Film Flick: The Manchurian Candidate

Friday, January 3, 2014

Theatrical releases billed the political thriller,  The Manchurian  Candidate , with the tag line "If you come in five minutes after the movie started, you won't know what its about... after you've seen it you'll swear you've never seen anything like it!" 

Its all about a forced deck- in more than one sense. Set in the fevered hysteria of  McCarthyism , a platoon of soldiers return from the Korean War. Major Marco Bennett (Frank Sinatra) thinks that he, and most of his platoon, owe their lives to one Raymond Shaw ( Lawrence  Harvey) after he saved the unit during an operation behind Chinese borders. The war hero was often seen as a loner, but now has the makings of a political career, at least in his mother's eyes. His mother,  Eleanor  Shaw Iselin (Angela Lansbury) has been managing her senator husband's career, encouraging him that there are "commies" to be denounced at every corner. Shaw's past will meet with his present though, when confusing dreams may lead some to suspect that  political  intrigue could be found a little closer to home. 

Though the film actually went into production several years after the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities' power had waned, the subject matter was still considered hot stuff, and politically sensitive enough in 1962 that Arthur Krim, President of United Artists and Finance Chairmen of the national  Democratic party, was reluctant to allow a film to be made. Supposedly, as a favor to his friend Frank Sinatra, John F. Kennedy called Krim to let him know he himself had no such objections. United Artists ultimately did make the film, which was released in October of 1962 at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, only a year before Kennedy's death on the Grassy Knoll. All this combines to make it one of the most timely films of its era, though such timing also fueled rumors that Lee Harvey Oswald was inspired by the film and that The Manchurian Candidate was pulled from circulation as a result of this (Both rumors are false).

I could tell you more- but that would ruin the movie for you. Even so, I will say it was a favorite of mine. With twists you will not see coming, Frank Sinatra gives a  surprisingly  strong performance as leading man, and, the film edi ting  is creative, and superbly done. Plus, as an added bonus, you can see what many claim is the very first karate fight in a movie. So get out there, and watch it- just remember not to miss the first five crucial minutes of The Manchurian Candidate


  1. This is one I haven't seen yet! I suppose I keep myself more to the realm of love stories instead of political movies. I like that you said it has creative editing, for I feel like with most old films editing is the worst part and they always have the most horrid endings. I'll have to see if I can find this one to watch!

    Reply Delete
    1. Okay, so, I'm really curious (and feel like this could make for such an interesting discussion or even post...) why do you think old movies tend to have horrid endings?

      Also, making the goal to watch all 100 films on the American Film Institute's top 100 films really broadened my movie watching horizons. I tend toward romances and comedies if left to my own devices. But, I have gotten to watch a ton of great films with this branching out.


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