Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
The Manchurian Candidate
When you've seen it all, you'll swear there's never been anything like it!
The Manchurian Candidate is a political thriller from American director John Frankenheimer. An American soldier is brainwashed into being a killer for the communist Russians during the Korean War.
Whilst Alan Pakula would go on to create some of the most potent paranoid thrillers a decade later, the seeds of those post-Kennedy conspiracy theories were perfectly realised in John Frankenheimer's Cold War classic in 1962. Surprisingly this was released on the 24th October 1962 - right in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a time when fear of nuclear warfare was at an all time high.
Frankenheimer tries his damnedest to disturb the viewer from the very beginning of the film with American soldiers sold out by their Chinese guide, handed over to the Russians and South Koreans. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why the film failed at the box-office upon release, with the director…
It's a terrible thing to hate your mother. But I didn't always hate her. When I was a child, I only kind of disliked her.
John Frankenheimer's adaptation of Richard Condon's 1959 novel of the same name is quite possibly his greatest film and also Frank Sinatra's best outing as an actor. The film is so well made that 50 years later, even though it is drenched in Cold War Red Menace paranoia, it still feels like a contemporary story today. Honestly the theme of manipulating the public's perception of a perceived threat, real or not, is as poignant today as it was in 1962 if not more so.
As mentioned it's probably Sinatra's best performance as an…
The genius of this film remains how unbelievably prescient and unyielding it was towards electioneering in 1962. The Red Scare and Bay of Pigs invasion were magma hot issues at the time, and the assassination of JFK would occur within a year of the film's release. Talk about a hot-button movie. The conspiracy thriller that all subsequent conspiracy thrillers would be judged against. Has there been a film about brainwashing that even attempts to match the scope of Frankenheimer's film? The story is handled so delicately, heavy on taut mood, using next to no music and taking full advantage of black and white photography. The unraveling of a grand scheme plays so casually realistic that it is not so farfetched…
This review reportedly contains spoilers. I can handle the truth.
This suspenseful ride, set during the Korean War, does not seem dated at all. It follows a brainwashed war veteran who is being used in a communist scheme against his will.
This film contains one intense scene after another. One in particular, near the beginning, really stands out in my memory. It is when a group of soldiers is being brainwashed, while thinking they are at a garden party. After this, many of them begin to have nightmares revealing the truth about the events that really unfolded. Expert editing and filmmaking, in this scene as well as in the rest of the film, smoothly let the story unfold in a bold and unsettling manner.
In addition to its technical merit…
''Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire? ''
Having caught snippet's of the Denzel Washington star vehicle from with the same name from 2004, I put off my viewing of the original so I could come into it without baggage, and after settling in for a good dose of Cold War suspense courtesy of John Frankenheimer, I immediately knew I was in better hands.
This thing powers along at such a velocity, that it is so easy to lose your bearings, and that's exactly what happened to me. But not one to let a film get the better of me, I managed to find my footing by act two, stormed home with act three, and the…
Though certainly a fine film, there's nothing much to this film other than what you're given. The story is interesting and is well made technically, but it's not really saying or doing anything that would resonate with a modern audience. Making fun of McCarthyism? An American triumph over communism? umm… alright then… While fine to look at through a historical lens I wouldn't consider this clever commentary anymore. The McCarthy-esqe character that is portrayed essentially like a raving idiot is only now but a funny reference to the past and the defeat of people who could only be considered as mere pawns in the communist machine left me unsatisfied as we were shown higher ups in communist politics who were more serious threats. Also it's sort of an awkward coincidence when your film invokes thoughts of events that you didn't even know would happen. Regardless, this is a fine film and definitely one of the better Sinatra films I've seen.
A brainwashed Korea veteran becomes the unwilling pawn in the assassination plot of a Presidential candidate to aid an international communist conspiracy. A truly thrilling film on many, many levels. The lead performances are nothing to praise (or degrade, for that matter), but that doesn't matter because Angela Lansbury's Eleanor Iselin is one of the most bone-chilling movie villains of all-time. She's a vile, ruthless, awful, putrid human being, and Lansbury somehow manages to one-up that and create a true monster. Frankenheimer's direction is impeccable as well. There are countless shots in the film that stay with you afterwards. An amazing, amazing film.
Angela Lansbury rocks! Frank Sinatra does, too. This DVD carries a 1988 interview with Sinatra about the making of the film. Great reminiscing. A classic reminder of the paranoia generated by the Cold War.
The Manchurian Candidate stars Frank Sinatra as a Korean War veteran who starts to suspect his platoon was the subject of brainwashing experiments during the war, with one of them now primed as a sleeper agent back in the US. One of the earliest consipracy thrillers and particularly notable for the inventive and beautifully edited brainwashing demonstration sequences. It does sag a bit in the middle with Janet Leigh's odd role either irrelevant or unexplained, depending on your viewpoint, but good performances and a nail-biting finale make up for that. Interestingly, it also ended up linked to the JFK assassination a year later, with one of the popular theories about Lee Harvey Oswald being that he too was a sleeper…
Complex but well-structured political thriller.
An eerie, well-directed thriller that occasionally ventures into being an espionage film and even a dark comedy.
It's very much a product of it's time, and it would be a rather irrelevant movie if it wasn't for Frankenheimer's superb directorial skills. Which elevate the material a bit above average.
When you play with the
Minds of your audience, you
Should do it like this.
Laurence Harvey is the most British sounding American Hero I've come across in cinema. Superbly executed film that keeps you guessing the whole way.
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Every film that has ever been nominated for an Academy Award in any category. Enjoy!