Title: The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Classic Movie Man - January 16, 2005 01:39 PM (GMT)
Although now somewhat dated, this melodrama pitting the ideals of the US against the Soviets early in the Cold War still has some startling and fascinating moments. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE takes the idea of brainwashing one step further than usual by presenting an American soldier programmed into a robot. Once given the prearranged codes, he will perform any action specified by his control force. Stellar acting by Laurence Harvey and, to some lesser degree, Frank Sinatra—provides the film with many memorable scenes.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE is political fiction at its most forceful on the screen. Laurence Harvey's performance is so obsessive that he fascinates from beginning to end. Frank Sinatra, as the puzzled commander, is also top-notch, but James Gregory as the hen-pecked McCarthy-type politician and Angela Lansbury as the fanatical Communist mother are not much more than flamboyant clichés.
Jarringly powerful. Sinatra reportedly invested considerable money in this production, which saw a huge box-office return. In addition, director John Frankenheimer, one of the first to indict the illogical and tyrannical witch-hunting of the McCarthy ties, became a real force in American cinema by virtue of this powerful film.
The film earned distinction as one of the first of a genre that mixed reality, symbolism, and the fantastic, alternating caprice and grim fact so that the view is jarred from one scene to the next, just as it would be if riding on a speeding train constantly being rerouted. The film's stark and jolting half-real, half-surreal quality falters only in the so-called "dream sequences" which, regrettably, are as forced and blatant as the worst WWII propaganda film.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE plays fast and loose with the concept of brainwashing, and Frankenheimer reportedly created the brainwashing scenes on the spot, having no specifications in the script for such sequences. He is only partially effective here in that he allows his cameras—with weird angles and fluid dolly and truck shots—to achieve what is not spoken, let alone explained, as the GIs are put through their paces by an unctuous Chinese military psychiatrist (if you can call him that).
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE received a nomination for Best Editing and Lansbury was nominated by the Academy for Best Supporting Actress.
(from Cinebooks Motion Picture Guide Review)
What do you think of this movie ?
EMB - January 31, 2005 09:36 PM (GMT)
As my avatar may suggest, I'm a huge fan of this film. And while it is dated, it's no less chilling--and depressing--as it's always been.
It's a brilliant thriller, and the cold war angle is well played, but what resonates are some great performances and a perfectly believable plot(so believable, some thought, what with Oswald and the Kennedy assassination, that the film was pulled from circulation and not reshown until the late '80s).
The idea that the US government could be perverted and taken over by a communist plot involving the murder of the candidate(and thus his veep understudy rising to the top)may seem fantastical now, but in more paranoid times(perhaps we were better off that way?), this didn't' seem so improbable.
I agree that Laurence Harvey's Raymond Shaw is a great acting job, notwithstanding Harvey's being American with a very obvious British accent(perhaps it was assumed we'd consider his accent 'patrician' and regal like the Kennedys?) I happen to think Sinatra does a fine job here also, more than he's given credit for; it's actually a secondary role, yet he was the man most responsible, along with director John Frankenheimer, for getting the movie made. Angela Lansbury was also brilliant: a domineering, scheming woman on the screen in 1962--and a behind-the-scenes power, at that!--was otherwise unthinkable in the cinema of the early '60s. It's a fine backing cast, with obvious veterans of TV(and future Hawaii Five-O Wo Fat, Kheigh Deigh, among them), but it's the lovely Leslie Parrish that I still find most affecting and, with Harvey, tragic. Their doomed love affair is among the saddest ever portrayed on the screen, amidst the rancor and cynical humor that is rampant throughout the film. Indeed, the only real flaw of the film is the presence of Janet Leigh's character. She does her best, but her Rosie is totally superfluous, a needless part of the story, extra baggage. Guess Sinatra figured he needed a love interest too, but she gets little screen time, and almost seems to have been added mainly for marquee value.
Not to be underrated is Frankenheimer's great direction(he had several years when he and Kubrick were really the best American directors on the planet--and the most audacious), and David Amram's haunting, melancholy score. Amram creates a sad, isolated, lonely atmosphere that, while not always fitting with what we see on the screen, sets the proper dark tones the story will embark upon.
Not a film for everyone, but one of the very best, I think.
richardjf - July 13, 2006 09:12 PM (GMT)
My mother knew who Angela Lansbury is, but she has gradually become a fan of "Murder She Wrote" in reruns on A&E.
Now she recalls when my brother recorded "Sweeny Todd" (which had been recorded for A&E, but aired on ETV) and found it amazing to place them as the same woman; Jessica Fletcher and Nelly Lovett.
We would then go further to examine "Little Gloria: Happy At Last" and then I had to go "oh yea, she was in 'Bedknobs & Broomsticks as well."
And I had rented "Manchurian Candidate" for some incredibly odd reason (I think to see Lansbury's oscar nominated performance. No other reason I would have wanted to see this movie.)
I would keep telling my mother that Lansbury was absolutely vicious in "Manchurian" and how difficult it was to think they were the same woman all the way around; Manchurian, Bedknobs, Murder She Wrote, Little Gloria, Sweeny Todd.
Even her viciously tough women like Manchurian and Little Gloria watch differently from each other, and her musical innocents like Bedknobs and Sweeny Todd are diverse from each other as well.
Well, I finally got around to buying a copy of Manchurian for Mother to see and for myself to watch again as well, after a good decade.
It may be dated NOW with its disillusionment and absolute distrust of the government, which no doubt came about after the complete and total patriotism of WWII, but clearly the thinking that anyone who doesnt toss complete and total disdain on a government decision is being blindly led around with a ring thru their nose is now just as unpopular and frowned upon as was the flag-waving and 'God bless America' rhetoric of the 1940s and 1950s.
I also think it has interesting historical value about McCarthyism, but strange how such a movie couldn't be made (oh, they wouldn't have been allowed!) until after McCarthy was even dead.
I read on another site that the characters are cliched. Sinatra's definitely, but I think Lansbury definitely set the standard. I remember watching this movie before and not having an ever-lovin' clue what her role in this thing was going to be.
Upon watching the tape, which includes the theatrical trailer, I was perplexed that the trailer shows absolutely nothing of Angela Lansbury.
This then makes me wonder where this movie stood.
Was it supposed to be a Sinatra thriller, who valiantly tries to save his friend who has been brainwashed?
Was the trailer supposed to be misleading and we were supposed to think that Leigh would step forward and go "I am the queen of diamonds!"
Movies and promos are puzzling at how they are promoted and how they are set up. Leigh was at this time, the star, with her Psycho nomination, but Lansbury was what? Elvis' Blue Hawaii momma? Or was that yet to come? Then Lansbury had no spotlight on her at this time.
I remember thinking the same thing about William Holden in "Bridge ON The River Kwai"; why was he in it? It was all Alec and Mifune.
Most of these old movies to me are dated in their racial and sexual omissions, but I think Manchurian does hold up in an interesting way because of the black soldier and his dream, but also with its brief shots of supporting black figures.
And Lansbury is the fun female role, tho I think many younger generations would either recognize her right off as 'that lady from Murder she Wrote' or they might be surprised to realize it is her.
How old is Sinatra here? Was he born in 1912? Thereby making him fifty?
Definitely he is dated. Holding on to some tough guy role.
And yes, the fate of Parrish and John McGiver is a bit of a downer. He is the major league fun character actor. Didn't recall he was shot twice.
Parrish is something of a limited Mary Wickes; she keeps turning up in fun movies and shows.
Lil Abner (1959), Absent-Minded Professor (1963), Star Trek with the god Apollo (She wore one of the most startlingly suggestive outfits on the show, and it is long rumored to have a deleted scene where she was impregnated by the god), then she bottoms out with the MST3K turkey (tho I would watch it back in the 1970s as an actual late night movie!) "Giant Spider Invasion".
She is lovely in each of them, and I hated her demise in Spider INvasion, tho I never connected her with the other programs or appearances.
vienna - July 15, 2006 09:31 AM (GMT)
Great thriller - I dont find it dated. I coulnt bring myself to see the remake.I wondered if Janet Leigh had some scenes cut - she did seem to be superfluous - her sudden falling in love with the Sinatra character was hard to take.
grassharp - July 25, 2006 08:56 PM (GMT)
I do agree that the first Manchurian Candidate seems dated now, but it wasn't at the time it was release. I enjoyed it for the tension in the scenes and the idea that this could really happen. I did like Laurence Harvey and for Angela Lansbury's more villanous roles ...take a look at GASLIGHT with Boyer and Bergman. No mistaking her intentions there.
Melly - July 25, 2006 11:50 PM (GMT)
Don't bother with the remake. **shudders** :blink:
The one with Frank Sinatra is much better. :yes:
markbeckuaf - July 26, 2006 02:47 AM (GMT)
There's no contest, the "ol blue eyes" version rules!! Some truly chilling scenes.
*****SPOILER COMMENT BELOW*****
The scene where Laurence Harvey mindlessly, unemotionally, robotically murders his love......I still have a hard time watching that even knowing it's coming. *shudder*
EMB - July 26, 2006 04:50 AM (GMT)
That scene is set up with some very dark irony: her father being shot by Harvey, but holding a quart of milk up to his chest. The bullet goes through the carton and then through his heart...an obvious reference to his liberal 'milquetoast' ACLU attitudes. There are little jibes at both sides throughout the film, and a very early example of the future: us-vs-them politics where one part is conservative and for 'American values,' while the other is well...not so full of values, Republican-vs-Democrat that continues to go on to this day.
bonnie - July 26, 2006 07:30 PM (GMT)
just happened to catch this movie the other day altho i had seen it when it first came out. i was like madly in love with Lawrence Harvey (nee Larushka Skikney). ohhh heart melting time. haha but the movie was also good. oh but Lawrence.....my heart broke when he died so young.
Dani257 - July 26, 2006 07:56 PM (GMT)
I love this movie. I always list it at the top of my personal best movies list. I thought Sinatra did a much better acting job here than he did in From Here to Eternity. But, it was the characters of Raymond and his mother that made the movie. I love that Raymond was a victim, but also wasn't a likeable (or loveable, as he said) man, anyway. I think it would have been too easy to feel sympathetic towards him if he was this sweet guy normally, and brainwashed to be a killer. And, his mother was pure evil.
I won't even think about watching the remake. I'm not completely against remakes (I prefer the remake of Sabrina -but that might have something to do with my dislike of Humphrey Bogart) but some things should not be done twice, and The Manchurian Candidate is one of them. Why mess with what works?
pktrekgirl - September 5, 2006 03:45 PM (GMT)
I wasn't paying attention and didn't see this thread until now ( :rolleyes: )...but I watched this last month as my selection from Angela Lansbury Day in SUTS.
What a great film!
Frank Sinatra was fabulous - really, the best performance I've seen him in! And Angela Lansbury was simply fantastic - this role really showed her tremendous range as an actress...and the reasons why she should be remembered for more than just "Murder, She Wrote". Wow, she was evil in this movie!!!
Anyway, great film, and one of the highlights for me of the whole month of films I watched.
Geoffies - September 5, 2006 05:26 PM (GMT)
I can't remember ever seeing this one. If I did back in the early 1960's, I don't recollect it. I've heard of it of course. I'd be most interested in viewing it for Angela Lansbury's performance. I believe she played Lawrence Harvey's mother even though in real life she was only a couple of years older than he was. Likewise she played an older woman in ALL FALL DOWN also from the early '60's. Even going back to the 1940's she played a saloon keeper in THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946) - at 20 years old!
Perhaps that's the reason she seems ageless despite a career going back over 60 years.
markbeckuaf - September 6, 2006 03:36 AM (GMT)
While I think Frankie does a nice job here, I think he's a bit better overall in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, but if you wanna see what I think are Frankie's two best performances, all time, check out SUDDENLY (like THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE it has political overtones, but in a different way, more chilling in retrospect than the actual subject matter, though it is a thriller as well), and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM. For my money, those two are 'ol blue eyes at his acting zenith! :)
Bigmouth - September 6, 2006 05:03 AM (GMT)
This is a briliant movie. I could see it many times without tiring of it. Plus I'll see anything with Frank Sinatra. :wub:
Angel2121 - September 7, 2006 08:50 PM (GMT)
I love this movie! Seriously, it is one of my three favorite. . .or at least ten favorite films. . . of all time. I think part of that may be nostalgia more than anything, for when I first saw it it had a very strong impact on me. . .and it was one of the first films that did that for me. . .it still has quite an impact on me every time I rewatch it. Though every time I rewatch it, I see a few more of its flaws, I also see more little details I've never noticed before that make this film a great one. . .I never really much liked Frank Sinatra till I saw this movie (and then I liked him in other films I saw after I watched this one). The film is ambiguous enough to keep you guessing even after it's over. . .there's the bizarre initial conversation between Marco and Eugenie/Rosie,. . .and one of my favorite shots is when Senator Iselin gives his first speech where he claims there are communists in the department, and you see it in person and on the TV. Just brilliant, IMO. :)
This film could apply to modern times in many respects, if you just change up a few things. . .however, the idea of a remake, even with such a great cast as the remake has, is not a good one, IMO, since the original was so great. And the remake isn't nearly as good as the 1962 version, IMO. . .and Angela Lansbury does a much better job than Meryl Streep.
richardjf - September 7, 2006 09:09 PM (GMT)
|QUOTE (Angel2121 @ Sep 7 2006, 08:50 PM)|
And the remake isn't nearly as good as the 1962 version, IMO. . .and Angela Lansbury does a much better job than Meryl Streep.
I don't think Meryl "understood" the character. Or maybe it was the alterations to the original plot.
Angela's plan was just thought out to a T.
EMB - September 8, 2006 03:29 AM (GMT)
Both, really. There should never have been a remake, IMO. Some films you can do that with, but not this one, which was just about perfect the first time. As fantastic and absurd as the notion might have seemed in 1962, after the Kennedy assassination, the film's premise no longer seemed so unlikely, and its aura of paranoia and conspiracy kept it in the spotlight, even during the years it was out of circulation(understandably, in the wake of 11/22/63, no one was eager to rerelease it, and so it remained in the can until the late '80s).
The acting is brilliant throughout; even the most minor of roles are fitting to the story(Whit Bissell, who had been everywhere, has a small one as a military officer who suggests Sinatra's transfer to the PR department would put him 'back in the pink'). Speaking of Sinatra, this is darn near his best work, and certainly Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury were as strong, the latter, IMO, worth of an Oscar.
Black Ghost - November 20, 2007 03:16 PM (GMT)
This is one of my favorites in the genre (does it have a genre?). I loved the fight scene between Sinatra and Henry Silva (Remember his "Johnny Cool" movie?).
EMB - March 2, 2008 02:42 AM (GMT)
markbeckuaf - March 3, 2008 12:10 AM (GMT)
|QUOTE (EMB @ Sep 7 2006, 07:29 PM)|
| The acting is brilliant throughout; even the most minor of roles are fitting to the story(Whit Bissell, who had been everywhere, has a small one as a military officer who suggests Sinatra's transfer to the PR department would put him 'back in the pink'). Speaking of Sinatra, this is darn near his best work, and certainly Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury were as strong, the latter, IMO, worth of an Oscar. |
I've always felt that this, along with SUDDENLY and THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM, were Sinatra's finest hour as an actor.
EMB - March 3, 2008 04:09 AM (GMT)
I think that's correct, although his work in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY is pretty solid(though, despite the Oscar, not up to later efforts)and I'd add VON RYAN'S EXPRESS, a war actioner that might seem an odd choice, but Sinatra fits in nicely and carries it very well(he insisted on the ending, BTW, which IIRC, doesn't jive with the original story).