tion, strength­en­ing the trance suggestions).

The trance and pro­gram­ming is deep­ened through the use of a oxy­gen depri­va­tion cham­ber: a clear plas­tic tank of warm water, in which Julie is seat­ed wear­ing only a swim­suit. The pro­gram­ming is so suc­cess­ful that Julie will make an “all-clear” report to Char­lie lat­er that evening while still being deeply hyp­no­tized. The pro­gram­ming also includ­ed indi­vid­ual rein­force­ment, which Julie per­forms in her apart­ment lat­er that night.

The assas­si­na­tion plot will be revealed when the mur­der of anoth­er board mem­ber, a poi­son­ing, is avert­ed by the swift action of the Angels. The woman pro­grammed to per­form the mur­der is then ter­ri­bly con­fused and suf­fers a break­down: when her desk is searched the Angels find the same can­dle­stick as they had seen Julie have, and they sus­pect Julie may also have been affect­ed. Rear­don will try to use Julie to per­form the final assas­si­na­tion, but will be stopped by Kris, and she will return Rear­don, who will try to kill her by putting her in the depri­va­tion cham­ber and leav­ing her there.

Com­men­tary: This episode got a lot of flack when it first aired because of the way it treat­ed hyp­no­sis; much of the crit­i­cism is jus­ti­fied, except for the typ­ing test induc­tion: I remem­ber Erick­son writ­ing on how he used a sim­i­lar tech­nique once with a stenographer.

Adden­da:

  • ‘Attack Angels’ was the the first of the last four episodes of the last sea­son: the series had been steadi­ly los­ing view­ers and was in dan­ger of can­cel­la­tion. Plus, the only remain­ing orig­i­nal Angel, Jaclyn Smith, was in the last year of her con­tract and did not want to con­tin­ue (she would go on to have a major career in MFTV movies.) The series was final­ly put on hold and the last four episodes were broad­cast dur­ing the summer.
  • Eric Brae­den also played a sin­is­ter hyp­no­tist in an episode of “Hawaii 5–0” with large­ly the same modus operan­di.
  • Pop­u­lar psy­chol­o­gist Dr. Joyce Broth­ers has a cameo part as Doc­tor Lantry, whom the Angels call for advice on hyp­no­sis and who lat­er de-pro­grams Julie.

One Response to “‘Attack Angels’ — “Charlie’s Angels””

  • Darci says:

    I thought the typ­ing test/induction seemed pret­ty gen­uine too.  I always won­dered about the oxy­gen depri­va­tion tech­nique though?  Note that it must be inspired by sen­so­ry depri­va­tion cham­bers, oth­er­wise why both­er with the warm water, etc.  I’ve nev­er heard of a link to hyp­no­sis with them either.
    Thanks!

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