Well-Observed, If Implausible, Thriller Discussed From Behind The Scenes By An Actress In A Rare "Bad Woman" Portrayal.
This brief (16 min.) documentary was shot in 2004, to be included as a segment of a DVD package showcasing director John Frankenheimer's complex 1961 political suspense film, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, and it is constructed from an enlightening interview with Angela Lansbury, the esteemed actress whose role is at the heart of the piece. Lansbury describes her cinematic relationships with other members of the cast while complimenting Frankenheimer for his elevated creative standards (she had worked with him on ALL FALL DOWN, released during the same year), that were largely responsible for her acceptance of a part in MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE as a "bad woman", a form of characterization which she had carefully avoided. Since many of the players did not appear in scenes with each other during filming, Lansbury mentions that "nobody knew anybody else", an obliquity that results in many episodes that haunt a viewer's memory. Following her agreement to the assignment, she embraced the role with enthusiasm and, because of off-camera experience in Washington, D.C. social circles, Lansbury had become familiar with the manner with which Washington hostesses dressed and wore their hair. Although upon the surface a dubious selection to play as mother to Laurence Harvey (only three years younger than her), "nobody tried to age me. It all had to do with the way I carried myself and my general demeanor" says Angela. She additionally cites the directorial advantage of technique that Frankenheimer acquired through films he made for television and she also has high praise for stars Frank Sinatra and Harvey, the latter of particular interest since he has not received very much in the way of praise from his other acting peers. This short film includes clips from THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and there are anecdotes aplenty; e.g., when John F. Kennedy learned that the Richard Condon novel upon which the motion picture is based, a JFK favourite, was being converted to film, he promptly inquired " Who's playing the mother?" A gracious Lansbury, rather less than sinister during the course of this interview, makes a point that the 1961 work has enjoyed both a popular and critically approving reemergence.
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