A nerve-beating masterpiece, and more timely now than then. Frankenheimer's tightrope walk between campy political satire and suspenser is flawlessly rendered. Based on Richard Condon's paranoid novel.
Harvey returns from the Korean War a superhero and holder of the Congressional Medal of Honor, but those in his platoon--including his own commanding officer, Sinatra--are vague about what Harvey actually did to win the medal. When Sinatra begins to have recurring nightmares about Korea, he
decides to investigate. Piece by sinister piece, Sinatra and others put the story together. It turns out that and the entire platoon was captured by North Koreans and brainwashed to think Harvey was a hero when, in truth, he had been programmed as a killer. But whom is he to kill? Upon his return
from service Harvey leaves his overly protective mother (Lansbury) and her husband (Gregory), a right-wing senator. Harvey goes to work as a journalist, but when his control contacts him with the code, he kills without mercy or memory; a liberal columnist-publisher is his first victim. Harvey, now
married, is next sent to kill his own wife and his father-in-law, a liberal senator. Sinatra discovers the truth: Harvey's controller is Lansbury, the top Communist spy in the US. She orders her robotlike son to kill the presidential nominee; her husband, who is the vice-presidential running mate,
will then take control of the White House. Can Sinatra foil the plot?
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE takes aim at both the Left and the Right, rendering them both dangerous fraternal twins--an outrageous, terrifying premise to contend with. The entire cast is first-rate. This is Harvey's best work--for once the unlovable quality he built a career on emerges
sympathetically. But it is Angela Lansbury's incestuous, power-mad mother who makes your blood run cold. This was the peak of the first part of her career, which depended upon these hardbitten kind of characters. Forget Hitchcock--here's the monster mother of all time. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE is
political fiction--we hope--at its finest, certainly at its most forceful on the screen. It earned distinction as one of the first of a genre that mixed reality, symbolism, and the fantastic, alternating caprice and grim fact so that the view is jarred from one scene to the next as it would be
riding on a speeding train constantly being rerouted. Have a wild ride.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A nerve-beating masterpiece, and more timely now than then. Frankenheimer's tightrope walk between campy political satire and suspenser is flawlessly rendered. Based on Richard Condon's paranoid novel. Harvey returns from the Korean War a superhero and ho… (more)