MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, THE - Content
MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, THE
From the June 27, 1995, Deseret News
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE — Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Angela Lansbury; in black and white; rated PG-13 (violence).
"The Manchurian Candidate" is not a new film, of course, having been initially released in 1962. But it's been out of circulation for some 20 years and is just now getting a new life.
Someone asked me, "How do you review a classic?"
Actually, they're the easiest kind to review — who's going to argue with you?
Forget "Dead Heat" and "Shakedown" and "Colors" and "Masquerade" and "Shoot to Kill" and 90 percent of the so-called thrillers on your local video store shelves. "The Manchurian Candidate" is the real thing.
A gorgeously atmospheric black-and-white film directed by John Frankenheimer, who has had an up-and-down career since he made this one and "The Birdman of Alcatraz" back to back, "The Manchurian Candidate" is supremely chilling as it unfolds the story of a Russian-Chinese plot to overthrow America during the Cold War years.
That's an extremely simplistic explanation of a complex yarn, however. The film opens with a troop of American soldiers in the Korean War being led down the primrose path by evil Henry Silva (who is also the chief villain in the current "Above the Law").
The soldiers are brainwashed in a sequence brilliantly choreographed so that they seem to be listening to elderly women at a garden party but are actually having their subconscious minds grilled by a Chinese interrogator.
Then they are sent back into mainstream-American life after their tour of duty, their brains awaiting the triggering signals that will make them of use to the forces of communism.
Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey are among these men, and Sinatra eventually begins investigating the fact that all of these veterans are having the same strange dreams.
To reveal any more is to do a disservice to what is a fascinating, chilling and superbly crafted film that offers a number of knockout performances, chiefly from Angela Lansbury, long before TV's "Murder She Wrote," as Harvey's supremely wicked mother.
The surprises, the buildups and the unforgettable, shocking climax make "The Manchurian Candidate" a true classic that has gone unseen far too long, due to money entanglements with the film's producers (Sinatra among them) and reflection upon the Kennedy assassinations that came later.
Rated PG-13 for violence, "The Manchurian Candidate" is a real, rare thriller. It grabs you and won't let go for its full two-hours-plus running time — and how many movies 26 years later manage that?