Wednesday, September 9, 2015

AFI Top 100, #67: "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962)

Movie Stats:
Released 1962 (USA)
American, in English
Director - John Frankenheimer
Stars - Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury

Plot Summary:
Returned Korean War vet and Medal of Honor winner Raymond Shaw (Harvey) has been unknowingly brainwashed by Communists. His former commander, Major Bennett Marco (Sinatra), is on a mission to stop him before he hurts anyone. Lansbury co-stars as Raymond’s mother, Eleanor Shaw Iselin, wife of a U.S. senator.

Fairly graphic violence; implied sexy times.

Bad Stuff:
[SPOILER sort of]
The relationship between Marco and his girlfriend Eugenie Rose (Janet Leigh) is so awkward, bizarre, and rushed (seriously, their conversations make virtually no sense) that I spent the whole movie convinced that she was secretly a Communist spy. She’s not. If the movie’s intent was to make me suspect her, then it did a good job, but I don't think that was the intent.

I hated the score.

The fight scene between Marco and Chunjin (Henry Silva), Raymond’s man servant, is laughably terrible.

Good Stuff:
The acting is soooooo good from practically everyone. I would say that Leigh is the exception while Lansbury is the standout.

It’s really intense in the best kind of way.

It takes a lot for a movie surprise me, and this one did several times. I tip my hat toward it.

The Verdict:
It’s really good. I honestly can’t say enough good things about it. Great acting, interesting story, suspense and tension all the way through, and dark in a way that I appreciated. It’s also a fascinating time capsule of anti-Communist sentiment. I was a child in the 1980s, so I experienced some of that. When I grew up, the bad guys in movies were almost always either Nazis or Communists, and I remember things like our elementary school singing teacher telling us that we had to learn the national anthem in case we ever needed to prove we weren’t Soviet agents (weird, I know). As prevalent as the “Red Scare” still was in the 80s, however, it wasn’t anything like how it was in the 50s and early 60s, so I almost felt like an anthropologist while watching this. However, I do wonder if anyone born after the fall of the USSR could relate. Overall, it’s a great film that everyone should see at least once. 

I give it 4.25 stars.


Patricia said...

I think I saw the remake of this movie? I suspect I did, because Liev was in the remake. But I remember nothing about it. And I know I haven't seen this version.

Red Dawn. Could have totally happened. At least in our childhoods. :-)

I've always though Angela Lansbury to be a secret weapon in movies. She's awesome.

balyien said...

I've never seen the remake (it also has Denzel) but I may give it a shot some day, especially if I ever do that movie remake project. And I agree, Angela Lansbury is pretty awesome. I read online that she had a couple of kids & when she went back to acting, she got pigeonholed into "mumsy" roles even though she wasn't even 40 yet. :-/