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There is a sort of chill that consumes me whenever I think about this
It's shocking, it's thrilling, it's surreal, it's sad...just about
everything. I didn't know that Frank Sinatra could act so well. He gave an
outstanding performance here. His range was remarkable. He goes from loud
reserved to confused to depressed to in love, etc. All the acting here is
just top notch.
Laurence Harvey's Raymond is cold, angry and very bitter. Consider one of the earlier scenes with his mother in the airplane, where he doesn't even try to mask his contempt for his mother and step-father. When asked what he and his employer have in common by he replies: "We found that we both loath and despise you and Johnny!" However, he isn't as cold as he seems. There is a dark secret inside him, one so dark he doesn't even know it himself. He has been brainwashed to be a killing machine. Whenever he plays solitare and sees the Red Queen, he goes into a trance where he'll kill anyone they want him to and have no memory of it, and therefor, no guilt. Now, hard as this may be to believe, there is also a very soft side we eventually discover. "I'm not lovable. But to her I was." He's referring of course to Josie, the love of his life, which his mother destroyed. He then becomes sad and depressed over his lost love. I could talk for days simply on his character because there are so many levels to him, so many chambers of his mind that I could explore.
As a political thriller it works brilliantly. The corruption of the Johnny, the fear of communists infiltrating the government, the lies, the under the table deals, the scams. All of it makes for an intense thriller. What makes it even greater is the threat and suspense created by Raymond, because we don't know who they'll have him kill next, and who's telling him to kill whom. But for me, what pushes this movie over the top is the Angela Lansbury character. This isn't some nice tea pot, or the crafty old woman from "Murder She Wrote." The thing that is so great about this character is that while the character of Noah Cross in "Chinatown" will forever remain as the most chilling father figure in a film (a good runner up would be the Donald Sutherland character of 2000's "Panic") Lansbury's character is the most despicable, horrid mother character I've ever seen. No question. Imagine if the two of them had married, what kind of a family they might have produced. But she alone is enough to make us cringe all throughout this film.
"The Manchurian Candidate" is a magnificent political thriller, yet it is so emotional and the characters so interesting, so varried and so well acted by everyone in the movie, it is simply one of the best films of all time. Once you see this movie, you will not be able to get it out of your mind because of how rich the dialogue is, all that is lost in it, all that takes place, and all that is represented here.
There are two powerful climatic sequences at the end of the film that had my
palms sweating. This is a superb, intelligent movie that perhaps could have
used a more commercial name and a little less of the main character
explaining everything to the audience routine.
Sinatra is very believable in his role, and he definitely carries the look of someone who has endured the torture and pain. Co-actor Laurence Harvey, who looked to me a lot like a young Clint Eastwood, also does a good job of playing the snobbish soldier with an even worse predicament. And Angela Lansbury, playing Harvey's mother, gives a career-highlight performance.
I'm a big fan of poetry, and the strong symbolism achieved through the use of the deck of cards was intriguing, which worked perfectly within the whole theme of brainwashing. No doubt the filmmakers picked an utterly fascinating topic which could have been taken in so many directions as to lose focus of the plot but rather chose to focus on the Oedipal relationship between the unwilling killer and his conniving mother.
The film does lag however in the scene where Sinatra and Janet Leigh first meet, and I still can't understand why she was included in the story.
10 of 10.
The best thing about political thrillers, in my opinion, is the paranoia
that they both portray and generate in their audiences. And `The Manchurian
Candidate' has paranoia in spades. Or perhaps I should say diamonds. That
is, no one who has seen the film will ever look at solitaire or a deck of
cards the same way again. And certainly brainwashing, a frightening concept
in itself, has never been as palpably realized as it is here. The original
ad for the film reads: `If you come in five minutes after this picture
begins, you won't know what it's all about! When you've seen it all, you'll
swear there's never been anything like it!' How true. But the genius of film
lies in several distinct aspects.
The disturbingly prophetic tone of `The Manchurian Candidate,' which was released in 1962, was shatteringly validated when President Kennedy was assassinated less than a year later. It caused so much fervor that the film was banned from theaters for the next 25 years. Aside from the story, the dialogue is crisp and to the point.
The second major aspect of the film that bears mentioning is the acting. Sinatra is in top form here, lending a mesmerizing intensity to Bennett. Harvey is chilling as the brainwashed Shaw, while Lansbury delivers a knockout performance as his mother that earned her an Oscar nomination.
The real genius of the film, however, lies in the directing, cinematography and editing. The brainwashing dream sequence is one of the most talked-about and highly praised sequences in editing, while several other camera shots are so far ahead of their time that they are just now coming into their own. Director John Frankenheimer (who later directed `Ronin') keeps the pace moving at breakneck speed towards the shattering, mind-blowing conclusion.
If you're looking for something to blow you away, something completely unlike anything you've seen before, check out `The Manchurian Candidate.' It has aged well, still providing the same amount of suspense and drama that it did then. In fact, it's so good, it was recently named to the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest American Films, where it placed 67. A thrilling film, topped by an explosive climax, it's one not to be missed.
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
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!!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have seen this movie several times since it first came out. I now realize it stinks. The only thing I liked was the "portal" into the world of 50 years ago. Otherwise the plot doesn't hang together at all. First, we're supposed to believe that it is somehow "the Right" who are the Communists. No doubt this was due to the media's acceptance at the time of the anti-anti-Communist stance. By this viewpoint the anti-Communists were the "real Communists". The real-real Communists--the Soviets, Chinese, Cubans, etc.--were misunderstood builders of paradise. The "real Communists" were buffoons like James Gregory's character who make up conspiracies as easily as Heinz makes ketchup. Gregory's character is clearly based on Joe McCarthy and the movie repeats the media trope that he just pulled the number of commies (in the State Department, not Defense) out of thin air (Heinz' 57 for 57 Communists). Second, we are to asked to believe the Communists, clever enough to program human beings, would be so clumsy as to place one of their human robot assassins close to the very person they are trying to get installed as President? Seems unlikely especially considering that when Laurance Harvey kills John McGiver, he is in a zombie like state and thus not too attentive to whether he might be leaving evidence to connect him with the crime?
This is one of those films made in the era when Hollywood preferred
using Caucasian, and sometimes Hispanic, actors with lots of makeup to
play Asian or Arab characters. In this case it was a Puerto Rican
playing a Korean.
I can't think of an actor that "acts" more than Frank Sinatra. It's just too bad he can't do it better.
Notwithstanding the poor casting and bad acting, it's an intriguing story that is told much better in the remake. I know there are many people that are loyal to the original version, and I'm sure it was a very good film during the time period in which it was released.
Fortunately, the story is different enough in the remake that it is worth seeing, even you have seen this one.
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!
***spoilers are almost inevitable, but i'll do my best to keep them at
a minimum*** While Liev Schrieber is one of my favorite actors
(consider Ray Donovan, for example), the task of remaking The
Manchurian Candidate, a novella from Richard Condon about the paranoia
that held a vicious grip on the U.S. during the McCarthy UnAmerican
Activities Committee probes, it is best left respected, in honor of the
work of the original brave actors who risked their careers in a movie
that was actually banned, in parts of the world, for almost 20 years,
that no remake should be attempted.
The Schrieber/Close remake can only be considered as a well acted reminiscence of the original, but, the fact remains, there is no substitute for the original and absolutely no need for a remake.
If anyone doubts that Frank Sinatra was an excellent actor, then make this your first stop. Then, after this, check out any other movie with his name in the cast and ask yourself how it is that you never noticed that before. Ol' Blue Eyes wasn't just a jazz singer or a crooner. He was a performer.
That's part of the problem with the remake. The tension that exists and is eventually exposed between the hypnotized victims of capture has a real effect on all of the participants in the investigation of their experience. In the remake, everything is invested in the sordid relationship between the candidate and his mother. In the original, the actual horror at the center of events is that the favored amongst the returned captives--well...watch the movie. To say any more about the plot would to give it all away.
Trust me, the original is the best. Laurence Harvey was a very spooky private character to begin with, but a box-office popular personality at that time. Given his thespian success and that of both Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh, they must, all three have been shocked at the ban on the movie, that lasted for a decade (Harvey was already dead before the ban was lifted), which, again, speaks against attempting a remake, given that the ban is, itself, a distinct qualification that can not be carried out of one age of perception to another.
I have a particular affection for the original version because the author of the story, Richard Condon, a U.S American living in Ireland, had the option as an Irish resident artist to take advantage of Ireland's income tax exemption for artists--an artist's bonus that Bono and the rest of U2 heartily used to their advantage--but Condon chose to declare his income to the U.S. Treasury, in order to keep his citizenship intact. It must have hurt him that the country to which he showed such respectful loyalty would give in to the same paranoia that he tried to expose and lay bare, so that it could be challenged and resisted.
In fact, it is a shame that Condon's work is not on the required list of American author's, instead of boring Paul Auster, who, while he writes well, has never written anywhere near close to this, and whose stories all tend to drift away into nothingness, as if he is afraid to say something wrong.
It takes a lot of time and strength to write even a half decent book, and it is not my intent to put Paul Auster down. I just wish that Richard Condon's work was on the same list as Auster. Gun control would, at least, be reconsidered, maybe even prior to the assassination of JFK, MLK, and RFK--but also Malcolm X. None of them should have died and just a little bit more security could have kept them all alive.
We have been made to become cynical since then, and that is the problem with the remake. When Christopher Lee heard about the remake of The Wicker Man, he said, Why? A sequel might make sense, but why remake a success? Same thing with The Manchurian Candidate. If you haven't yet seen either, go with the original. It even has the author's blessing, and he paid his taxes promptly.
One of the big surprises about "The Manchurian Candidate" is Angela
Lansbury in a villainous role. Between "Murder, She Wrote" and her work
for Disney, you can't help but entertain a kindly image of the actor.
The other surprise is how potent this still is, even at the 55 year mark. Maybe that's because I lobe '70s movies of the genre, but even still, this is a highly effective political thriller. And that's due in large part to Frankenheimer's skilled direction and a script full of inventive deceit. It even has plenty of time to skewer McCarthyism. Almost everything seen here has been done since, but you're still left unprepared for that one last plot twist. Well-executed, to say the least.
The cast is star-studded, the story's engrossing and there's almost a playful sense of humor to it.
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