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It's easy to see how she came to that conclusion. Because Marshall Sylver, "the leading authority of subconscious programming," exploits, to a degree no other infomercial approaches, our desire for short-cuts. He promises everything--not just wealth, not just health, not just personal fulfillment, but all three. And he promises them instantly. Compared to Marshall, Tony Robbins--who claims his system can change lives in 30 days--looks like a underachieving, painfully inert wuss.

What really distinguishes Marshall from mere infomercial mortals, however, is the slippery Úlan with which he delivers his message. From the broken-glass-resistant soles of his feet to his hideously bad toupee (it looks as if someone slathered wet tar across his scalp), Marshall is the embodiment of shameless tele-mountebank flimflammery.

Bruising the air with a barrage of karate-chop hand gestures, talking a blue streak of pseudo-Freudiana mixed with contemporary computer jargon, Marshall keeps things moving at a fast pace. There are "scientific" explanations of the subconscious, there are the usual emphatic testimonials, there is Marshall hypnotizing the studio audience en masse with a wave of his arm...

While this last feat generally makes first-time viewers burst into laughter, it's not without it sinister aspect. As audience members tumble like dominoes into unconsciousness at Marshall's command, one gets a sense of what the final eerie moments at Jonestown must have been like. It makes you wonder what Marshall has planned for the future, if this infomercial business doesn't pan out. Indeed, there is a certain mechanical stiffness to Marshall's bearing that suggests an incredible pressure building up inside him; with his thin arms and legs, his shiny hair and his handsome-but-somehow-skewed face, he looks potentially evil, like a ventriloquist's dummy gone bad. Exactly how desperate is he for success, one wonders. He has already failed as a legitimate entertainer; what will he do if he fails as an infomercial pitchman? It takes only the tiniest skip of the imagination to see him behind a pulpit somewhere, preaching doomsday gospel to an adoring cult of "subconsciously programmed" believers...