Not long after Patty Hearst was kidnapped in 1974, researchers unearthed an obscure porno novel called Black Abductor by Harrison James which had appeared briefly on the paperback racks of adult bookstores a few years earlier and then disappeared into oblivion.
Certain events in the book and in real life had an almost uncanny similarity to each other. Had Patty’s SLA kidnappers read the book? Was this trashy novel the scenario for the most sensational story of the year?
The book was certainly a gold mine – because by buying the rights, to a novel published before the kidnapping, filmmakers could make a movie that came fairly close to the facts of the Hearst case without risking a libel lawsuit.
Some of the early scenes are out of Patty Hearst folklore: Patricia (Judith-Marie Bergan) is making out with her boyfriend, Michael (Andrew Rohrer) in their apartment when the kidnappers burst in, the radicals force her to make recorded statements, the boyfriend is rebuffed in his attempts to win the confidence of Patty’s father . . .
Other scenes, though, are played fairly free and loose.
The father (Leif Erickson) isn’t a newspaper publisher but a nefarious political figure who takes public money to build low-income housing and actually builds high-rental units instead.
He also has a set of strange mental hang-ups which cause him to look for hours at a videotape of his daughter being raped. His wife (Dorothy Malone) is given over mostly to fits of trembling.
The FBI is portrayed as experts in intimidation, the cops are either dumb or unlucky and the radical groups’ politics boil down to “violence is the only way to change the system.”
Meanwhile, Patricia begins to identify with her captors, mostly because they mistreat her (and there are a large number of sex scenes). Patty has sexual fantasies that the kidnap situation apparently plays into, and by the end of the movie, she’s a cop-killer.
No real attempt is ever made to explain Patty’s conversion.