The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

It was good in a way that was probably under-appreciated at the time it came out.  I would bet a lot of money that Phillip K. Dick was a big fan (edit: yes he was).  It has probably been over-appreciated as well.

It was weird not to see credits at the beginning of a movie in the 60’s that was still black and white.  There were a lot of similarities between the two movies in shots and actors.  Particularly Shaw as played by Laurence Harvey and Liev Schreiber although Laurence came across very English which was a little strange at times.  I thought Laurence Harvey looked like Lex Barker at times as well and that young Henry Silva reminded me of Michael Peña.  Also, Angela Lansbury was good but I thought Meryl Streep was better.  The narrator at the beginning was fairly typical of this generation of movies but then it inexplicably vanishes.  For anyone else watching this version, does it look like Kathy Bates’ Molly Brown is sitting in on the hydrangea convention?  Leslie Parrish was one of the more attractive “attractive” actresses you’ll find in these movies while Janet Leigh was odd yet boring.  Shaw’s relationship with his mother and Iselin reminded me of Kristen Bell’s quote in 2004’s Spartan about being raised by wolves.  Frank Sinatra was only okay to me.  He didn’t come across handsome or charismatic or particularly compelling.  On the other hand, this was a much more cerebral movie than I would have expected to find him in and with that context, he did pretty well all things considered.  Plus, he karate chopped that fucking table during an awesome fight with Chunjin!

Did people not find it odd that their sons, brothers, boyfriends, fiancees, and husbands were out banging the locals during their “wars”?  I think a lot of other things were also glossed over for the “Greatest Generation”.  PTSD, mind control, McCarthyism, reality vs. fiction, conservative hypocrisy, etc. etc. were discussed in this film but I don’t think it was an exceptional film, good but not amazing.  I do think it was a very novel narrative that has resonated in many different ways since the book and movie came out and certainly should be seen.  It’s not a very fun movie though and neither movie would be one that I’d want to watch over and over again.

The proximity of this movie to JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald is a fun coincidence but one of the reasons it did so poorly is that it raises the very modern point that our political leadership should never be trusted implicitly.  A year later, in the midst of a country still grieving for the loss of their king of a modern-day Camelot, they don’t want a cynical and pragmatic skepticism.  Maybe that’s why the current generation finds this movie so accessible, the tone and view of American political culture is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.


p.s.  What purpose did the pin-up pictures serve in the light booth?

p.p.s. Eugenie is better explained in 2004.

p.p.p.s.  Odds are pretty low for Ms. Jordan to come in with that costume on by accident.

p.p.p.p.s.  I don’t understand Frankenheimer’s reference to Foreign Correspondent.

p.p.p.p.p.s.  If they bothered to brainwash all of them just to get an assassin, why not use all of the soldiers and not just Shaw?