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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate is the first and best political thriller ever made, and a movie that will never take it's place. The movie tells a story I would never would have known that was put onto film and that was the story of a former Korean War POW (played by Laurence Harvey.) who gets brainwashed by communists and becomes an assassin when his fellow officer Major Bennett Marco (played by Frank Sinatra). Frankenheimer is very interesting with his visions that he wanted to put onto the screen during his career as a director one of them including this masterpiece. For this movie I really thought that the movie deserved more Oscar nominations than the only two it got especially for Sinatra and Harvey for their equally wonderful work, which this is Sinatra's best work since his Oscar winning turn for From here to Eternity. This is certainly one of the greatest movie i have seen in a long time and i am completely looking forward to seeing this masterwork again cause of it's greatness.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is a big plot surprise in this movie. You do get hints..which you
will see on your second viewing.
But I'm holding my cards close---and will not show my hand...and tell you.
As other reviewers note, the leads in this film are potent. Frank Sinatra (who was a backer of this film) is great as the PTSD before we knew he had PTSD military officer...who has to "handle" the problem of the senator's stepson...played well by Laurence Harvey.
Janet Leigh talks piffle to Sinatra...somehow sensing her babbling will soothe his war-induced stress. She then gives real support to Sinatra, showing her character's substance...as Sinatra works to cure another...and himself...and figure out why their distress is connected to each other and to national security.
Sinatra must figure out why he and some similarly stressed former military companions have the same dream...and what that dream has to do with...the US Presidency!
If you wonder "Why haven't I heard of this good movie before?"...
Frank Sinatra pulled it and put it away for several years...because of a real life distressing event which hit the US shortly after this film's release. (Can't tell ya...it's a partial spoiler).
Well worth your time.
There are simply not enough letters in the Summary to cover what this
movie achieves. Angela Lansbury, in an interview on the DVD, says that
everyone (all the actors) has at least one great scene in the movie. I
would go a bit further than that and say everyone has great
scenes...all of them. That is near to impossible to do, but John
Frankenhemier did it.
Quick Note: If you are watching on the DVD, absolutely DO NOT watch the interviews or specials before watching the movie; they are filled with spoilers!
This is considered by many to be Frank Sinatra's best movie; I agree. I'm not a fan of Frank, but he gives a very deep and believable performance in this picture. He also was instrumental behind the scenes in getting the picture made. John Frankenheimer says so in an interview, with George Axelrod's agreement and Angela Lansbury also says she wasn't aware of Frank's crucial efforts at the time, but indicates she is now (1988).
Be prepared to watch all the way through, at least once. If you must take a kitchen or bathroom break, pause the movie. The suspense and tension, maintained throughout, come from several sources, but chief among them is that very little is explained before it happens. In many ways, you learn at the same time as the characters.
And yes, there is a twist in the climax, so don't blink. Just an excellent movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Manchurian Candidate is a Cold War political thriller film that
features Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela
Lansbury, together with Henry Silva, James Gregory, Leslie Parrish and
John McGiver. It was directed by John Frankenheimer from an adaptation
by George Axelrod of Richard Condon's novel.The central concept of the
film is that the son of a prominent, right-wing political family has
been brainwashed as an unwitting assassin for an international
The film opens with a group of soldiers whooping it up in a bar in Korea as their commander, Sgt. Raymond Shaw, arrives to inform them that they're back on duty. These men obviously have no fondness for Shaw, and he feels no empathy for them. While on patrol, Shaw and his platoon are ambushed by Korean troops. Months later, Shaw is receiving a hero's welcome as he returns to the United States to accept the Congressional Medal of Honor, and several of the soldiers who served under Shaw repeatedly refer to him as "the bravest, finest, most lovable man I ever met." It soon becomes evident that after their capture by the Koreans, Shaw and his men were subjected to an intense program of brainwashing prior to their release. While several are troubled by bad dreams and inexplicable behavior, it's Capt. Bennett Marco, who seems the most haunted by the experience. In time, Marco is able to piece together what happened; it seems Raymond Shaw was programmed by a shadowy cadre of Russian and Chinese agents into a killing machine who will assassinate anyone, even a close friend, when given the proper commands. On the other side of the coin, Shaw is also used for political gain by his harridan mother, who guides the career of her second husband, John Iselin, a bone-headed congressman hoping to win the vice-presidential nomination through a campaign of anti-Communist hysteria.
The movie is truly an excellent and brilliant film.No question about it.First of all,it features a host of remarkable performances, several from actors cast cleverly against type particularly Frank Sinatra's edgy, aggressive turn as Marco may be the finest dramatic work of his movie career.Axelrod's screenplay is by turns compelling, witty, and horrifying in its implications, and Frankenheimer's direction milks it for all the tension it can muster.This is one rare film that comes along that works in all departments, with story, production and performance so well blended that the end effect is one of nearly complete satisfaction.Finally,it was entertaining yet unsettling as it was truly ahead of its time and it has a resonance that still echoes uncomfortably in the present.This classic blend of satire and political thriller that was uncomfortably prescient in its own time when it was theatrically released in the 60's remains distressingly relevant today.
The Manchurian Candidate is a splendid film in total, a provocatively relevant thriller. The film is all in all, one of the first to take on the risky subject of mind control and this one remains one of the best in that genre. Used in surreal effect, the film builds for us an air of bizarre mystery, we are shocked not by what is seen on-screen, but the proposition of the film altogether. That is what makes this film more effective, it is not gruesome, but its notions to mind control and government coverts are as frightening today as they were fifty years ago. In perspective, the film acts as a commentary on American and korean politics while providing a shockingly relevant thriller.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are moments of this film that, no matter how many times you've
seen it, will leave you with chills. The subject matter-brain
washing-is horrifying, and the agenda is pure evil. The early 60's was
a political circus, with communism, the aftermath of Korea, the Cuban
Missle Crisis, Civil Rights, etc., so a movie with serious subject
matter like this was not just daring, but a must to tell audiences what
could happen if they didn't wake up and smell the Chock Full O'Nuts.
There are so many moments of poignancy, particularly for me the speech of the presidential nominee, very close to a speech that JFK made which is still quoted today. As the victim of Communists and surrounding elements, most viciously his mother, Laurence Harvey is brilliant, going from a cold, unfeeling veteran of the Korean war to an unrequited hero who must instantaneously make a drastic decision to prevent political disaster. Sinatra, in the most important film he ever appeared in (as well as one he produced), goes through a plethora of emotions, both hating and helping Harvey at the same time as he begins to see the evil which is about to swallow Harvey up like a demon in Dante's Inferno. The scene where Harvey begins to feel joy over having made a joke (he's happy so therefore he can be lovable) is quite touching.
As Harvey's joke of a stepfather, James Gregory is excellent proving that idiocy can be more dangerous than intelligence. And if you want to see the most evil mother in movie history, look no further. Angela Lansbury here is presented as the Bride of Satan who is actually more powerful than her husband. Her almost incestuous love for her son (Harvey) reveals an evil so innate, no exorcism could get rid of it. Her performance is so rich it is like she took her character of the newspaper owner from "State of the Union" (power hungry but not sinister) and mixed it with a bit of "I Claudius's" Livia.
Janet Leigh is the least flamboyant on screen as Sinatra's love interest, but somehow, she manages to make the part rise above what could have been totally inconsequential. The scene between train cars with Leigh and Sinatra is brilliantly acted as if it were really happening, not staged by director John Frankenheimer. As Lansbury's hated rival, John McGiver is almost angelic, and the shot of him standing in front of the large wing-spread eagle is one of the great photographic metaphors of film history. As his sweet daughter, Leslie Parrish ("Li'l Abner") manages to avoid being cloying. Henry Silva's portrayal of Harvey's valet can only be compared to the character of Billie Whitelaw in "The Omen".
This is the type of movie that while not quite flawless is nevertheless brilliant. From the nightmares of the two marines recalling incidents from the war through the Democratic presidential convention at Madison Square Garden in the finale, there is no time for boredom. Try not to flinch the next time you're playing solitaire and come upon the Queen of Diamonds. Just don't get the urge to dive into the lake at Central Park's Bethesda Terrace.
Our Political and Media landscape Changes quite rapidly with the advent
of Technology. Its Metamorphoses is at light speed due to its Power and
is assimilated gladly by the giddy Populace. Since this Film has strong
elements of both, there is some criticism about the Dated aspects of
The Mind Control Conspiracies were just being revealed during the Cold War and this was Cutting Edge stuff to its contemporary Audiences. No one ever heard of MK-Ultra in 1962. Political Assassinations were an Absent Topic at that Time but just wait a Year or so and those will come with rapid, Lone Nut Assassin, Fire.
The Communists in the Government Scare from the Previous Decade wasn't going away and was still On the Minds of Many. Just ask the John Birch Society.
There are some heavily Criticized Scenes that seem rushed and forced but these involve Love Interest and are hardly what this Film was about. So the two side Stories of Romance are unnecessary but are so little in a Movie with so much Creative and Hard Edged Filmmaking that it hardly mattered and is nit-picky.
Viewed objectively and in the Proper Spirit, this is a Bravura Masterpiece and a sharply honest Insight and a Prognostication of things to come as well as the way things were.
"The Manchurian Candidate", based on a novel of the same name (written
by Richard Condon) is one of the finest political thrillers out there.
An American Platoon is captured by the Soviets. They are all taken to Manchuria in Communist China and are subjected to a series of 'brainwashing' experiments for some political motive, the nature of which is made clear only as the film progresses. Revealing anything more would be sacrilege. This shocking picture has to be seen to be believed.
Laurence Harvey stars as Raymond Shaw, the central character who is the 'chosen one' in this political conspiracy. Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury star in supporting roles along with some others. All of them deliver fine performances in this tragic tale of deceit and corruption.
John Frankenheimer does a brilliant job of directing and makes sure there is not a single dull moment, gets some of the best acting done from his cast, shoots some of the most memorable sequences ever filmed in cinema and takes the movie to a very satisfying conclusion.
This unique film deserves to be seen over and over again and holds tremendous repeat value. Do not miss...it's a mind-blowing experience!
Bold political thriller on the mind control of the prisoners Americans
in the Korean war. With an excellent script and splendid narrative
rhythm , the film raises a disturbing theory, that only a year later
surprised with the fabric on the death of President Kennedy. The end of
the shooting coincided with his murder, and therefore the film
premiered years later. In the year 2004 was a "remake" starring Denzel
In 1962, Frank Sinatra protagonist "The Manchurian Candidate"; film that we talk about experiments applied to soldiers to modify behavior patterns. The need John Frankenheimer a producer for its realization, appeared excited Frank Siantra with a script of "The Manchurian Candidate," which could have a role as an officer of the bunch of prisoners Americans, Sinatra was formed as co-producer and introduced the idea before the president of "United Artists". It was rejected because they believed that the draft was politically dangerous, because senators were killed and a criticism of the army by the granting of rigged the Medal of Honor of the Congress. Then Sinatra met with his friend the president John F. Kenndy, recently elected, and got his approval In 1963, he was killed John F. Kennedy, some of the presidents more charismatic that has taken us, and "The Manchurian Candidate" had to postpone its premiere until 1965. Years later, in 1988, Frank Sinatra momentum the re-release of this film, by its relevance and thematic environment to the political environment.
In the 1987 "The Manchurian Candidate "was presented as a sample retrospective at the "New York Film Festival", causing new criticism and a new launch in London, 25 years after its premiere.
Its director John Frankenheimer we performed a film strange for several reasons, is filmed in black and white where dominated by the colour, mentions dreams of type "Freudian" of the Noir Cinema of the 1940, and the time very modern with a very television. It should be emphasized the violent and fantastic scene of the American soldiers with the alleged ladies in the Convention on plants when in fact they are before members of the communist party Russian and Chinese. All this makes this film a small jewel of the cinema because it is still being 1962 links with the cinema of the previous decades and anticipates the thriller of the 70 and 80.
I have not read the novel, though I may very well consider it. I understand that this is one of Frankenheimer's best, and I see why. It's arguably easier to enjoy this if you can ignore the demonizing and political overtones, but if you consider when this was made, it's to be expected. While the story-telling can be a tad... all over the place at points(it especially seems to struggle at the very beginning), the plot is excellent and rather compelling, from start to finish. The pacing is good, and you're never bored during this. There are great surprises and twists in this, and it is exciting and engaging. The editing and cinematography are impeccable. Acting is marvelous, Sinatra, Harvey, Leigh and Lansbury are spot-on. Every role is well-cast, and the characters are interesting, credible and consistent. Tension is skillfully built up, and this takes something that could easily have come off as silly and manages to render it as unforgettably creepy. There is a little violence and even less blood in this; however, the entire concept is quite disturbing. I recommend this to anyone who likes the idea of it, and/or is a fan of someone who took part in making it. 8/10
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