John Frankenheimer | 1962 | 126 mins | USA
There are some movies that I feel a bit ashamed to admit I haven’t seen yet. Classics, all-time favourites, 1st year film class must-haves, that sort of thing. Until last night, The Manchurian Candidate was one of those movies. Well, no more!
The story concerns Raymond Shaw, an insufferably no-fun soldier who’s just returned from the Korean War to receive a Congressional Medal of Honour. He's a bit put off by all the attention (or maybe he's just a prickly guy) and attempts to escape the hype immediately by moving to New York to work for a newspaperman. The hoo-ha is largely drummed up by his domineering, ambitious mother (Angela Lansbury – who knew the delightful old lady from Murder She Wrote could be so perfectly grating?) who tries to use him to help her puppet husband’s political campaigns.
Meanwhile, Shaw’s C.O., the charming and handsome Major Marco (Frank Sinatra, who is just so much dreamier in his serious roles) has been having some strange nightmares, in which their platoon is being held at a bizarre garden party, watching a brainwashed Shaw murder their colleagues and follow orders from an array of Russian Generals.
Are the nightmares a fantasy or a glimpse into the grim reality of what really happened in Korea? That’s the question, and Frankenheimer answers it very heavy handedly, but not without some skillful twists and turns. This film is, in case you didn’t glean it from my description, ABOUT COMMUNISM. You can make up your own mind about what’s more sinister, though – the covert communists secretly lurking in our midst or the ones who walk openly among us, disguised and undetected!
Side note: I had no idea till I happened upon it on IMDB today that Jonathan Demme remade this film in 2004. That was a retarded idea, Jonathan Demme.