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USA 1962
Directed by
John Frankenheimer
126 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Manchurian Candidate, The (1962)

Originally released in 1962 and re-released to critical acclaim in 1988, The Manchurian Candidate is, along with Welles' films, one of the few American films to regularly make critics' Top Tens. I’ve never understood why. Yes, John Frankenheimer’s direction (he also edited the film) is often impressive and the subject matter is bold for its time, particularly in its cynical view of the American Presidential system (not to mention that J.F.K. was assassinated the following year) but much of it, especially the early ‘brainwashing’ sequence is rather dated in its caricatural portraits of Commies and, especially, “Orientals” (but on the other hand is happy to pass off Henry Silva as a Korean).

The cloak-and-dagger plot about a former prisoner of war who has been brainwashed as an unwitting assassin for an international Communist conspiracy. is superficial (the script is by George Axelrod from a novel by Richard Condon), with the brainwashing process which apparently took place over three days and involves the game of solitaire and the Queen of Spades, very effective in the case of Laurence Harvey’s Raymond Shaw but inexplicably evaporating in the case of Sinatra’s Major Marco (the rest of the brainwashed platoon are simply forgotten about). Add to this a schematic romantic sub-plot involving Sinatra’s Major and a woman, Rosie (Janet Leigh), who he meets on a train and who after a bizarre conversation becomes besotted with him, and you’ve got a film of only fitful rewards

Made under the aegis of Sinatra’s production company, the singer is all tough-talking machismo whilst putative star Harvey is a cry-baby who is (the film lightly suggests) having an incestuous affair with his mother, played by Angela Lansbury whose portrayal of the Machiavellian Senator's wife is probably the best thing about the film.




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