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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 spite of John Frankenheimer's insistence that much of the credit for The Manchurian Candidate's success was due to George Axelrod's writing, the script actually contained very few camera directions. The imaginative depiction of the brainwashing sequence, with its intercutting between different perspectives and fantasies, the playing out of the assassination scene, and such touches as the use of TV screens in the press conference, were all worked out by Frankenheimer. See more »
Shaw's character wears the stripes of a Sergeant First Class on both his fatigue uniform in Korea and his dress uniform coat when returning to the U.S., although he is referred to in the film as "Staff Sergeant Raymond Shaw," which is actually one rank lower than the stripes he wears. See more »
[the presidential nominee is making his acceptance speech while Raymond Shaw has his sniper-rifle aimed at him]
Benjamin K. Arthur:
...Nor would I ask of any fellow American in defense of his freedom that which I would not gladly give myself - my life before my liberty!
[the audience begins clapping and cheering as Raymond Shaw moves his sniper-rifle towards Senator Iselin and shoots him in the forehead, killing him instantly. He then shoots his mother in the head, killing her instantly]
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During the Korean War, an American platoon is kidnapped by the North Koreans. When they return, one of them (Laurence Harvey) appears to be acting strangely. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the enemy did something to him, possibly to the point where they might still be in complete control of him.
Admittedly, "The Manchurian Candidate" is basically a Red Scare movie, but it's different in that it doesn't simply follow the silly story of the Commies invading a Norman Rockwell-style town. The movie's focus is what the audience doesn't know. Not to mention the top-notch performances from Harvey, Frank Sinatra, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury and John McGiver. Interestingly, the 2004 remake actually managed to be as good as the original. Ten out of ten.
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