THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE

(1962)
With Frank Sinatra, Lawrence Harvey, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh, James Gregory, Leslie Parrish, John McGiver, Henry Silva
Directed by John Frankenheimer
Black and White
Reviewed by JL

I beat out Johnny Fontaine for this part, pal     The greatest political thriller ever made, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE is a surreal Cold War nightmare on celluloid.  Its central premise (a Korean war veteran is brainwashed and hypnotically programmed to commit political assassination) becomes absurd the longer one thinks about it (and the more one knows about the limitations of hypnosis), but it was a premise manifested by the fears of its time, seemingly credible in context, and wholly engrossing.  It has been said that director John Frankenheimer (whose mostly undistinguished career was marked a few very good films and this one masterpiece) didn't fully grasp the depth of satire and acerbic humor in the script; ironically, by playing things straight, the satire became more cutting and trenchant.

     Lawrence Harvey delivers a strong and moving performance as the tragic Raymond Shaw, and Frank Sinatra was never better than as Major Bennett Marco, the man who uncovers the unimaginable truth of it all.  But the picture belongs to Angela Lansbury, whose evil and incestuous Mrs. Iselin is regarded by some as the greatest screen villainess of all time. 5 - JL

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