United Artists | Release Date: October 24, 1962
8.3
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Universal acclaim based on 70 Ratings
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7
SpangleJun 7, 2017
Remade by Jonathan Demme in 2004, John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate is often cited as the classic to Demme's average remake. Personally, I find the original to only be slightly better than its re-do, perhaps because the cast ofRemade by Jonathan Demme in 2004, John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate is often cited as the classic to Demme's average remake. Personally, I find the original to only be slightly better than its re-do, perhaps because the cast of that film just worked so well in their respective roles. Regardless, Frankenheimer's film is undoubtedly a strong work that is laced with communist paranoia, great acting, and possesses an unpredictability throughout that allows for a truly explosive ending. Though its slow pace allows some issues such as its sometimes iffy characters and rushed plotting to bubble up to the surface quite readily, The Manchurian Candidate remains a terrifying and entertaining political thriller that is still rather relevant today.

This communist paranoia is often what led to such brilliant films of the era, but usually it is just derived from the monolithic Soviet Union. Here, Frankenheimer focuses on the red scare at home and abroad. With an American man, thought to be a hero, being controlled by the communists for their own political gain, the scene is set for the fear of the communists to come to life. Abroad, the Chinese are equally a part of this with the North Koreans and Russians also having a hand. It is the entire communist bloc of the east that has united to take on the American political system. It is terrifying, deadly, and a stroke of genius to have one of our own do the infiltration they desperately need to do. At home, Senator John Iselin (James Gregory) practices a brand of McCarthyism where he just wildly accuses everybody of being a communist party member and calls his political opponents communists. All of his moves are dictated by his wife Mrs. Iselin (Angela Lansbury). The poor people have no idea that his stepson, Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), is the man being controlled by the communists. Setting the atmosphere right with this irony between Iselin's rhetoric and the fact that the his own stepson is a tool for the commies, Frankenheimer's film has rampant paranoia coursing through its veins that constantly keeps the audience on edge. Who is a commie? Who is a commie tool? Are there any commies?

Yet, what is interesting is how the film opts to damn both the communists and the hysterics in America. While the Communists are naturally the antagonists in the film for how they try and assassinate a political candidate by brainwashing another man, the film shows both Mrs. Iselin and John Iselin as being frauds concerned with power. Neither actually believe the nonsense John spews, but he is made to spout it all because it is good for him to do so politically. The film, essentially, turns this duo into the antagonists for their manipulation of the American people to becoming a fearful bunch just waiting to see who could possibly be a Soviet operative hiding in plain sight. Through both the writing and actions on-screen, Frankenheimer assures the audience that the Communists are not the only bad ones here: the politicians that made their name fearmongering are just as bad.

What makes the film most impactful, however, is its unpredictability. From reveals about who is and who is not a Soviet operative to the thrilling climax, The Manchurian Candidate is a thoroughly unpredictable film, even for those who have seen the original. It is a film that constantly keeps the audience on edge and awaiting what comes next because throughout, Frankenheimer proves that what we see is not always true. Introducing this concept when we first see Maj. Bennett Marco's (Frank Sinatra) dreams, the film constantly calls our attention to the fact that this dream may not be a dream and, even if it is, where did it come from? A terrifying concept about memory implantation that throws into disarray everything we know up to that point, Frankenheimer keeps working his magic throughout, never really allowing the audience to settle in and figure out exactly what is coming next.

That is not to say the film is not flawed, however. Though the acting is strong across the board from Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, and Angela Lansbury, the film's writing of some characters can often struggle. For example, poor Janet Leigh is stranded in a nothing role as a woman who Marco meets on a train. She does well in the role that is more than a girlfriend role due to the odd conversation she has with him on the train that hints at the possibility of her being a Communist operative herself, but the film hardly does anything about it. If she is a Communist operative, she is not a very good one as Marco continues to pursue Shaw anyways. If she is not, then that is just the weirdest and most out-of-left-field conversation in the history of film. Regardless, her character is largely left flapping in the wind to do nothing but allow us to realize that Communists could be anybody or that person could just be a bit different. It is a true personification of that paranoia
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3
BroyaxJan 6, 2017
Cette histoire de lavage de cervelle juste après la guerre de Corée de bons et fidèles soldats américains par l'Institut Pavlov (sic !) est indéniablement créative et il y a là matière à quelqu'intrigue digne d'intérêt ma foi. Même leCette histoire de lavage de cervelle juste après la guerre de Corée de bons et fidèles soldats américains par l'Institut Pavlov (sic !) est indéniablement créative et il y a là matière à quelqu'intrigue digne d'intérêt ma foi. Même le couineur Sinatra s'en sort avec les honneurs (du moment qu'il ne chante pas, tout va bien) en dépit du fait que le vrai rôle est attribué à cet acteur inconnu au bataillon mais fort convaincant.

Hélas, le film ne se départit pas de son côté vieillot, peu clair et très poussif comme un vieux tacot bringuebalant qui refuse obstinément d'avancer (à moins qu'il ne s'agisse d'un âne), singeant ainsi à l'insu de son plein gré les pires épisodes-somnifères de la série "Mission Impossible". Dans ce Crime à dormir debout comme dans son remake tout aussi abrutissant réalisé dans les années 2000, force est de constater que le développement et la mise en oeuvre d'un tel sujet semblent décidément maudits et voués aux gémonies.
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9
EpicLadySpongeApr 22, 2016
The Manchurian Candidate never fails to leave any of its people behind and that's not all, there's still more coming up after you see this movie available wherever its still sold at.
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8
lasttimeisawMay 27, 2015
Speaking of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, contemporary audience may still recall the 2004 remake headlined by Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, directed by Jonathan Demme (a 6/10), which is a proficient political thriller and grafts theSpeaking of THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, contemporary audience may still recall the 2004 remake headlined by Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, directed by Jonathan Demme (a 6/10), which is a proficient political thriller and grafts the timeline from Korean War to Gulf War. Now it is time to revisit the original version directed by John Frankenheimer, the only film I have watched among his prolific filmography before this one actually is his final big screen feature, the romance-thriller mixed-bag REINDEER GAMES (2000, 5/10), Frankenheimer passed away in 2002, and this 1962 black-and-white stunner is no doubt above a few notches over its comparatively problematic remake, substantially due to the Harvey-Lansbury pair’s Oscar-worthy performances.

keep reading my review on my blog, google: cinema omnivore, thanks!
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10
FrostbiteOct 13, 2010
Not many movies focus on the topic of brainwashing, and that's what makes The Manchurian Candidate such an amazing and unique film. The movie follows a military veteran as he tries to figure out why he doesn't remember his friend performingNot many movies focus on the topic of brainwashing, and that's what makes The Manchurian Candidate such an amazing and unique film. The movie follows a military veteran as he tries to figure out why he doesn't remember his friend performing an amazing act of heroism that saved two soldiers and awarded him the medal of honor. Another man in their squad talks of strange dreams, and soon after that the movie is launched into a story of politics, intrigue, and of course, brainwashing. The story leads to a great ending that wraps up everything nicely. Expand
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10
ThomasW.Jan 28, 2007
Excellent! Spell binding!!
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10
PatC.Apr 6, 2006
One of the Essentials. Both a well constructed film and an insightful articulation of the fears, suspicions and intrigue of the cold war era. Seems a litle over the top today, but hey, we still don't really know what really happened One of the Essentials. Both a well constructed film and an insightful articulation of the fears, suspicions and intrigue of the cold war era. Seems a litle over the top today, but hey, we still don't really know what really happened when Kennedy was shot. And that happened after this movie was made. Expand
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10
FrankO.Jan 10, 2006
One of the best all-time political thrillers. Actually own this DVD and my collection is very selective. Plot was so controversial at production that release was delayed for years.
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10
KeirS.Sep 24, 2005
Incredible, timely film.
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