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Major Ben Marco is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army. He served valiantly as a captain in the Korean war and his Sergeant, Raymond Shaw, 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. 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, 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 Raymond Shaw is the focal point. Written by
Probably John Frankenheimer's best production, and Frank Sinatra's best cinema performance.
I saw this because of the recent 'remake', I would assume that the reader will be making the same comparison. Having never seen this before, I found myself riveted to the story, and absolutely great performances by Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury, Henry Silva, John McGiver, James Gregory, and Leslie Parrish.
Coincidently, I had just recently finished reading some previously published works about the cold war, in particular the Chambers-Hiss court cases.
It might be accident, but I wouldn't doubt it might have been intended by Frankenheimer to choose Harvey, who resembled Hiss, in appearance and McGiver who resembled Chambers appearance. When this was released in 1962, the Hiss-Chambers spy fiasco was still fresh in the public's mind.
Other American political images are not for want of satire either, since Lansbury and Gregory seemed to have reminded me, in appearance, of Mary and (honest) Abe Lincoln.
The pace, style and non stop tension rivals Hitchcock; it will certainly have you wondering if he had anything to do with this! Truly Frankenhiemer, excels here.
Because Sinatra was box office magnet, most of his other roles seemed 'fitted' for him. Not here! You'll have a chance to see the real Frank Sinatra, really working to make the part work, and without a doubt, he too excels in his role.
I don't think I'll bother to see the recent version yet. I want to see this original classic a few more times.
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