Circle of Power (aka Brainwash, 1981)

Welcome back to B-Movie Enema. This week, I’m going to talk about that thing we all love to do in our free time – training retreats! Woot woot! How exciting! Yaaaaayyyy – being forced to give up a perfectly good weekend to be bored out of our minds at a seminar!

Yeah, this movie goes by a few names, but the most common are either the original title, Brainwash, or Circle of Power. It also had the names Mystique and The Naked Weekend. This was based on a narrative nonfiction book called The Pit: A Group Encounter Defiled. That book was written by Gene Church and Conrad D. Carnes and was published in 1972. Basically, it’s about the practices that went on during a four-day training weekend for executives run that involved folks from companies run by one William Penn Patrick. More on that later.

After this movie came out, the writers did a follow up called Brainwash – likely in conjunction with the film’s title. The appeal was that there was this brand new phenomenon called “encounter group training” that began to crop up in the 60s and 70s. This could help people with various business skills or interpersonal communication or even with relationships. Oftentimes, these were kind of viewed as someone, who was seen as something of a guru, trying to train others to think and react the same way to situations. In a lot of ways, this not only evolved for business practices into the 80s but, for personal stuff, think of your Tony Robbinses or other self-help folks who ran seminars.

The book helped expose some practices. This movie came out during a huge explosion of controversy that dropped at a particular event. These things will be covered here in just a moment, but let’s start by talking about our star of the movie – the recently departed Yvette Mimieux.

Mimieux just passed away earlier this year at the age of 80. Her career really picked up in 1960 when she starred opposite Rod Taylor in George Pal’s adaptation of the H.G. Wells book The Time Machine. She had a contract with MGM and was certainly an up and coming beauty. Despite being a young beauty, she didn’t really go very far with MGM. So, once out of her contract, she would bounce around here and there making appearances on TV shows or some parts in movies.

However, she was pretty unhappy with what roles she, and other actresses, would get offered. She began speaking out about the struggles of being an actress. So, while she had been writing short stories and doing some journalism, Mimieux wrote her own screenplay that became the TV movie Hit Lady. However, later on, she was also in the TV movie Snowbeast which… Well, that’s not quite that impressive.

What I know her best for is Walt Disney’s first PG-rated film, the live-action sci-fi action flick The Black Hole. Holy shit do I love The Black Hole. It was easily the first favorite movie in my life. I had a tape of it recorded off of probably HBO in the early 80s. I would watch it multiple times a day every day. Everything from the grimy look of it, to the wonder of the black hole itself, to Maximillian the evil robot, to the pair of good robots V.I.N.CENT. and BO.B. floating around and voiced by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens just hit on every level when I was little. God, I love that movie, and I still do!

Mimieux was part of the human cast as Dr. Kate McCrae who, inexplicably, had ESP powers. Did I care? Nope! Do I care now? Fuck no! She seemingly had a romantic relationship with our main hero Captain Dan Holland, played by Robert Forster. Damn, I love this movie. I could go on for the rest of this article talking about how I loved the sounds of the lasers and the look of the Sentry robots or the Cygnus ship or the little Palomino. But I shall get things back on track here by just concluding this portion of the article by stating that Mimieux’s passing represented another part of my young childhood passing on too.

So, to circle back to this William Penn Patrick fella, and woo boy. William Penn Patrick is a well-known snake oil salesman. Once upon a time, he ran against Ronald Reagan in the California Republican Gubernatorial primary. He had to drop out because he had to pay a guy for libel. That’s the thing Patrick was all about going on the offensive against business rivals. That was not always a good idea.

Ultimately, Patrick created three businesses. The first was called Holiday Magic. Basically that was both a pyramid scheme and a multi-level marketing scheme that sold cosmetics with festive, fruity scents. The problem there, of course, was that it required people to sell the products, constantly restock the products, and convince others to get in on the game. That was started in 1964 and crashed in 1974 after Patrick, himself, crashed his private plane and died.

His other two companies are what’s more important to discuss when it comes to Circle of Power – Leadership Dynamics Institute (LDI) and Mind Dynamics. These were both companies that hosted professional development workshops. These were run with deep religious undertones. The workshops even used aspects of mind control and hypnosis during the sessions. Now, not much is known about EXACTLY what went on in the companies, but Mind Dynamics, at the very least, though LDI could have been too, was charged with fraud and practicing medicine without a license. Woof.

This would become an even deeper issue for LDI. LDI was created for other Patrick-created companies that ranged from clothing sellers to an oil additive company to a company that sold vitamins (probably shitty ones that we see on late night TV all the time these days). This was a training institute to make the executives or other salespeople more in line with what Patrick wanted from his employees. This would more or less become a cult.

Patrick was questioned about the practices done at LDI. For example, when asked about people being tied to a cross, he would respond, “They weren’t nailed to the cross. They were tied.” You know, as if that distinction was enough to get him off the hook. When asked about whether or not claustrophobic people were stuffed into a coffin, Patrick said, “If they were, they got over it.” This guy is a fucking trash person.

You can find out more about Holiday Magic, Leadership Dynamics, Mind Dynamics, and William Penn Patrick by checking out this video from the YouTube channel Illuminaughtii. She does some good work on many of the topics there. Your mileage may vary on some of it but if you have interest in the seedy underbelly of businesses or history, you might like some of what she does.

But alright… Let’s get into the business of this movie. I think a great place to start is this incredible poster for the movie. It’s under one of its other titles, Brainwash, but look at this.

There’s a lot here to take a look at. First, and easily the most eye-catching, is the lovely Yvette Mimieux. Not only is she in a power pose towering over some of the collected executives going through training but she’s also dressed powerfully. That white suit, hat, and cane make it look like she’s more likely about to take the French Riviera by storm than give a seminar on business tactics. She’s also got a flash of sexuality with her black, barely there top under the white sport jacket is just as sexy as her powerful pose. If her rhetoric isn’t going to “brainwash” you properly for the company, well, she might just entice you another way.

Outside of Mimieux’s towering presence, we have two other things to note, first, the similarly dressed trainees and what appears to be a some sort of wrestling match in a kennel. The kennel part leaves something for the imagination because, to be honest, I’ve been to some corporate training things but never have I had to strip down to my drawers and wrestle another man. The key thing is the similar attire of the attendees of this training seminar. That’s weird. I get the idea of going to a trade show or convention or something and be dresses similarly as part of corporate comradery, but training? That feels super culty.

But enough of that. The movie begins with a reminder that the events of the movie are based on actual truth. That’s really important to remember, kiddos. In some ways, it helps remind people that these sorts of insane practices were going on and actually sponsored by corporations, but that it was salacious enough to question how the hell it was possible that this could actually happen and there be little to no repercussions or widespread reporting on such a thing. It was one of the major questions in Roger Ebert’s review of the film because he could not entirely buy into the conceit of the film because it seemed so unlikely that any organization could get away with the conduct that went on at these training events.

Our movie proper opens with the board room of a large company called Mystique. In the room, Ms. Bianca Ray (Mimieux) is saying that she cares a great deal about everyone at the company, but so many have failed to live up to the standards of the executive training that Mystique sponsors. That will mean there will be lots and lots of people to be let go. The way she kind of walks around the room explaining how much she is disappointed with them is seemingly matching her words of how she cares for them. However, the way people are almost cowering in fear of her as she paces around the large table is also very telling. She even slips a hand into one of the executives’ breast pockets on his suit and pulls out his pack of Marlboro reds and asks if he’s going to smoke them. When he shakes his head no, she crushes the pack in her hand and tosses it onto the table.

This lady is a boss.

Cut to another meeting room in which some of the middle management folk are looking at a promo film for Mystique. This commercial has a pair of naked tits in it. Some people are titillated by the ad, and the guy who created the ad is very excited for what was created. Others seem to think the ad is a bit more sexually preoccupied than what should really speak for the company. The guy who created the ad, Chris, played by Leo Rossi, and another manager who thinks the commercial was pretty decent, Jack, played by Christopher Allport, are both planning for the weekend-long Executive Development Training for Mystique.

The big deal about the EDT seminar is because, indeed, there has been some housecleaning when it came to the upper management. Chris sees this is an opportunity for him to get a leg up. Jack, is a little more conflicted. He’s stuck between wanting upward mobility at his job and doing okay. His wife, Lyn (Cindy Pickett who is best known for being Ferris Bueller’s mom), is frustrated. She thinks they are doing fine. Besides, this training costs $3,000. Jack is worried about how they live somewhat paycheck to paycheck. He’s not sure the house they live in is good enough for the family. He’s really concerned about getting their kids through college. Lyn finally relents and sees that Jack might be able to pull off moving to the next level and make pretty good money.

The weekend comes and the gang go to the remote compound in which the Executive Development Training is taking place. Not only does this appear to take place in something that looks like a compound on top of the hill but there’s ominous music to accompany the bus making the trek to the Mystique headquarters.

Also, I’m not so sure it’s exactly the most normal thing for executive training courses to include a situation in which you bring your spouse/significant other and have the Vice President of the whole damn corporation kiss the hand of every woman who gets off the bus. Weird.

Very weird, man.

When they go into the palatial Mystique building, Jack notices that there’s a glamor shot of Bianca Ray as if she’s some sort of Hollywood ingénue. In their room, Lyn reads about how tomorrow, the training will give them a new image. Jack is a little frisky because Mrs. Bueller is lookin’ good. Lyn is a little curious why she is there. Jack says that the whole thing with Mystique is that they are a team. It’s important for the image.

Image is something really, really important to Mystique. It’s mentioned a lot in these early moments of the EDT weekend. “Image Maker Consultants” is what one group is called to help get people into shape, give them a makeover, and act like real executives. It’s really pretty gross. Image seems to be more important to begin making for good business people. That feels like a façade to me. Who gives a fuck if you look a certain way in order to run a business ethically? As someone who runs a major corporation (B-Movie Enema Industries, LLC), you think my hundreds of employees give a solid shit if I wear a particular type of shirt, or smell of a certain cologne, or if I have facial hair or not (Jack’s makeover is that he shaves his mustache)?

I hope the answer is “no”. What they care about is whether or not I cross lines to make them work on securing movies to be featured on this site instead of having weekends to spend with their families. They want to make sure that I’m not trashing the environment. They DEFINITELY don’t want me playing grab ass with anyone on company time. They want me to be a good guy. They want to work for a company that seems to do more good than harm. They couldn’t care less if I get a proper business haircut. I bet they would appreciate it if they could be considered for promotions without having to pay money for their own training, put on by me, and then be asked to pay more money to get makeovers to “look” the part.

Wait… Where was I in the movie?

Oh yeah. This VP we saw earlier, Jordan, is passing out contracts that the participants here are to sign. A crotchety old guy at the weekend, refuses to sign the contract. He doesn’t sign anything without his lawyer looking it over. Here’s the thing… If one person does not sign, NO ONE will be allowed to take the training. This immediately starts creating divisions. The old guy gets ganged up on by the others for not signing. He eventually gives in when his wife says he promised to go through with the training. What’s more, Lyn isn’t all that into the idea of signing the contract either.

Something else that should be noted here, too. Almost everyone attending is white. Everyone who works here as part of the training is white. Everyone who unloads the bus, cooks the food, cleans the floors, and sets up the training rooms, are black folks. It’s also very clear they know weird shit happens here. One of the black maids who cleans dishes spots some grime on a plate and uses spit to clean it off. When another maid gives her crap for spitting on a dinner plate, she mentions all the people here give a shit about is the appearance of things, not the truth behind that appearance. After positioning a giant cross in the training room, one of the black janitors looks at the thing, shakes his head, and says, “Strange motherfuckers!”

And that’s just the start. The training begins with Bianca Ray saying that EDT is meant to free the attendees of fear. Intelligence nor motivation comes into question. They have to throw off the psychological shackles of negativity they’ve collected from naysayers in their lives (including family and what have you). Bianca works with the men while Jordan works on the women. It’s a lot of words that really mean very little. Both instructors are saying things that sound smart or enlightened, but feels very vapid. It’s a lot of talk of freeing yourselves from the people and ideas that have weighed you down. Okay, but how?

If it’s necessary to kiss a man on the top of the head to make him honest, we should do that? If it is necessary to pat a man on the back to make him honest, what should be done? If you have to beat a man until he can no longer tell a lie, what’s to be expected? This is the shit that is supposed to sound smart and engaging. It sounds threatening as hell.

Bianca says if an order is given, it has to be obeyed immediately. If a question is asked, they must answer immediately and decisively. She and Jordan both ask their classes to remove all personal items from everyone and have it all placed into envelopes. They are basically stripped of their individualities. Bianca then orders the men into a semi-circle. This is “The Pit”. If she orders someone into the Pit, they are to immediately get in there. What does that mean? My guess is none of it is good.

Meanwhile, Jordan is asking questions of the women in their own semi-circle. He asks one if she’s happily married. She answers that she is. He says she is lying. He asks another if she likes being a housewife. She says that, sure, on the whole, she does. He says she is lying. He asks Lyn if she cums every time she fucks. She’s a little shocked by the frankness of the question. He makes a point that whether he’s using words like “fuck” or the “n-word” toward the only black woman in the class, there will be no words in the language that will shock them when they are done.

Um… Fired?

The physical representation of “Insta-cancelled”

A couple of the guys want to get up and go to the bathroom. Bianca says where the bathrooms are located, but nope, he can’t use it. She specifically picks on a man named Buddy who is a large man. She has him get into the Pit and wants him to strip in front of everyone. The dude just wants to use the pisser, lady. He wants to know why he’s being asked to do this in front of the class. He gets a beating from one of the employees at the training. She says the contracts they all signed was to give them total control over every one of them. They no longer have any rights. They are prisoners here because Bianca says as much.

He’s stripped totally naked, told to turn around slowly to show everything to everyone. She then has him stand on a chair in the center of the Pit. She asks where his dick is. He says it’s where it’s supposed to be. She looks a little closer and then says, “Oh… There it is.” She then asks him how he makes love with all his… you know… fat. It’s incredibly demeaning and sad. He has to admit that his wife has to get on top of him to make love. He also admits to being about 80-100 pounds overweight. She asks him why he is so fat. He says he tries to lose weight.

She tells him that he is to always respond that he weighs 180 pounds until he finally loses the weight. She’s kind of the evil Yoda in that there is no try in her book. There is only do. She calls him a pig and says that pigs live in pens. She has her goons stuff him into a cage and has slop dumped on him. The others can barely watch. When Jack reacts by saying, “Oh, Christ,” she asks if he wants to join Buddy in the pen. He says no.

She has the rest of the men go to the courtyard to do pushups. Bianca menacingly tells Buddy that he is to stay right where he belongs. Jack realizes this is all meant to break them down. As they are forced to do pushups and jumping jacks, one of the older trainees collapses. They come back in, and at least Buddy is let out of the pen, but he’s still in the Pit.

Bianca continues to ask him about his weight and how long he has been fat. When he doesn’t answer to her satisfaction, one of her goons tackle him and paddle him like crazy. Jack stands up and tells the guy to stop, but she barks for Jack to sit back down and shut up. She asks him about an incident when he was 10 years old. He’s forced to remember a time in which he had a homosexual experience. She says that it’s okay that he enjoyed it. He can let go of it now and be free of it. She says he’s not the only one. She asks who else in the class enjoyed such an encounter and some raise their hands and she says the rest of them are lying.

But it leads to a breakthrough.

Now that Buddy’s faced that bad memory and connected it to why he has been overweight and kind of sad most of his life, he sees this as incredibly freeing. This is a major victory for Bianca. It’s one she now can use as almost a quasi-religious experience. It wins over Buddy. Most importantly, it wins over the class.

A similar thing is happening over at Arkham Asylu… Er, I mean the women’s class in which Jordan has won over the class.

Lyn, and another woman, though, are not impressed.

However, this is incredibly manipulative stuff. Think about this. Whenever someone who has something traumatic and very painful seems to be utterly released by that pain and trauma, even if they were kind of tortured to bring this to the surface for it to be released, it can be quite powerful for the onlookers. If you see someone like Buddy being tortured, put down, torn apart, but then do a 180 and come out of it feeling better than before, well, the person who brought him to that place of emotional and psychological healing will be thought of as someone who can do anything. It can turn them into a bit of a Svengali. Actually, no. This reminds me of Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. He uses pain as a tool that the person releases. When they do, they are kind of taken by the incredible burden lifted from their proverbial shoulders.

We’ve now seen two techniques used by Bianca to win the class over. First, she says things that seem smart or insightful about what holds people back and express a firm hand in excising those motivational blockers. Second, everyone had to watch something quite traumatic that appears to be resolved in an emotionally positive way. Neither of these things are good. Ask anyone who gets a load of the first, and they won’t be able to do much more than simply repeat it back. They couldn’t define or explain what she’s talking about. It’s empty. As for what she did to Buddy, there could be some use in him confronting that negative memory, but little to nothing has been done to allow for him to reconcile the surfacing and release of that painful memory with who he is today. It’s a fleeting fix. It’s not much more than casting a spell on her audience. It would likely all evaporate when they are separated from her and her teachings for any period of time.

The next task the classes are given is the order to “Go!” which means they have 3 seconds to exit the room as a group to get a coffee break. If they fail to all exit the room in the time limit, none of them get the break. While some did seem to be taken by their first class, and the transformation that Buddy went through, but others are still questioning if any of this could possibly work to make them better executives.

Now, here’s the thing about this that is even darker. If not everyone in the class can do something (leave the room in 3 seconds for coffee, complete daily exercises, etc.) everyone is punished as a whole. I mean, that can kind of be levied as a reasonable thing to teach. Like, in the military, the commanding officers have to take the blame for the failures of those under them. That can be seen in a lot of places, and especially within a business. The darker part comes in the idea that EVERYONE is put through all the same rigorous shit, but not EVERYONE has the chance to become an executive at the end of the training. As stated previously in the movie, there are only a couple slots open.

Think about this. On the one hand, there should be a team effort thing when it comes to success, yes. There should be some upward responsibility for failure, sure. But this training is, for all intents and purposes, a gladiator ring. What becomes of those who fail to secure the two or so spots available? Do they have to come back next time? Are they never considered for executive positions again? Are they fired? Will some of these people who can barely do the massive amounts of exercise die? All of the above?

The world of corporate business SUUUUUUCKS.

So comes the next indignity. Next time in class, dinner is passed out. It is only a single can of C-rations. This is the type of stuff that was fed to soldiers in the field. They tend to not be well liked. Some of the class members eat the stuff up, partly out of hunger, partly out of the need to please Bianca. Jack wonders if there will be any break in class for sleep. Bianca only responds that he needs to “go with the flow.”

The next to be called to the Pit is the cantankerous Ben Davis. Ben was the one earlier who did not wish to sign the contract before training began. He refuses to participate any longer. Bianca starts in with his deconstruction by announcing to the class that he is an alcoholic. Ben is having none of this. He says that, right now, they can do whatever they want to him. When he gets out, he’s going to the police and he’s going to tell them everything that goes on there. He promises everyone will be arrested.

So they stuff him into a coffin and bury him alive.

They legit bury him. The first person to start tossing dirt onto the coffin is Buddy, who is, more or less, completely enslaved by Bianca for her earlier session with him. Jack is the only one to not take part. After he realizes he’s being buried alive, he starts pounding on the lid and he’s pulled out. After fearing for his life and examining what he’s done with this life, he feels cured by Bianca, another convert of her insane practices.

Something else that’s kind of only been hinted at earlier in this article is the opinion held by one of the “working class” on the grounds. As I mentioned, the people who clean up the place, set up the classes, and now digging the shallow graves are all represented by black folks. There are two women and two men. The two men represent maybe the biggest mirror images of what’s taking place at the training. The older of the two men knows what goes on here. He thinks they are all “crazy motherfuckers”, but he also knows he needs to look out for number one. Before working at this place, he was basically homeless and has a bum leg. The younger of the two has severe issues with Bianca’s practices. He thinks this is all more than crazy, but outright wrong. He seems to be boiling with a need to speak out or do something to express this. It’s the elder who looks at it from caring for himself first.

This is a really pretty good mirror for how Jack and Chris look at this whole training. Jack knows something is weird and not right about what’s going on. Chris just wants that golden ring at the top of the corporate ladder, thus, looking out for himself. But, let’s strip this down one more level, shall we? The two working class shlubs are an excellent cross section of the internal struggle people must face when they work a corporate gig that may be involved with some morally objectionable practices.

Look, no company is perfect. The best you can hope for is that they try to practice in an ethical space. There’s a thin line between ethics and morals and sometimes a practice can only be one of those two things. If no company is perfect, then you need to look inward to find peace about where you work, what you do, and how you’re treated. If you are okay with this, then you stay and learn to turn a blind eye to some of the more bad stuff that you question or object to. If you are not, then you either need to speak up or ship out or both. Some will claim this is as easy as black and white. The truth is that it is absolutely not. Sometimes you have to compromise for your own comfort or security.

But let’s get back to the movie.

Jack gets back to the room late. Lyn locks herself in the bathroom and tells him to leave her alone. He starts talking to her about what he’s witnessed that day. He’s laughing out of disbelief and exhaustion. She finally lets him into the bathroom and he sees that she’s a little worse for wear. He learns that Jordan hit her. Jack wants to tear his head off, but Lyn convinces him not to do anything. She says that she was trying to protect someone else and Jordan hit her instead. She wants them to leave. He’s not sure how because they have their wallets and they are in the middle of nowhere.

He does leave the room to try to talk to someone. He swears there will be no more violence. He finds Jordan and socks him one. Bianca decides she’s going to handle Jack herself. He gives his terms – no more violence. She says she won’t promise him anything. She tells him that there are two VP slots open and he’s the type of fighter she wants for one of those spots. She tells him about how she clawed her way out of the streets to become who she is. She asks if he has a goal and it seems as though she wants to seduce him. He seems as though he’s not entirely averse to the idea. She sends him back to his room where Lyn asks if they will stop the violence and Jack says, “Uh, sure, it’s under control.”

Riiiight. There’s still a cross in the training room and I’m betting someone is getting tied to that fucker.

The trainings continue for both the men and women. A lot of this is both physical and mental abuse. One girl is told she doesn’t love her children. She’s ganged up on by the other women. Why does this woman not love her children? They go to public school and she goes to a private painting class. Jordan even threatens to arrange that her children be taken away from this woman and given to one of the women who can’t bear children. Lyn tells her that he can’t do that, but he’s stricken her with enough fear that she’s willing to do whatever is asked of her to get her to cooperate.

For the men, well, we see them basically marching in place like an army. They shout how much they love EDT. Leo Rossi is put into leather speedos and shouts out he loves Mystique while carrying a lot of facial bruises. One guy is held down, put it into women’s fetish clothing as the other guys put makeup on him. A lot of the guys are bruised and battered and swollen.

And someone still going on that fuckin’ cross.

And it turns out the guy who’s going to go on that cross is a man who is labeled a coward for claiming peaceful resistance as a way to show superiority. The other men beat the fuck out of him while Jack watches in horror. He leaves the room and when he comes back, we find the guy has been tied to the cross. Jack goes back to the room and he packs up and tells Lyn they are getting the fuck outta Dodge.

He tries to hotwire one of the workers’ jeeps, but the rest of the attendees and Bianca come out to confront them. Bianca says that Jack seems to be a bit of a wasted talent. Several jobs, multiple colleges, but he’s been with Mystique for a year. He seems to have some sense of commitment there. But now, he just wants to run away. She seemingly will allow them to leave, but the other trainees swarm them and say that he and Lyn need to experience what they did so 1) he sees that Bianca’s methods work and 2) he doesn’t waste that $3,000 that he put into this. Jack, well, he’s right when he says that everyone’s crazy.

Bianca gives Jack a challenge – walk from one side of the room to the other or, if he refuses to play along, one of her goons will rape his wife. There’s a catch because of course there’s a catch. The rest of the trainees and their wives will be blocking his path the entire way. He’s got to fight his way through them to prevent Lyn’s rape. If the class members succeed in stopping him from getting across the room, they’ll get a five hour break to sleep and wake up to breakfast. Fucking crazy ass violence ensues. Jack is punching dudes, kicking guys, throwing ladies, and just laying waste to the room.

He succeeds. Bianca asks him to share his feelings with the group. She thinks they will all learn something from what they witnessed. He says he never felt like this before. He feels like he could do anything he wants. Lyn reacts in horror as he says all the things that make it sound like he’s been “cured” by these tactics of Bianca’s. She tells him that she’ll promise him anything that should be coming to him as an executive. She hugs him and he tells her one thing:

“It doesn’t work.”

He takes Bianca hostage. He tells everyone that Buddy was sneaking food immediately after being so-called “cured” and Ben’s been drinking the entire time. Jordan tries to refute what Jack is saying by saying that “graduates” are indeed set free from their afflictions. Jack corrects him by saying that they are only employees. They aren’t anything but toys to these assholes. He realizes they expect them to sell their souls for a lousy job.

Bianca lets them go, but seems to be a little gooey in the nether regions because she realizes that Jack, by taking this kind of action, is a true leader. They leave and Bianca asks the rest of the class what they just witnessed. Everyone seems confused. She says that Jack and Lyn graduated from EDT. He committed himself to something for the first time in his life. He’s emerged a leader. Jordan tries to lead applause, but no one responds. Despite trying to spin this as a positive for the course, Jack has basically torn the thing down.

The movie ends with Jack, Lyn, and three other trainees walking out of the compound, joined by the younger, black worker who finally has his chance to make his moral stand against the lunacy of this EDT shit.

This is an incredibly uncomfortable watch. We’re seeing people tortured for a solid hour before it finally ends. If you’re like me, and not a corporate cheerleader, you can almost feel sick to your stomach that anything approaching this kind of practice actually took place. It’s an indictment of two things. The first being hyper-capitalism that goes on in some parts of the world (looking at you, Japan) and nearly could have taken hold here during the 80s. It’s “anything that can get you ahead of some other poor sap asshole” mentality that drives many of the top corporations of that era. However, what’s maybe worse, it’s also an indictment of corporate ideology as religion.

If we think back to how this movie began, we saw a board room basically put on notice for not living up to the Mystique values. What are those values? What’s the line that shows someone has crossed that? What does Mystique even do? We’re not really told because it really doesn’t matter. Mystique might be selling orange-scented toilet paper for all we know, but they have ideals that have some arbitrary line. It’s ruled over by a woman with an iron fist who, in a television interview given halfway through the movie, we learn has aspirations to have a government position. It’s this wibbly-wobbly idea that these ideals can be molded and manipulated. If the bottom line is good, then the values are being upheld. If there is some reason to think things are not good or could always be improved, then those same ideals can be used as a hammer to smite whomever Bianca wants them to. In order to wield this properly, this MUST be turned into something of a religion by Bianca and Jordan. That way, they can hold sway over the people below them.

As uncomfortable this movie is, and how gross it can make you feel to know this is maybe only barely dramatized from what the reality was with the William Penn Patrick shit, this is still a good movie. The best way to describe this is to think of it like 80s melodrama as seen through a haze of exploitation. That said, it is acted extremely well. Yvette Mimieux is really sinking her teeth into this role as Bianca Ray. She oozes evil. She is always measured. She rarely raises her voice. She holds the entire place under her control. It’s a very good performance and it’s quite scary.

This movie is on YouTube. It’s something you can watch right now if you wish. Keep in mind, though, it is a difficult sit. It’s not fun watching a fat man be stripped, thrown in a pen, have garbage dumped on him to eat, and then be paddled until he bleeds (or so Jack tells Lyn). It’s not fun watching people be twisted for the slight opportunity to become an executive and know others must also be tortured to get the next opening available. It’s really uncomfortable to watch a drunk be buried alive. But Mimieux is extremely good in this movie.

For now, let’s wrap things up and look ahead to next week. Next weekend is Mother’s Day. What better way to celebrate that than to watch 1995’s thriller Mommy? I know I can’t think of a better way!

One thought on “Circle of Power (aka Brainwash, 1981)

  1. Your description is kinda giving me a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest vibe, with Bianca as Nurse Ratchet. Cool, thanks for another great review.

    Liked by 1 person

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