The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Reviewed on 2010 June 28
This is a classic, and there will never be another one quite like it. The remake wasn’t bad but it’s rather like comparing a good cubic zirconia to a diamond.
Staff Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Lawrence Harvey) is a returning war hero, a man universally described as “kind” and “decent” by the men who fought alongside him in Korea, and right away we sense something is wrong because this guy is an ass. Of course, some of that could be attributed to the fact he’s stuck gladhanding people with his idiot, political climber stepfather Senator John Yerkes Iselin (James Gregory) and conniving mother (Angela Lansbury, doing some of her best work ever). One of Shaw’s fellow prisoners, Major Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra), remembers that Shaw was not Mr. Personality when he was stuck with him. This, coupled with the horrible nightmares that plague him, is enough to make him start digging into what happened when they were overseas.
If you’re into political thrillers, this is one of the creepiest by far. John Frankenheimer started slowly and steadily and then in my opinion really took the gloves off with the sinister and bizarre “garden club” scene (it actually got a nervous laugh out of my friend). There is a lot of debate about Janet Leigh’s character and some of the loopy dialogue she has with Sinatra; to me it just added to the crazy feel of the whole movie. Despite the fact it was made in the early ’60s it holds up beautifully.
Four chocolate morsels.