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
Frank Sinatra told the press he was more excited to do this film than any other he had ever worked on. He was particularly taken with having to say things in the script "I've never had to speak on screen before...long, wild speeches." George Axelrod said he thought it was terrific "to have that marvellous, beat-up Sinatra face giving forth long, incongruous speeches." See more »
Senator Iselin is not my father. Repeat: he is not my father. If you learn nothing else on your visit to this country, memorize that fact.
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The live TV cameras in the senate hearing and press conference carry the NBC logo used at the time the film was made, not the logo used at the time the story takes place. See more »
West German version was edited (ca. 4 minutes) to remove every scene with the ladies in the greenhouse. To this day all home video releases contain the cut version. An uncut version (with subtitles for the missing scenes) was shown on Arte. See more »
There are parts of The Manchurian Candidate that are so perceptive and prophetic that it can be shocking. The satire of political campaigns and the influence of political wives feels very fresh. The film is also an excellent spy thriller and foretells the many political assassinations in the 60's. There are many fine performances in the film and Angela Lansbury plays one of the best film villains I have seen. Also, the directing, cinematography and editing are terrific.
My problems with the film mainly stem from its dialogue. The script repeats lines from the book the film was based upon. The result is that the actor's lines are very often stilted and not believable. Other less important problems involve Lawrence Harvey who while he gives a fine performance needed a dialogue coach. He begins the film with an American accent and slowly takes on a English one. The Janet Leigh character is also troubling. It seems she is a Soviet agent but this is not explained. Her character is too subtle and clashes with the very straight forward presentation of the rest of the film.
The flaws of The Manchurian Candidate would sink a lesser film. But when this movie hits its stride it is so powerful that it rises above its drawbacks and remains a classic spy thriller.
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