on 4 March 2015
During the Korean war a platoon of soldiers are captured and held prisoner.... in a flower garden that is being hosted by a bunch of middle aged women whose speech patterns strangely go from all American to Russian, Latin American and cod Chinese. Why is this happening? Because the prisoner's setting and accomodation is all an elaborate illusion, to rouse the prisoners into doing the bidding of the 'other side', and that's what this film is all about; the controlling and domination of a man's mind to do the most horrid acts of all.
Of course The Manchurian Candidate is just pure fiction and the whole idea sounds ludicrous, served up as a slice of paranoia propaganda to the McCarthites, and a satire of said paranoia to the more liberal crowd. Produced and released at a time when the ghost of McCarthism was still very much present in the U.S. and all over the western world, The Manchurian Candidate was a film that hit the nail at both sides of the argument. With a compelling performance by Laurence Harvey, as the troubled and detestable young man at the centre of the whole story, and a sensantional performance by Angela (Jessica Fletcher) Lansbury as his horrid mother who would make Mrs Bates look like a saint, The Manchurian Candidate is a brilliant and captivating film that would take you on a suspence filled ride and would leave you hoping for more.
The Blu-Ray: Yet again Arrow have proven themselves very worthy. If there ever was a home video distributor that did an abrupt face on its reputation its this company. After investing heavily on re-energising their brilliant regular cult/expoloitation label (and I use this term loosely, since older mainstream titles that are ripe for rediscovery seemed to have crept into the catalogue) Arrow have gone back and reopened their dormant Arrow Academy label with the 2013 release of The Night of the Hunter and have excelled also. This release has a decent enough transfer. The PQ is stable and the majority of all scratches and marks have been removed, whilst the AQ (a 1.0 mono track) is stable, and dialogue is crisp and unobtrusive. Seeing as this is an Arrow release, extras are a major hook and yet again Arrow have not held back and have gave this release their detailed best.
Overall, fans of the film will be delighted by this release whilst newcomers will be greatly rewarded by a brilliant film and comprehensive extras that they would be sitting down to be play solitaire for many years to come.
on 29 December 2004
More than forty years after its original release, The Manchurian Candidate has lost none of its edge. Unlike many classics it is good not just retrospectively and for its time, but will captivate the modern, jaded cinema goer even today - the mark of a real classic. With a plot that leaves the audience guessing and confused through much of the film, The Manchurian Candidate manages to keep the viewer in suspense until the very end. Nothing is what it seems in this groundbreaking story about Raymond Shaw, a US soldier brainwashed in the Korean War. Frank Sinatra puts in a stellar performance as the man trying to get to the bottom of a series of mysterious events, and Angela Lansbury, despite being only two years older than the actor who plays Raymond, is utterly convincing as his mother.
on 26 November 2004
Richard Condon is a terrifically accomplished writer and this is one of his finest moments. Far outshining the 1962 movie (and, one has to presume, the recent remake) The Manchurian Candidate mixes sharp social satire and political insight with taut plotlines and the gymnastic facility with language to which Condon's fans have become well accustomed.
Far from being dated, The Manchurian Candidate's cynical take on media manipulation and the subversion of America's political process reads just as vitally today as it must have done 45 years ago. As someone who first read the book in the late 1970s and has re-read it several times since, I couldn't recommend it higher.
on 2 May 2013
John Frankenheimer directed this movie for release in 1962 (and 2 years later he directed another great thriller, "7 days in May"), and to me the former was an eye-opener that I never forgot. Maybe because political thrillers of that standard were not that common in the sixties, and another reason, beside the acting, was maybe the subject of the effects of brain-wash, that I don't recall having seen in any other movie from that period.
Frank Sinatra is, as always, very good and so is Laurence Harvey, but the most scary person is portrayed by Angela Lansbury. There is quite a gap between her part in the sugar-coated TV-series, "Murder, she wrote", to her role as the cold-blooded and unscrupulous mother to her son (LH), and Meryl Streep in same role and in the remake of the movie in 2004 didn't come close.
Great director and a great movie!
on 28 December 2004
John Frankenheimer could do little wrong in the early 1960's and this political thriller, an adpatation of Richard Condon's novel, stands as probably his finest achievement. The film is dazzlingly photographed (in B&W), memorably performed (by Angela Lansbury in particular) and is blessed with a bitingly, satirical script containing surprise, humour, pathos and moments of shocking violence. There are some flaws: the plot is preposterous and Laurence Harvey makes no attempt at an American accent; but the film is so gripping from the outset that these are easily overlooked.
On the DVD, the film is presented in its original widescreen format with mono sound. Picture and audio quality are both adequate. The main extras are a commentary track from John Frankenheimer and short retrospective interviews with Frankenheimer, Frank Sinatra and screenwriter George Axelrod. Unfortunately, neither are particularly illuminating.
on 22 September 2007
This film is now 45 years old, but still stands up as a massive achievement.
I won't ruin the plot, but an army platoon's disappearance behind enemy lines in the Korean War leads to an award for their Staff Sargeant, whose stepfather just happens to be a rabid right-wing senator. It isn't the correctness of the honour's bestowal that needs to concern you, either!
The film is lit up by Frank Sinatra, as the platoon's Major, who slowly realises something evil happened, but he can't guess what, let alone why for ages. Sinatra's face in this film is expessive beyond belief-starting like a guy with a pebble in his shoe,and mildly irritated, it gradually collapses as the enormity of what might have happened sinks in, especially when he's left alone to try and reverse the seemingly inevitable conclusion.
Laurence Harvey, as the Staff Sargeant, is perfect casting-he often acted with hardly-supressed boredom and a stony expression & that suits the man he has become. But glimpses of what he actually was break through now and again, and the question boils down to which part will do what in the climax of the film.
As if that wasn't enough, Angela Lansbury, as Harvey's manipulative mother, puts in a third cracking performance. How she got to be Miss Marple after this is beyond belief-very naughty girl indeed!!
So, that's more than enough reasons to buy it-go get that credit card now!
on 30 April 2015
The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is another taut and engrossing thriller from John Frankenheimer (Seconds, The Train, French Connection II), who is becoming one of my top directors. This one is about a unit that returns from Korea, its leader a war hero that risked himself in combat to rescue his men...or did he? The script (George Axelrod) is equal parts conspiracy thriller and Anti-McCarthyism satire, fluidly segueing between the two. Some really audacious tricks of cinematography (Lionel Linden) and editing (Ferris Webster). Great performances all around, but especially Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra.
Arrow's blu-ray gives an expected strong presentation of the film based on MGM's master. The B/W photography shows healthy contrast and grain. Sound is a clear mono. There are some strong extras including archival interviews with director-writer-producer team and with Angela Lansbury who played a rather controversial mother character in the film. Arrow also includes an episode on Frankenheimer from "The Directors" series, giving a decent career retrospective of the man, right from his days of working in TV. Highly recommended for people that like taut thrillers that don't depend on action sequences to be exciting.
Lawrence Harvey was a brilliant actor, but one that tended to put people off with his aloofness bordering on arrogance. But this movie is not about likable people. It's about control, dirty politics, communism, and the anti-communist witch-hunts that took their toll on Hollywood and Washington. Harvey's distance works perfectly as Raymond Shaw, but even in the dis-likable Raymond, Frankenheimer pulls out moments of pathos. In a tour de force, Harvey is perfect as the man controlled by his mother, by forces the brainwashed him. He gives a bleak insight into the character of Raymond, a man driven to do things he has no idea why, and man so manipulated by his harpy mother, a 'gun' that has been loaded waiting for the trigger to be pulled, one that kills the woman he loves without hesitation.
But his brilliance does not dominate the film, because there are so many other superb performance by this All Star Cast. And oddly, John Frankenheimer in untypical Hollywood style, cast against roles and demanded such range from all the actors. Angela Landsbury (Murder, She Wrote) built a career of being the person everyone adored, yet in this film she is the woman behind the man...the true power. She is hard-edged, totally manipulative, rather ugly in spirit, and determined at all costs to change the face of US politics. Frank Sinatra, usually Mr. Macho, comes across as a man a tormented by dreams that made no sense, but keep him convinced something is terrible wrong, with him, with Harvey, with all the men of their unit. Many consider this Sinatra's best performance. Janet Leigh is warm as the woman who falls in love with Sinatra, though under used. James Gregory play Landsbury's husband, the wishy-washy Joe McCarthy-type senator, who is merely his wife's mouthpiece and puppet. John McGiver gives a fine supporting performance as the voice of reason, a senator who would block at all costs Landsbury pushing her husband's bid for the presidency.
The edgy, black and white lensing, gives a dated feel to the movie, but actually enforces the cold war era sensation, a perfect medium for Frankenheimer's anti-McCarthyism rant. Landsbury won an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe for this performance. It's well deserved.
It's not a likable film, its not a comfortable film and maybe a little hard for younger generations to appreciate the horror, the tension of the cold war and McCarthyism, but is a film so brilliant it needs repeat viewing to appreciate all the small nuances.
on 6 March 2013
A well written book and companion to one of my favourite films. The film follows the book very closely and as a result a superb piece of cinematography emerged. I would strongly recommend reading the book, there are a couple of things that the mores of the time prevented from reaching the cinema screen but add to the intensity of Raymond's character and his motivations. Buy it, read it, (re)watch the film, and be entertained and enthralled.
During the Korean War a platoon was mislead and abducted for nefarious purposes. This was well planned as there was only one person in the platoon that would serve further purpose SSgt. Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) and was already in a position needed for the future. The rest of the platoon is used to support a story to help Raymond get the Congressional Metal of Honor
One other in the platoon Cap. /Maj. Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) finally realizes what happed and is in a position to thwart the plot this is because he is with Army Intelligence. As with real life luck would have it that he is assisted be a quirky woman who sees his potential and dumps her old beau for the new challenge.
What is the plot and will it succeed?
Or will Marco be able to foil it?
Who is the mysterious American Control?
Who are we supposed to root for?
Watch as the story unfolds and remember they can not hear you when you say "Watch out!"
I was shocked to see Angela Lansbury, "Murder She Wrote" not being quite as nice as I remember her. A real advantage was not recognizing Laurence Harvey from anywhere and so this did not distract from his acting.
I really enjoyed watching this just as a movie and not trying to make any connections to underlying messages. But I was really surprised to find out who the American control was. And so much for the theory that you can't be forced to do anything that is not within your nature. I was surprised to the last.
With out the immediate threat of the cold war the movie still holds suspense for us. John Candy did a parody of this in the movie "Volunteers"