30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Disturbing, well acted, well directed,
This review is from: The Manchurian Candidate [DVD] (DVD)
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.