The journalist in Frady senses something fishy, and he heads to Salmontail. He stops first at the local bar, where he gets in a brawl with the deputy sheriff. The sheriff apologizes to Frady—the deputy was his nephew—and tells him Tucker is long gone, but offers to take Frady to the scene of the fishing accident. They go the next day, and the friendly old sheriff pulls a gun on Frady. But journalist Joe is faster with his knife, and he slashes the sheriff’s face. They wrestle in the rushing water and Frady, far too dexterous for a true hack, gets away in the sheriff’s car. He repairs to the sheriff’s home and discovers a drawer full of sinister-seeming documents marked “personal inventory” and “Parallax Corporation.”

The deputy shows up and Frady speeds off, getting away again after a car chase that involves flying, spinning, dodging a log-bearing semi, and crashing into the canned-goods aisle of a grocery store. He makes his way home and heads to the newsroom, where his editor fumes about Frady’s appetite for perilous investigation. “The thought of covering that city council meeting was just too much for you, wasn’t it?” the editor chides.

Frady shows him the goods from Salmontail and makes a case for further investigation, but this editor tells him to knock it off: “I don’t care if your self-serving ambition gets you a paperback sale and a Pulitzer Prize, I’m not going to have anything more to do with it!”

Undeterred, Frady takes his documents to a psychology lab that performs tests on chimps. “Do you think the test could pick up potentially homicidal characteristics?” Frady asks a psychologist there. He also presses on with his efforts to find Tucker. He succeeds, but gets strip-searched, professionally emasculated—“stop acting like you’re on the New York Times, for Christ’s sake. You’re a third-rate journalist from Oregon or wherever the hell you’re from”—and is offered hush-money by Tucker.

But Frady is as incorruptible as he is unrelenting when it comes to pursuing truth. “Sorry Mr. Tucker, you’ve got information I need. Money doesn’t mean anything to me. This story is going to mean more to me than $10,000.” They go out on Tucker’s boat, and Tucker gives Frady some critical information—including the name of the mysterious second waiter! Then the boat blows up.

In addition to being persistent, Frady is also lucky, and he survives. The papers report him dead, though, and he scares his editor silly when he shows back up at the office. “Whoever is behind this is in the business of recruiting assassins,” Frady tells his editor. The editor believes him this time, and agrees with some reluctance not to call the Feds and to let Frady do his thing.

“What do you expect me to print?” the editor asks Frady.

“My obituary,” Frady says.

Frady goes undercover, to become a Parallax assassin. Having observed Ernie, a serial killer, fill out the Parallax “personal inventory” back at the psych lab, he aces the Parallax Corporation’s entrance exam. He’s invited to the corporation headquarters—which is gleaming, sinister, modern—where in the Division of Human Engineering he is treated to the movie’s famous, five-minute montage scene—a musically-scored series of increasingly jumbled images that reflect words like mother, country, god, enemy. It’s intended to brainwash recruits. (It’s worth noting that there is much in this film that is never fully explained.)

After all this, Frady is accepted into the assassin ring. He’s given an assignment and tries to learn more about the corporation and who’s behind it without killing anyone in the meantime. He sends tapes of his activities to his editor, who, wouldn’t you know, dies of a heart attack one evening while drinking a cup of coffee. The tapes disappear.

And so we’re down to Frady. He’s still on the case to uncover the truth about Parallax when we enter the movie’s final scene, which is set at an L.A. convention hall, outfitted with red, white, and blue tables and an unpolished high school band. Senator George Hammond, who rides in on a golf cart, comes to rehearse a speech he is set to give that night. Frady is in the rafters, having followed some Parallax gunmen up there. But they’ve set him up. The senator is assassinated by one of the Parallax men as he drives out of the auditorium; he slumps over as his golf cart plows into the patriotic tables. A member of the band—a pimply tuba player—spots Frady in the rafters. “I see him!” Frady sprints for the door, but is shot by one of the assassins.

Erika Fry is a former assistant editor at CJR.