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John Frankenheimer brings a Richard Condon novel to the big screen filled
with chills, thrills and the intrigue of political conspiracy. An American
soldier Capt./Maj. Ben Marco(Frank Sinatra)suspects that he and his platoon
were captured and "dry cleaned" by Communist Chinese during the Korean War.
One of his friends SSgt. Raymond Shaw(Laurence Harvey)has actually been
programed by the Communists to be an operational assassin. Shaw's
domineering mother (Angela Lansbury)is married to Senator John Iselin(James
Gregory)and has big plans for her husband as well as her highly decorated
war hero son.
The cold war is now set to explode like a slow fused time-bomb by way of a complex Oedipal assassination plot. The Communists could actually manipulate America's political process by having their own kind in the White House. It is important for Marco to cleanse the brainwashed Shaw. The twisting climax is conflicted and tragic. Also in the cast are:Janet Leigh, Henry Silva, Leslie Parrish and Khigh Dhiegh.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A fantastic film with spooky relevance to the latter day activities of
Dubya and Dick... HOWEVER, if you read any of the other comments almost
all pick up on the strangely disjointed role of Janet Leigh.
There is a giveaway during her dialogue with Sinatra's character (Mjr Marco) on the train, which suggests that in the original plot Leigh's character (Eugenie Rose Chaney) was actually the evil Dr. Yen Lo or to be more accurate was what Mjr Marco had been hypnotized into visualising Dr Yen Lo as.
It's not just Leigh/Rosie's comment about being one of the "original Chinese workmen who laid the track on this stretch" of railway, but also at her attempt at a joke - "Are you in the railroad business?" "Not anymore when you asked that question, you should have asked 'are you in the railroad line?'" - that would seem to parallel Dr Yen's humour, which has already been very carefully established by this point in the film.
Imagine the final scene as Marco bitterly adds his own citation to that of Major Shaw's hypnotized men, except this time that camera pans back to Leigh/Rosie, only to find that the hero of the film has also been brainwashed and is being controlled by Dr Yen.
Imagine also in the early 60's that the idea of Sinatra kissing and proposing to a Chinese man with a mustache might have been a little too much for someone with a decisive say in the final cut!
You have to realize the full extent of how the monster of Communist paranoia prevailed in our American culture after World War II!! The nation's cold war conditions, which stalemated America's citizens with needless trepidation, necessitated that Americans manufacture an adversarial enemy. Such a scenario was established irregardless of the fact that our nation's peoples could find a legitimate enemy or not!! Lawrence Harvey is magnificent in this role, as he exudes a helplessness that exaggerates the intensity of tumultuousness which every one around him has become burdened by!! Angela Lansbury plays Raymond's mother, she has all the free flowing compassion of a refrigeration plant... Her personality is less pleasant than a largess of lagoon algae!! This is an instance where manipulation becomes intrepidly criminal!! Being hypnotically mesmerized ultimately backfires in this movie!!! Major Bennett Marco, (Frank Sinatra's character), must endure the unfortunate task of being the hapless recipient to witnessing an onslaught of heinous ordeals in Raymond's tormented life!! Back in 1962, when this film came out, it brought on a myriad of emotional complexities which had not been delved into until this movie brought them out!! Angela Lansbury's character was one which far exceeded the label of right wing Conservative!! She manifested a personality which was overtly lethal, and, her temperament contained an unmitigated temerity for the slightest concept which advocated even a modicum of non-conventionalism!! I was warned about people like she was!! The vitriolic rancor with the major characters in this movie was predicated on the paucity of trust each and every one of them had for the existing circumstances!! Nothing was simple anymore, war and hypnosis were an ephemeral obsession with Raymond, these tales of agitation resulted in the fact that he no longer possessed the ability to think rationally!! New York City has always been a playground for the counter-culture elements of our society to breed and proliferate!! At one time, rumors were going around about how there were more KGB agents in Manhattan, than there were in Moscow!! Such a venue, like New York, induced an undaunted ambiguity with relation to the motives of any individual embracing one political philosophy or another!! At some point, however, what constitutes a warranted concern, as opposed to what is an invalid concern, should have been dichotomized accordingly!!! The film "Manchurian Candidate" is indeed one of the finest films ever made!! The candid responses that this movie makes provision for, bring on the potential to utterly sensitize the movie audience with regard to the film's formidable aspects of ideological extremism!! This website ranks "Manchurian Candidate" the 95th best picture out of the top 250 films in the cinema!! AFI (American Film Institute) ranks this film 65th best film out of the top 100 American films ever made!! The introverted belligerence was superbly depicted with this movie, and the political rumination for the film's justifiable ending sparked a seriously pontificating insight for the rationale of cold war phobia!! Ultimately, man's primate instincts, for which he gets severely stigmatized by, sadly resonated with almost every one of the major characters in this film!! "Manchurian Candidate" was a harbinger of things to come in the political arena, as it illustrates how people who sought political office demonstrated a repugnant display of greed!! I definitely feel that this movie, "Manchurian Candidate" is head and shoulders above most films, particularly in terms of this movie's astute correlation to the complicated storyline in which it presented!! "Manchurian Candidate" deliberately articulates a disconcerting premise to the gist of their plot with a very painstaking brilliance!! Based on the novel by Richard Condon, this movie explodes with top notch Hollywood talent!! John Frankenheimer directs "Manchurian Candidate" ( He is well known for a numerous list of "Playhouse 90" productions), Frankenheimer does a marvelous job with this movie!! The acting for "Manchurian Candidate" is sensational!! Frank Sinatra was a box office big wig at the time, and Angela Lansbury plays a character who is absolutely despicable!! Of course, this was the idea!! The '2004 remake of this movie is just mediocre, a little too stilted!! However, I give the original '1962 movie a PERFECT TEN!!! SEE IT FOR SURE!!!
How good is this movie? You do not have words for how good this movie
is. No, no, you do not. However, for your benefit I will run down a
brief list of what makes this movie kick 59,042 @sses.
1. SINATRA DOES KARATE!!! - Everyone who sees this for the first time winces. It's surprisingly intense. But also, somehow hilarious.
2. SHAMEFULLY RACIST!!! - I mean, not for nothing, but "Smiling like Fu Manchu"? "Ching Chong Chow or whatever your name is?" Still, this does an amazing job of putting the film in historical context, which is what it's all about. Plus one of the best characters in the film is the Manchurian 'trainer'.
3. 360 DEGREE SHOT!!! - And then the set changes! How do they do it?! Watch and marvel!
4. FREUDIAN PSYCHOLOGY!!! - You thought it was dead. You thought it was debunked. Well, not in Hollywood, baby! Hypnotism, subconscious and unconscious minds, and of course, obsessive hatred of one's mother and its psychological implications.
5. AWESOME DOCUMENTARY STYLE!!! - This film's photographic style is super! Watch the scene where John Iselin first confronts the senator. Tell me that's not AWESOME! Oh, right, you can't, because if you did I would KARATE-CHOP you Sinatra style! Tiger paw, Frank.
6. SINATRA ONLY DOES ONE TAKE!!! - So everything is out of focus and crazy! So very cool!
7. ANGELA LANSBURY!!! - INCEEEEEEEEEEEST!
8. THE SCORE!!! - David Amram writes a simply great classical/modern score for this film, which you can't stop humming in all its atonal glory.
In conclusion. this film is FREAKIN AWESOME! Get a copy! Or five! Send John Frankenheimer a thank-you letter!
The first time I saw this film, about 10 years ago, I thought it was
really fascinating. One year later, I still enjoyed but was a bit
perplexed: was this the usual Liberal Hollywood taking shots at
right-wingers or is this actually the reverse with the left-wingers,
the Communists really being shown as the "bad guys?" After a third and
final viewing a few years later, I felt it was both but the leaned
toward Liberal, which is par for the course. The general plot had left
wingers brainwashing an influential American family into looking like
extreme right wingers and gaining access to the White House through
political influence and assassination. Most of the movie featured a Joe
McCarthy-ish senator (James Gregory) and his conniving wife (Angela
Lansbury) as the villains. They were portrayed as right wingers, of
course, but were really just dupes of the Communists (left wing)! Got
Suffice to say the movie had messages from both the Right and Left but politics aside, the film boasts an involving story that keeps your interest for most of the two hours and six minutes, and had some very interesting characters who are fascinating to watch. That includes the supporting roles. It didn't hurt to have John Frankenheimer direct, either. His films usually were outstanding.
I thought Lansbury and Laurence Harvey had the best parts of the film. The only really stupid and/or annoying character in the movie was played by Janet Leigh. Her romance scenes with Frank Sinatra added nothing to this riveting film. Eliminated, it would have made for a tighter, even better movie. Also, Sinatra found out too easily where Harvey was hiding in Madison Square Garden. Nobody could figure it out that fast! Nonetheless, the ending was a bit surprising and I won't spoil it for anyone who has not seen this.
The movie has endured the test of time and, from what I hear, would have been best left on its own instead of watering down the name of this film with an insipid re-make. This is "The Manchurian Candidate" version you want to see.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Warning, this review contains spoilers, and if you've never seen the
film before, you should definitely watch it without knowing anything
first, for maximum enjoyment. :)
With that out of the way fantastic performances by both Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra, great direction by John Frankenheimer, and an excellent plot all make this a film that is still highly enjoyable today. In a nutshell, American soldiers in the Korean War are captured and subjected to sophisticated brainwashing by Russian and Chinese communists, and one of them is programmed to carry out assassinations back in America. Frank Sinatra plays one of the soldiers who has recurring nightmares about the brainwashing, and the sequence where Frankenheimer shows them thinking they're at a meeting at a lady's club talking about flowers, which seems very odd at first, and spins the camera around to gradually show us the horrifying reality of their predicament, and just how controlled they are, is absolutely fantastic. We come to understand the assassin's trigger, the queen of diamonds when told to play solitaire, which is a wonderfully chilling concept, and I loved how the story included a false trigger at a costume party. Angela Lansbury's character evolves over the film, from over-bearing mother and wife, the brains behind her Senator husband's McCarthyism, to the mastermind behind the whole conspiracy - and how this is revealed is as great as her performance. The movie keeps us guessing, perhaps as those swept up in fear of communism guessed at what may be happening around them in their paranoia, and an example of this is Janet Leigh's offbeat dialog with Sinatra when she first meets him on a train. It immediately seems to us as code and a way of controlling him in some way, but it's also flirtatious, and we're left wondering what her role will be.
Brilliant as it is, from my perspective, the movie has one major flaw. Frankenheimer was happy to show the dangers of McCarthyism and even commented on this in interviews, and yet there WAS a communist plot to overthrow the government, and there WAS unsuspected (and very dangerous) communist infiltration. So at the end of the day, what was the message that McCarthy was right? I don't think it's right to explain this away as satire of both the right and the left, because I don't see the movie as satire, I see it as a political thriller but it is a very good one at that.
I do see the promise of the script.
Major hero, a Mom who thinks everyone who disagrees with her his a Communist (sound familiar anyone?) and a recurring dream keep Raymond Shaw and Marco on their toes as they try to figure out what is going on.
I liked the pacing, though a little slow (and maybe it was because I watched this late) but I watched it at least 3 times before I just gave it up and watched the 2004 version.
I know that this is a great movie and for the time, it was stellar. The story is very good, it wasn't my cup of tea but if you like it by all means have at it
John Frankenheimer's jazzy, hip screen adaptation of Richard Condon's
bestselling novel, The Manchurian Candidate is one of the strangest and
most mercurial movies ever made in Hollywood a rare film that truly
is so ahead of its times. A veritable concoction of various genres and
emotional textures, this exciting black-and-white cold war thriller
never flags for an instant.
The sordid tale gets off to an early start: a small American patrol is captured during the Korean War by Communists, bent on dominating the uppermost echelons of American politics. Whisked off to Communist China, the platoon becomes subject to brainwashing techniques that wipe their conscious memory and plant a cover story for Staff Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), the man chosen to be a sleeper assassin. Shortly thereafter, he is seen being welcomed home in Washington as a Congressional Medal of Honor winner for his gallantry. The platoon members are soon haunted by dreams that reveal the truth of what occurred: though decorated as such, Shaw isn't the hero who saved their lives; rather, he's just another victim of a terrible, traumatic violation. The platoon's commander, Captain Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) senses something amiss and, determines to unravel the seemingly vicious conspiracy. Meanwhile, Shaw plays his part, manipulated by Soviet agents and his coldly calculating mother (Angela Lansbury motivated by her husband's political agenda) as the plot he's been programmed to carry out draws closer to fruition. The captain's subsequent pursuit of the truth comprises the unusual plot which takes us from the halls of Congress to a stunning climax at a Madison Square Garden political convention.
Angela Lansbury, as the scheming, caustic mother is sinfully captivating while Laurence Harvey is pitch-perfect as the docile, disturbed son/war-hero. Sinatra along with the rest of the secondary cast is never less than effective. Frankenheimer's direction is nothing short of masterful, achieving maximum subversion of the audience with a blend of unsettling compositions and fly-on-the-wall photography. The quick cuts and tricky juxtaposition of scenes match the flamboyance of the script. Especially brilliant are the dream sequences that toggle between objective and subjective points of view on the brainwashing demonstration. The political paranoia may, at first glance, seem far-fetched, but when you figure that reality is just as bizarre, you realize the story's sobering clairvoyance.
The fascinating thing is that, from uncertain premise to shattering conclusion, one does not question plausibility: the events being rooted in their own cinematic reality. Chilling in the extreme, The Manchurian Candidate is a sensational paranoid thriller: a lurid tale of high-level subterfuge, depicting, in unflinching detail, the beginning of the end for post-war American optimism.
"The Manchurian Candidate" is a mystery movie in which we watch a man
who is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army and he served valiantly
as a captain in the Korean war. Although this man has a problem he sees
a recurring nightmare in which one where two members of his squad are
killed by someone else. After some time he learns that also some others
in his Korean War unit have nightmares similar to his own and then he
realizes that something happened to all of them in Korea.
I liked this movie because it shows us many truths about Korean War and what happened to many of people who have been there. Also it shows how difficult was for them not only in the war bit also afterward in their simple life in which they had also some other issues. The direction of this movie which made by John Frankenheimer was simply outstanding. I also have to admit that the interpretation of Frank Sinatra who played as Major Bennett Marco was very good and equally good was also the interpretation of Laurence Harvey who played as Raymond Shaw.
Finally I have to say that "The Manchurian Candidate" is a great movie to watch because it represents the truth behind a war in general and make us understand many things about it. I believe that this is the most important part of this movie and this is why this movie is so unique.
Everything has already been said about this magnificent piece of movie
making. And much better than I could ever attempt to do, but even so, I
want to be part of the grateful audience that got so much aesthetic
pleasure from watching this masterpiece of intrigue and suspense.
It seems almost incredible the way tension gathers scene after scene, to a point where one feels intolerable to continue viewing this film because one stopped breathing and is rapidly asphyxiating due to the tightening of the whole body almost slipping down the edge of the seat on the fringes of a nervous breakdown!! As other reviewers pointed out, all actors were astoundingly good, the black and white photography, impeccable, the editing superb and let's say that all the personnel involved in the making of this movie created sheer magic by dedicating all their knowledge and artistic flair to a jewel that by now is a legendary example of superb movie making.
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