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Major Ben Marco (Frank Sinatra) is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army. He served valiantly as a captain in the Korean war and his Sergeant, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), even won the Medal of Honor. Marco has a major problem however: he has a recurring nightmare, one where two members of his squad are killed by Shaw. He's put on indefinite sick leave and visits Shaw in New York. Shaw for his part has established himself well, despite the misgivings of his domineering mother, Mrs. Eleanor Shaw Iselin (Angela Lansbury). She is a red-baiter, accusing anyone who disagrees with her right-wing reactionary views of being a Communist. Raymond hates her, not only for how she's treated him but equally because of his step-father, the ineffectual U.S. Senator John Iselin (James Gregory), who is intent on seeking higher office. When Marco learns that others in his Korean War unit have nightmares similar to his own, he realizes that something happened to all of them in Korea and that ... Written by
In joke: During the prologue set in 1952, one of the bar girls reads an old movie magazine with a cover shot of Tony Curtis and his then-wife, Janet Leigh who plays Rosie. See more »
Senator Jordan tells Mrs. Iselin that he will begin "impeachment proceedings on the floor of the Senate" against Johnny Iselin if he tries for the vice-presidential nomination. Iselin similarly threatens to have Jordan impeached. First, impeachment proceedings begin in the House of Representatives. Second, Senators can be expelled, but not impeached. See more »
[Shaw has been conditioned to obey when seeing the queen of diamonds; Marco has brought a special deck of all queens of diamonds]
They can make me do anything, Ben, can't they? Anything.
We'll see, kid. We'll see what they can do and we'll see what we can do. So the red queen is our baby. Well, take a look at this, kid...
[fans deck and keeps holding up the cards]
52 of them! Take a good look at 'em, Raymond, look at 'em, and while you're looking, listen. This is me, Marco, talking. 52 red queens...
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A political and social thriller/drama ahead of its time.
John Frankenheimer's surrealistic direction and George Axelrod's adaptation of the 1959 book by the same name offer Laurence Harvey a career defining role.
Set in 1950's, A Korean War veteran Raymond Shaw(Harvey) returns home to a medal of honor for rescuing his POW platoon from behind Chinese lines and back to safety. One of the returning soldiers, (played effectively by Frank Sinatra) however, has recurring dreams of his platoon being brainwashed and Shaw committing acts of murder.
He eventually convinces army brass that Shaw is still a puppet of his Communist-Marxist operators.
Angela Lansbury, (although barely a few years older than Harvey was at the time) plays his mother in a tour de force role. She absolutely captivates and steals every scene she is in, playing a very complex role that needs to convince the viewer of many things without much dialogue.
There's a rich cast of characters, including Janet Leigh, Henry Silva, James Edwards, and a painfully accurate James Gregory. Each character weaves through the methodical subplots and tapestry of Frankenheimer's masterful "Hitchcockian" pace.
I won't give away the plot, but dear readers, allow me to sat that this one is really worth watching--until the nail-biting and chilling conclusion.
There are many undertones in this film -- political, sexual, class and power, and social. You will want to view this film several times to approach it from different perspectives.
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