The Manchurian Candidate

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The Manchurian Candidate

Post  BoG on Mon Jun 08, 2015 4:50 pm

A film that couldn't be made...  a film that shouldn't have been made!  These were the remarks swirling about this original and ultimate conspiracy thriller, the premise that a leading American citizen (Laurence Harvey) can be brainwashed by the Communists (Soviets & Chinese) into being their tool of assassination. This was director Frankenheimer's ultimate statement, the ultimate commentary on the dark side of government and politics, the suggestion that it is always even worse than we can imagine. Frank Sinatra stars as an army veteran, like Harvey's character. Unknown to anyone except a few Communist elite and a few American power-hungry traitors, Sinatra and Harvey had been captured along with their squad during the last war - the Korean War - and brainwashed. Sinatra has no memory of the capture, except as strange dreams and nightmares. He has been subverted to always defend Harvey, in a mechanical, empty fashion. Harvey's subversion, however, is much worse; he is little more than a wind-up robot, triggered into action by certain code words.

This was very chilling for its time and still is. The story shifts into dark territory early on, mostly by suggestion, such as how Harvey's character is a known cold fish but that certain people, like Sinatra's ex-officer, mechanically describe him as a warm person. The darkest aspect of the story , however, turns out to be the mother of Harvey's character, played by Angela Lansbury, the very cold and calculating head of a very right wing family. She is using her own son in her schemes, as if he were just a personal weapon, a tool. In this case, it's the extreme method of assassination to achieve political ends. James Gregory plays her weaker husband. It's all very outrageous and very out there, and this was controversial for its time. Maybe it still is, as it demonizes the right, portraying them as fanatics, a common accusation these days - though the even more outlandish reveal in this is that they're secretly Communist agents. Janet Leigh also stars as a woman who abruptly marries Sinatra, another sign that things have become radical in our perverse modern society. This film is also famous for the intense karate fight between Sinatra and Henry Silva, a Communist agent sent here to keep an eye on things; Silva's character jogs some of Sinatra's buried memories.  BoG's Score: 8.5 out of 10
Manchurian Trivia: this has been copied excessively by everything from an Outer Limits (1964) episode to more blatant samples of brainwashing like Telefon (1977); the sci-fi aspect and suggestion is that the minds of humans can be easily manipulated to commit heinous acts, regardless of how good and noble the person 'normally' is; additionally, there's the plot of hidden Communist agents within our borders.
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