Manchurian Candidate

Manchurian Candidate

4.8 7
Director: John Frankenheimer

Cast: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh

     
 

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An unusually tense and intelligent political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate was a film far ahead of its time. Its themes of thought control, political assassination, and multinational conspiracy were hardly common currency in 1962, and while its outlook is sometimes informed by Cold War paranoia, the film seemed nearly as timely when it was reissued in 1987See more details below

Overview

An unusually tense and intelligent political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate was a film far ahead of its time. Its themes of thought control, political assassination, and multinational conspiracy were hardly common currency in 1962, and while its outlook is sometimes informed by Cold War paranoia, the film seemed nearly as timely when it was reissued in 1987 as it did on its original release. It opens with a group of soldiers whooping it up in a bar in Korea as their commander, Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), 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 (Frank Sinatra) 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 (Angela Lansbury), who guides the career of her second husband, John Iselin (James Gregory), a bone-headed congressman hoping to win the vice-presidential nomination through a campaign of anti-Communist hysteria. The Manchurian Candidate features a host of remarkable performances, several from actors cast cleverly against type. Frank Sinatra's edgy, aggressive turn as Marco may be the finest dramatic work of his career; Laurence Harvey's chilly onscreen demeanor was rarely used to s better advantage than as Raymond Shaw; James Gregory is great as the oft-befuddled Senator Iselin; and Angela Lansbury's ultimate bad mom will be a shock to those who know her as the lovable mystery writer from Murder, She Wrote. George Axelrod's screenplay (based on Richard Condon's novel) is by turns compelling, witty, and horrifying in its implications, and John Frankenheimer's direction milks it for all the tension it can muster. While Frankenheimer's career has had its ups and downs, The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds (1966) suggest that he deserves to be recognized as one of the most brilliantly paranoid American filmmakers of the '60s. Entertaining yet unsettling, both films indicate that things in the '60s were not what they seemed, with a resonance that still echoes uncomfortably in the present.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Amy Robinson
Among the most taut and influential thrillers ever produced, director John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate is a bleak, mordant spy thriller in which communist brainwashing and mother love make a potentially lethal combination. Plagued by recurring nightmares, a shell-shocked career soldier (Frank Sinatra) begins to suspect that a fellow GI (Laurence Harvey) is not in fact a war hero, but rather a brainwashed enemy operative. If he's right, can he figure out his old pal's mission? Frankenheimer made a pair of disturbing, noirish masterpieces in the early '60s; this film and Seconds. Both offer subversive visions of modern society and the illusions it perpetuates, but The Manchurian Candidate benefits from a superior cast. In a film filled with exceptional performances, Angela Lansbury stands out, brilliantly alternating between the simpering, supportive wife and mother she plays in public and the steely, ruthless puppet master she is behind the scenes. Featuring crisp, expressionistic black and white cinematography and an early -- for Hollywood -- bout of onscreen martial arts, The Manchurian Candidate is a textbook on how to construct an unforgettable and thought-provoking political thriller.
All Movie Guide
A brilliant Cold War satire, The Manchurian Candidate is a chilling commentary on political power, international conspiracy, and the gullibility of the American people. A paean to paranoia, it was ahead of its time yet reflected the tensions of its era, and modern-day viewers can use it as a guide to the political and moral climate of the early years of Cold War America. One doesn't have to look hard to find a thinly veiled Senator Joseph McCarthy in zealous anti-Communist Senator Iselin or fears of female dominance in Angela Lansbury's megalomaniacal Mrs. Iselin. In addition to its status as one of the great political satires, The Manchurian Candidate remains a classic for its sharp, often hilarious script, for John Frankenheimer's fine-tuned direction, and for its uniformly excellent performances. Though Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, and Janet Leigh are all thoroughly effective, and James Gregory is pricelessly stupid as Senator Iselin, the film belongs to Lansbury. Her Mrs. Iselin remains one of the screen's most terrifying maternal presences, a queen bee intent on clearing the hive of anyone who stands in her way. Like her clueless husband, the audience can only react dumbly to her, marveling at her single-minded rampage towards world domination. Unavailable for years due to a dispute between Sinatra and United Artists, The Manchurian Candidate is a film that should not be missed. Equal parts satire, political thriller, sly commentary, and history lesson, it has become a terrifying postcard from a time that should not be forgotten.

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Product Details

Release Date:
08/06/1996
UPC:
0027616585035
Original Release:
1962
Rating:
PG13
Source:
Mgm (Video & Dvd)

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Frank Sinatra Bennett Marco
Laurence Harvey Raymond Shaw
Janet Leigh Rosie
Angela Lansbury Mrs. Iselin
Henry Silva Chunjin
James Gregory Sen. John Iselin
Leslie Parrish Jocie Jordon
John McGiver Sen. Thomas Jordan
James Edwards Corporal Melvin
Douglas Henderson Colonel
Albert Paulsen Zilkov
Barry Kelley Secretary of Defense
Lloyd Corrigan Holborn Gaines
Madame Spivy Berezovo
John Lawrence Gossfeld
Michael Masters Actor
Irving Steinberg Freeman
Robert Riordan Nominee
Miyoshi Jingu Miss Gertrude
Anna Shin Korean Girl
Joan Douglas Actor
Raynum K. Tsukamoto Chinese Men in Hotel Lobby
Khigh Dhiegh Yen Lo
Joe Adams Psychiatrist
Whit Bissell Medical Officer
Mimi Dillard Melvin's Wife
Tom Lowell Lembeck
Richard Lepore Mavole
Nicky Blair Silvers
William Thourlby Little
John Francis Haiken
Reggie Nalder Gomel
Helen Kleeb Chairlady
Maye Henderson Chairlady
Mickey Finn Reporter
Richard Norris Reporter
John Indrisano Reporter
Tom Harris F.B.I. Man
Robert Burton Convention Chairman
Karen Norris Secretary
Bess Flowers Gomel's Lady Counterpart
Ray Spiker Policeman
Merritt Bohn Jilly
Harry Holcombe General
Julie Payne Party Guest
Estelle Etterre Woman in Lobby
Mary Benoit Woman in Lobby
Frances E. Nealy Woman in Lobby
James Yagi Man in Lobby
Lee Tung Foo Man in Lobby
Margaret Mason Actor

Technical Credits
John Frankenheimer Director,Producer
David Amram Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
George Axelrod Producer,Screenwriter
Joseph C. Behm Asst. Director
Ron Berkeley Makeup
Jack Freeman Makeup
Philip M. Jefferies Art Director
Howard W. Koch Executive Producer
Lionel Lindon Cinematographer
Moss Mabry Costumes/Costume Designer
George R. Nelson Set Decoration/Design
Dorothy Parkinson Makeup
Paul Pollard Special Effects
Bernard Ponedel Makeup
Richard Sylbert Production Designer
Ferris Webster Editor

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