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Author Topic: The Manchurian Candidate (1962) Cold War Noir  (Read 526 times)
cigar joe
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« on: October 25, 2016, 06:48:38 AM »



It's amusing to imagine the audience reactions to the film when it first premiered during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A film about an embedded communist assassin effecting a presidential election campaign with the world on the brink of a nuclear holocaust must have additionally upped the anxiety levels of many. I never saw the film when it was first released. I was too busy doing air raid drills, hiding under my school desk with my head between my legs getting ready to kiss my ass goodbye.

Directed by John Frankenheimer. The screenplay was written by George Axelrod and is based on the 1959 novel The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon. Cinematography was by Lionel Lindon. Music was by David Amram, film editing was by Ferris Webster and production design by Richard Sylbert.

The film stars Frank Sinatra (Suddenly (1954), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), ), Laurence Harvey (BUtterfield 8 (1960), Walk on the Wild Side (1962)), and Janet Leigh (Act of Violence (1948), Rogue Cop (1954),Touch of Evil (1958), Psycho (1960), Harper (1966), ); co-starring are Angela Lansbury (Gaslight (1944), ), Henry Silva, James Gregory (Nightfall (1956), The Big Caper (1957)), John McGiver, James Edwards and Khigh Dhiegh.




Shaw (Harvey), Marco (Sinatra), Chunjin (Silva)

Korean War. US Platoon. Bennett Marco (Sinatra), Captain, Italian. Raymond Shaw (Harvey), Sergeant, goes by the book. Loner. Mama's boy. Dipshit. Has a stick up his ass. Seven other G.I.'s . Out on recon. Led into trap. Captured by Chinese/Soviets. Drugged, Brainwashed. Several days later they cross back to US Lines, all have same story. Shaw saved their lives. A Bad Ass. Single handedly wiped out a Chinese company. Big hero. All platoon survivors have same praise "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."


Raymond Shaw (Harvey)

Shaw is awarded Medal Of Honor. Marco is promoted to Major. Marco and rest of platoon all have a crazy recurring nightmare, they are attending a Ladies function at a hotel listening to a lecture about hydrangeas, but the nightmare/flashback keeps switching between the lecture and a small amphitheater full with Chinese, Soviet, and communist brass and medical personnel. What frightens them the most is that they see a conditioned Shaw brutally murder, machine like, without any emotion, the two platoon members who didn't make it back.


Brainwashed


flashback







Marco is hipped. The brainwashing not quite complete. He goes to Army Intel. He describes the nightmare/flashback. Allen Melvin another platoon member has same recall. Intel investigates.
Marco and Melvin identify some of the men in the dream as leading figures in communist circles.


Raymond (Shaw), Mrs. Iselin (Lansbury), Senator John Yerkes Iselin (Gregory)


manipulating

Raymond Shaw's mother, Mrs. Eleanor Iselin (Angela Lansbury), has big plans. She's a cold hearted schemer. In a nod to McCarthyism, her plan is to make her chowderhead, red baiting, husband Senator John Yerkes Iselin (James Gregory), who sees communists embedded in all branches of government, President of the United States.






Marco (Sinatra), Chaney (Leigh)


Dr. Yen Lo (Dhiegh) left.

Mrs. Iselin is in reality a card carrying commie. Her plan involves using Raymond who is now a communist trained assassin, to murder the presidential candidate during his acceptance speech at the convention, thereby having her husband (the vice presidential candidate) lead the ticket.

Raymond is triggered into various actions by a Queen Of Diamonds playing card. When displayed he obeys instructions, and has no memory afterwards. Shaw is overseen by Chunjin (Henry Silva), a North Korean agent who is employed as his houseboy.



As Marco gets closer to the truth and Mrs. Iselin eliminates, using Raymond, all obstacles to her plans the the film escalates to an exciting conclusion

Noirsville















The film is both a thriller and a somewhat of a political satire. The communist brainwashers are juxtaposed against right wing buffoons. Laurence Harvey is outstanding as the mama's boy/assassin, he's always struck me as phony, unreal, a douche, nobody really talks like that normally, but it all feeds into and builds the story. Sinatra is good as Marco the haunted Major who breaks the case. Angela Lansbury steals the show as Mrs. Iselin a duplicitous bitch. James Gregory is entertaining as he sanctimoniously spouts baloney. Henry Silva and Khigh Dhiegh play the villains well. The only disappointment was Janet Leigh's Eugenie Rose Chaney a character that seems to be just a tacked on love interest for Marco.



Screencaps are from the MGM special edition DVD 9/10

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« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2016, 10:45:21 AM »

Saw it in the '80's, gave it 6/10, interesting starting point but it becomes wooden as it proceeds. The novel was better.

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dave jenkins
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« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2016, 11:45:52 AM »

The garden party flashback is the highlight; things are never as good after that.

I enjoy a lot of the actors and the characters they play: Laurence Harvey, of course, but certainly all the women: Angela Lansbury, Leslie Parrish, and especially Janet Leigh. The story is ridiculous: I can't stand to watch it start-to-finish anymore, but I'll break the Blu-ray out now  and then for an occasional scene or two.

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« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2016, 01:10:34 PM »

The Manchurian Candidate has somehow turned into a classic, I don't know why. Not bad, but less good than expected. 6,5/10

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« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2016, 04:29:39 PM »

The Manchurian Candidate has somehow turned into a classic, I don't know why.

Because it was unavailable for 3/4 decades. Sinatra's decision, if I remember well.

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« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2016, 05:34:33 AM »

Because it was unavailable for 3/4 decades. Sinatra's decision, if I remember well.

That does not explain why it has such a good reputation.

I think I first watched it in the 80s. So maybe it was only unavailable in the USA?

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« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2016, 09:55:32 AM »

I think I first watched it in the 80s.
The late 80s perhaps? 88 or 89, maybe? I remember when the LD came out in the 90s, pre-DVD.

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« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2016, 10:03:43 AM »

I saw it on tv, surely the '80's. But I seem to remember that when it was re-released theatrically in the USA I wondered what was all the fuss about its being invisible for decades. The story was that Sinatra put it on ice because of the similarities with Kennedy's murder. And then probably forgot it.

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« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2016, 01:51:17 PM »

A far better adaptation by choosing to avoid the novels structure for its own. The second chapter of the novel goes ON AND ON about the sinister plan of brainwashing the soldiers whereas in the film it plays out in flashbacks.

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« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2016, 04:28:03 PM »

A far better adaptation by choosing to avoid the novels structure for its own. The second chapter of the novel goes ON AND ON about the sinister plan of brainwashing the soldiers whereas in the film it plays out in flashbacks.

That may be the only advantage of the movie, though. Once you know what it is about interest deadens. It didn't happen with the novel, if I remember well (I must have read it even before watching the movie).

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« Reply #10 on: October 26, 2016, 06:03:20 PM »

That may be the only advantage of the movie, though. Once you know what it is about interest deadens. It didn't happen with the novel, if I remember well (I must have read it even before watching the movie).

I made the mistake of reading it before the film but it was interesting to see the difference. I would prefer the movie over the novel just for the structure change but I have doubt on whether I will read the novel or watch the film again. The movie though has Henry Silva as a North Korean soldier who gets into a fight with Frank Sinatra and that scene alone might make me watch it again. As far as the novel, I kept reading after the second chapter so it must have kept my interest.

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