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Overall Rating
4.56

Awesome72.92%
Worth A Look: 18.75%
Average: 4.17%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 4.17%

2 reviews, 36 user ratings


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Manchurian Candidate, The (1962)
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by Justin Helmer

"Make sure you see the whole thing."
5 stars

The world of John Frankenheimer’s “The Manchurian Candidate” seems somewhat far removed today. Set in the years of the ‘red scare’ that swept through America in the 1950’s, it presents a world where there is a bad guy lurking under every bed. The congress led by the rabid demagogue Joe McCarthy had launched an all out attack on what they perceived to be the biggest threat to the safety of the country: Communism. Any one who had anything the least bit critical to say about the witch-hunts that were all the rage was suspect. Only a commie would question what was so obviously the right course, any dissent at all was tantamount to declaring your allegiance with the bad guys. Thank god we never have to go through that again…oh, wait.

Returning home a war hero, Raymond Shaw discovers he may have been better off staying in Korea. His stepfather Johnny Iselin is running for reelection in the Senate, Raymond likes his stepfather not very much at all, so his mother’s plans to parlay his Medal of Honor into Johnny’s campaign rankles him. He decides to take a job with a news reporter, and accused communist Holborn Gaines to get back at his red bating stepfather but especially to his media spin mistress of a mother, ‘Mrs. Iselin’.

Meanwhile Shaw’s Captain Ben Marco (Sinatra) has been having troubles of his own readjusting to life in the states. He has been plagued with a reoccurring nightmare since his return. He has been promoted to Major, and assigned to intelligence, and the perverseness of these night terrors has led him to report his suspicions that something is wrong.

In another part of the film: one more member of Marco’s squad is suffering from a persistent nightmare as well. He decides to write a letter to Shaw his best friend from the war, oddly his ‘best friend’ barley remembers him at all. His strongest memories are of hating and being hated by everyone in the squad. Including Ben Marco, who oddly enough recommended him for the Congressional Medal of Honor in the first place.

Marco decides to go to Shaw, having been forced to take leave after an embarrassing stint as a PR officer, to try to get to the bottom of his fear. Along the way, he meets and instantly falls for a girl on a train. (Janet Leigh) Arriving in New York, Marco becomes more and more suspicious of Shaw’s increasingly erratic behavior.

This is an incredibly tense film, making the viewer edge ever closer to the screen as the story goes on. The performances are excellent all around, notably Sinatra, Laurence Harvey as Shaw, and Angela Lansbury (Yep, the little old lady from "Murder She Wrote.") as Raymond’s Machiavellian mommy. Lansbury, in particular, puts across a chilling characterization. Her cold-eyed calculation in moving her husband and son around to gain more power is revelatory, especially if you only know of her from kids films and TV.

John Frankenheimer is in fine form here, using everything in his bag of tricks to put the tone of the film across. One early scene stands out as a strong example of this, there is press conference that Iselin (James Gregory) interrupts with his decidedly McCarthy sounding red baiting. The way that the shot is composed tells you everything that you need to know about the difference between who is really in control, and what everybody sees. The script was adapted from a book by James Condon by George Axlerod.

I kept thinking of modern day parallels while I was watching this movie. How it’s impossible to say anything critical of the Bush Administration without being labeled anti-American. The way the country was tricked into buying cars and houses, because if we didn’t ‘the terrorists have won.’ It just goes on and on, at all of it makes the Manchurian Candidate eerily timely. We can only hope that we have learned since the days of the blacklists.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2328&reviewer=315
originally posted: 01/18/03 20:02:05
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell effective political thriller 4 stars
3/26/17 Anne Selby Well done satire - at times a tragedy - a reminder to be on guard against evil 4 stars
12/16/15 Jill G "I told them to build me an assassin" Landsbury is mind blowing 5 stars
9/22/10 bored mom Suspenseful, but the hypnosis is pure crap. Sinatra knows kung fu? He'll Mortal Kombat you. 4 stars
8/31/09 August Lehe No other film affected me as much. Tragic, yet a hoot! 5 stars
8/11/09 David A. It's from back in the day before Hollywood got off on the anti-American kick--a real movie! 5 stars
5/10/09 David A. Entertaining political drama from back when the media wasn't so anti-American 4 stars
1/25/09 PAUL SHORTT A BRILLIANTLY REALISED, ACIDIC SATIRE OF AMERICAN POLITICAL LIFE 5 stars
3/02/08 Pamela White Sinatra at his best 5 stars
5/03/07 MP Bartley Crisply shot and directed, but also dated and tedious in spots. 3 stars
4/25/07 Elvia i think is a really good movie 5 stars
4/22/07 Dove This film felt more like a political thriller than the remake. Ang. pulled it off great! 5 stars
1/31/07 action movie fan overrated, hard to follow film, just passable. 3 stars
11/25/06 Azumi Incredible movie - perfectly cast, brilliantly made, hard to better. 5 stars
6/27/06 Criddic2 Fantastic, eerie and great acting from entire cast! 5 stars
3/11/06 Tanya I love old movies 5 stars
8/22/05 sbpat21 in my top ten 5 stars
1/12/05 Ron Newbold Excellent film much more meaningful than the action special effects crap of today 5 stars
12/28/04 efrain friggin coolnesss. 5 stars
11/22/04 ad oh come on, it's one dumb movie with fair acting 1 stars
7/29/04 DM A kickass thriller - why the hell would you want to remake it? 5 stars
12/02/03 Max Hayes Boring...I fell asleep---takes itself way too seriously 1 stars
7/24/03 Max This film is absolutely brilliant, on my all-time Top Ten. Frankenheimer's masterpiece. 5 stars
12/26/02 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik Brilliant. 5 stars
12/10/02 Gazza E See this just for Angela Lansbury's amazing performance 4 stars
11/08/02 Jack Wolverton The Best Political Thriller Ever Made 5 stars
10/15/02 Charles Tatum One of the best films of the last fifty years 5 stars
6/02/02 BaitedSoul Classic style, great storyline! A definite pick for the regular movie-goer! 5 stars
1/13/02 Andrew Carden This Isn't Worth A Look, This Is A Must-See. If You Don't Think It's Excellent, You Suck. 5 stars
7/06/01 Chris Drake No surveillance?psychiatrists?counseling for vets? Weird; lg holes; engrossing but gross 4 stars
3/24/01 Monster W. Kung Almost excellent... too bad it was a little bit overly patriotic... VERY GOOD, though. 4 stars
12/19/00 R.W. Welch Achieves an unusual level of dramatic tension, a minor masterpiece. 5 stars
7/20/00 dr_Fardook Angela Lansbury's true face revealed. 4 stars
3/24/00 yankee Lansbury is scary (I never thought I'd say that).Good mystery,makes you think 5 stars
3/05/00 Mic One of the most suspenseful films of all time. Incredibly powerful and wonderfully shot. 5 stars
1/16/00 JonnyAngel I kinda liked the karate sequence 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  24-Oct-1962 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Jul-2004

UK
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Australia
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